What's the used Volkswagen Up hatchback like?
The best thing about the Volkswagen Up is that it doesn’t feel like a small car, not in the way it drives, the material choices of its interior or from the supremely supple ride. It’s only when you get out of it and see how much space is left over in a standard parking space that you realise you’re in a bantam Volkswagen.
The Up has taken a lot of the design elements of the Toyota Aygo, but given them a Germanic spin by combining it with the quality of the Volkswagen Golf. Somehow, during this process, it has managed to create a very stylish car with an identity all of its own. The Up is quite cute; with big, bug-eye headlights, tiny 15in wheels which are pushed out each corner, and a boxy rear end with a neat glass hatch that sports an oversized badge. Its looks were further enhanced by refreshes in 2016 and 2020, both of which trimmed the engine range and tweaked the styling.
The other thing the Up has copied from the Aygo is its four-seat layout. While that does mean that those travelling in the back are less squished together, alternatives such as the Hyundai I10 and Suzuki Celerio are more practical because they offer a third belt in the rear, and would be better choices for those who need a five-seat car.
The Up started life with just the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine in two states of tune, 60 and 75. Later models offered a quartet of 1.0-litre engines: one with 59bhp, as before, another with 74bhp, as before, a turbocharged version with 89bhp and a finally a 113bhp turbo in the GTi version. There's also an all-electric e-Up version. From 2020 onwards the only petrol Ups were the 59bhp 1.0 65 and the revised GTI.
Trim-wise, the later models include an entry-level Take Up that isn’t blessed with much standard equipment – even air conditioning isn’t on the list (it can’t be added as an optional extra, either). Move Up trim gets you air-con, as well as electric front windows, remote central locking, a full-size spare wheel, split-folding rear seats and a height-adjustable boot floor. Both trims are available only with the 59bhp engine.
Next comes High Up trim, which is offered with the 74bhp and 89bhp engines only and comes with a much more impressive kit list. This includes the more sophisticated 5.0in infotainment system, 15in alloy wheels, heated front seats, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, a leather steering wheel and gearlever, and front foglights.
The Up Beats is a separate trim available with all three engines. It's slightly less lavishly equipped than the High Up, but if you love your music you won't care about that because it brings a much more powerful sound system.
On the road, the two lower-powered engines are a little weedy, so we'd recommend seeking out the 89bhp version. It brings much punchier acceleration, particularly at low revs, making the Up far more relaxing to drive and a much more competent out-of-town car. The 113bhp engine is exclusively offered in the range-topping Up GTI and can propel the tiny car to 62mph in just 8.8sec. There’s also an all-electric version called the e-Up. It feels genuinely nippy around town, although acceleration quickly tails off above 40mph.
The Up manages to be both really good fun to drive, yet remarkably smooth riding. This is partly helped by the smaller wheels on offer, but also by the high levels of grip the car manages to achieve. The controls are a pleasure to use; the steering is light but precise, and the gearlever and clutch action is easy to bond with. Steering is untaxing, perfect for low-speed manoeuvres such as parallel parking. But it weighs up nicely during high-speed cornering, inspiring confidence in the Up’s chassis.
Tall drivers benefit from a wide range of seat adjustment, although only mid-range Move Up and higher trims get driver’s seat-height adjustment as standard. Some people might find the seat a little firm and flat, although side support is good, helping to hold you in place through corners. It’s a shame that the Up’s steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach (it only moves up and down).
For such a small car, the Up is certainly spacious in the front. There’s lots of leg room for tall adults and head room is equally generous. There’s plenty of room for elbows, too. The Up's boxy dimensions mean the roof doesn’t taper towards the rear of the car, so there's almost as much shoulder room in the back as there is in the front. Head and leg room are reasonable by the standards of the class, although if you plan to carry adults in the back on a regular basis the Hyundai i10 is a roomier option.
The Up has a decent enough boot that's usefully square in shape and large enough for a few shopping bags or a couple of soft luggage cases. However, the rival Kia Picanto has a much bigger load bay so is a better choice if you need to carry lots of luggage.
Despite how polished the overall package is, the Up’s residual values haven’t been quite as good as those from rivals. However, it is more costly to buy than its closest rivals, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, and you’ll have to justify to yourself whether or not you are willing to pay extra for the nicer finishing touches of the Up.
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