What's the used Volkswagen Up hatchback like?
Originally launched to a grateful public in 2012 and updated in 2016 and 2020, the diminutive Volkswagen Up has been a huge sales success for Volkswagen and is now a great used buy.
The best thing about it is that it's never really felt like a small car – not in the way it drives, the material choices of its interior or the way it rides. It’s only when you get out of it and see how much space is left over in a standard parking space that you remember that you’re in a bantam Volkswagen.
The Up started life with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine in two states of tune: 59bhp and 74bhp. Later models offered two additional 1.0-litre engines: a turbocharged version with 89bhp and a 113bhp turbo in the sporty GTI model. There's also an all-electric e-Up. From 2020 onwards, the only petrol Ups were the 59bhp 1.0 and the revised GTI.
The later models include an entry-level Take Up trim that isn’t blessed with much standard equipment; even air conditioning isn’t on the list (it can’t be added as an option, 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 a more sophisticated 5.0in infotainment system, 15in alloy wheels, heated front seats, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, front foglights and a leather steering wheel and gearlever.
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, which has been substantially updated over the years. It feels genuinely nippy around town, although acceleration quickly tails off above 40mph.
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 head room in the back as there is in the front. Leg room is 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.