Motormouth – Gordon Hall
Move up! to Volkswagen’s funky little city car
Quality you can feel
Every now and then Volkswagen returns to its roots. In the beginning was Beetle, a love-hate little thing that soldiered on until the last one rolled off an assembly line ‘round about 1975. It was replaced by its soul sister, the first generation Golf. That hung on, through multiple South African rebirths, to finally be displaced by Polo which, although an excellent successor, somehow lost the original spirit of “People’s Cars” in its execution.
By 2007 the company saw the light once more, showing the first of a series of Up! concept vehicles at the Frankfurt Motor Show. By 2011 they had it all ready and production began in Bratislava, Slovakia. Then, in 2012, Up! carried off the World Car of the Year title. For certain markets, lightly restyled versions are rebadged as SEAT Mii and Škoda Citigo.
A 65 mm-longer special model with bigger fuel tank and boot was introduced in Brazil during 2014 and we finally received the normal, three-door, 1.0-litre version in February this year.
Having mentioned the Gen-1 Golf up above, let’s do some comparing: UP! has a slightly longer wheelbase (2420 mm vs. 2400), but is 165 mm shorter (3540 mm vs. 3705), 31 mm wider and 94 millimetres taller. And, proving that technology has indeed advanced since those early days, Golf’s original 1600 cc engine developed 55 kilowatts of power while Up’s little one-litre triple does the same.
That’s amazing, but the difference lies in the way the power is delivered. That old 1600 was quite fun to drive, but the new one-litre is a blast. Rather than having all the action happen within a narrow band of engine revs, the new motor puts out its maximum torque over a wider range – between 3000 and 4300 rpm.
Further, ninety percent of that grunt is available from 2000 rpm upward and hangs on until 6000; meaning it pulls like a carthorse. Non-enthusiasts, however, would only notice that it’s ridiculously easy to drive, with gear changes reduced to a minimum.
My first impression after driving about 50 km, but prior to seeing the spec’ sheet, was that it was turbocharged. Not so; it’s naturally aspirated, so that’s one scary-expensive item you can delete from your worry list. The magic is in the valves and the cams and the gearing. And mass control. Depending on configuration, those original Golfs weighed between 790 and 970 kilograms. The up! tips the weighbridge at 819 kg, despite being a lot stronger, much nicer and almost infinitely safer.
Consider this: Both models, Take up!and Move up!, offer four airbags, ABS brakes, ISOFix anchorages for baby chairs and a manual air conditioner. Added kit on the upper level Move version includes powered windows and mirrors; remote central locking; a trip computer that unfortunately works for that day’s travel only; height adjusters for both front seats; easy-slider function for both, to simplify access to the back seat, and a two-speaker radio with CD player.
Options include alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, extra speakers, multi-function display, cruise control, parking distance control, warmed seats and front fog lamps although some packs are model-dependent. For example, Take up! buyers are limited to the Comfort package with height-adjustable driver’s chair and powered front windows. In common with most two-door cars, the rear glassware in both models is fixed.
The boot loads at just below waist level, which is quite high, but the sill is shallow although a removable floor board reveals 20 cm more depth. Tools and triangle are secured in a Styrofoam holder in the upside-down, fully sized steel spare. Something that could annoy users is that the locking tab on the adjustable security strap is difficult to release. It might help to lift it with something from the tool kit, although you then risk losing the tab as it snaps off.
Rear seat space is best reserved for smaller passengers unless those in front have short legs, although this 1.85-metre reviewer got reasonably comfortable in the “seated behind himself” test. Headspace was adequate, knees an interference fit and foot room almost luxurious.
Interior fittings are all hard plastic but they fit well and look simple yet attractive. Music and air controls are straightforward and easy to use, the five-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to operate, the car turns in only 9.8 metres, vision outward is great and it feels solid and rattle-free. It makes you appreciate why VWs usually cost a little more – it’s quality you feel in your bones. The only problem is that, with just two doors, its appeal could be limited.
Test car from VWSA press fleet
The cheat sheet
Base price: R143 000 Engine: 999 cc, belt driven DOHC, 12-valve, three-cylinder
Power: 55 kW at 6200 rpm Torque: 95 Nm between 3000 and 4300 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 13.2 seconds Maximum: 171 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 5.6 l/100 km Tank: 35 litres
Luggage: 251 – 951 litres Warranty: 3 years/120 000 km
Servicing at 15 000 km intervals; plans are optional