13.2.2021Volkswagen e-up! review
VW’s e-up! used to offer a short electric driving range for a fair chunk of money, really suiting only those that wanted an EV for urban driving. ‘Used to’ are the key words here. There’s a new e-up! (though you’d be hard pushed to tell) that changes all of that, and makes the compact electric up! a genuine option for anyone in the market for a city car.
Review by Chris Lilly
VOLKSWAGEN E-UP! PERFORMANCE
Volkswagen might be on a mission to build its ID. all-electric sub-brand, but the ‘e-‘ sub-brand was and remains a pretty good one. The e-Golf may have fallen to the ID.3, but the e-up! remains, and the latest version has received a significant powertrain upgrade. This is primarily in the battery department, so drivers will have a 60 kW electric motor to play with, but it’s plenty in a car as small as the e-up! particularly in town driving.
The e-up! will complete short sprints at speeds lower than 50 mph rapidly, and the small VW is a great car to drive in built up areas. The responsiveness from the electric motor means that you can dart in and out of gaps comfortably, far better than the 0-62mph sprint of 11.9 seconds might suggest. The top speed is 81 mph, but the e-up! still feels comfortable enough on the motorway for occasional longer trips.
The e-up! is brilliantly set up for town driving. It’s agile and has a tight turning circle, with VW’s engineers having pushed the wheels right into each corner. This lack of overhang front and rear means it’s very easy to position the e-up! on the road, and makes parking and driving in tight spots a doddle. It also keeps the centre of gravity low, something aided further with the battery fitted in the floor of the car. It all adds up to create a fun-to-drive car, which is great at dealing with both city traffic and country roads.
The relative lack of length and focus on agility means it’s not ideal on the motorway, but this car was never designed as a long distance cruiser - electric or otherwise. It copes well enough, but keep to occasional motorway trips rather than invest in an e-up! as a regular high-mileage runner, and the VW will perform admirably.
There are very few differences between a standard five-door up! and an e-up!, which is no bad thing. Volkswagen’s smallest new car is a well designed and stylish little machine, with compact proportions for suitability of purpose, but no lack of style. There are cooler city cars out there, such as Fiat’s 500, but these compromise practicality a little because of style, whereas the e-up! remains a useful shape. The only tell-tale signs that this is an electric model come in the shape of some very discreet badges, and the c-shaped running lights in the front bumper, reserved for VW’s ‘e-‘ and ‘GTE’ models. Even the charging inlet is behind what would otherwise be a fuel filler flap.
The e-up!’s square stance and square-ish shape mean that it’s a pretty practical car considering its exterior dimensions. The boot is a useful size and shape, and you can fit a couple of adults in the rear when required - child seats fit easily too. A city car like the e-up! is never going to be a family workhorse, but it can deal with a fair number of people and their stuff before getting too full.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Like the exterior, the interior is almost identical to the conventional VW up!. Again, this is no problem, since the e-up!’s interior is a fun, brightly coloured place in which to sit, and a good example of keeping everything fit for purpose. There are rival models with large touchscreen systems, or a plethora of buttons, but the e-up! keeps things simple, whilst still having everything ‘required’ for drivers.
The materials used throughout feel high quality for the class of car the e-up! sits in, whilst it all clunks and squashes nicely where required. It’s got all the hallmarks of a VW, just in a small package.
The key differences come in the shape of the gear-stick, which has a D/B setting, and can be used to alter brake energy recuperation. There’s also an Eco/Eco+ button to extend range, but otherwise that’s about it. The e-up!’s infotainment system is your own phone with a VW app on it, and it works well even if it is a little unconventional. However, you will have a more regularly updated operating system, plus easier access to you own music, maps etc, all sitting in a cradle on the dashboard.
VW E-UP! MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The biggest change to the e-up! hasn’t been covered yet, and it’s the driving range on a single charge. The previous version could cover an official 83 miles on a charge from its 18.7 kWh (gross) battery. Thanks to improvements in battery design and efficiency, the same physically sized pack is fitted to the e-up! but it now has a capacity of 32.3 kWh (36.8 kWh gross) allowing for a range almost double that of the previous model. As such, what was a fairly miserly 80-odd miles on a single charge - fine for urban work, but requiring some planning when on longer trips - is now 159 miles according to the official figures. That’s far more usable, and makes the e-up! a far more attractive proposition to buyers.
The good news is that I found the range pretty reliable. Rarely venturing into a city, where the e-up! comes into its own, the little VW still covered a reliable 145 miles on a charge, and only dropped to 125/130 on faster routes. Over the course of my time with the e-up!, I would regularly get a range of more than 160 miles without trying. It’s a great return for a small car, and means the WV e-up! can seriously be considered, particularly as a runabout for a single-car household, where before it would have struggled to be so convenient.
Although the battery capacity has been doubled, it’s still not a huge pack, which boosts the e-up!’s green credentials. The 32.3 kWh battery also takes less time to charge than an EV with a large battery, and the VW can be charged at up to 7.2 kW on an AC charger or 40 kW on a DC unit. This means that a full charge on AC will take around four and a half hours, whilst a charge to 80% on a DC point will take between 40 minutes and an hour.
Charging is carried out via a CCS inlet, on the rear off-side flank. There are Eco/Eco+ settings which restrict performance and air-conditioning power. However, unless you’re really struggling to get to the location and need to hyper-mile, ignore them as the e-up! is efficient anyway, and much more fun to drive in normal mode.
There are four levels of brake energy recuperation, plus B mode, which can be accessed by knocking the gear stick from left to right, toggling up and down the levels. It’s a really useful set-up, and one that - when used - can really hep achieve some long-range figures. Other than paddles behind the steering wheel, it’s my preferred way for brake energy recuperation to be set up. By using these settings, the e-up! will almost coast to offering near on-pedal driving. There is also information for the driver on the app, which can pre-condition the e-up!, set charging times, and other familiar EV features.
There’s one e-up! trim available, but it comes well equipped, so there should be few complaints. Climate control, cruise control, parking sensors front and rear, lane assist, a reversing camera, and heated front seats now all come as standard, as do automatic wipers and lights, 15-inch alloys, heated windscreen, composition entertainment system with Bluetooth, USB, and AUX connectivity, and DAB radio.
There’s also a multi-function steering wheel, cradle and integration for a smartphone with VW’s Maps + More’ app, rear privacy glass, and multi-function driver’s computer.
VOLKSWAGEN E-UP! MODEL SUMMARY
The VW e-up! Is a great car for those regularly covering shorter trips, or anyone looking for a second car. Most drivers will rarely cover more than 100 miles in one go, and the e-up! can easily cope with those distances. In fact, with a little charging, it can deal with two or three times that range with little-to-zero inconvenience. It’s well equipped, covers a good range, is nicely stylish, well built, and fun to drive - a brilliant city car, in fact.
Model tested: VW e-up!
Body-style: City car
Engine / CO2: 60 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Only one
On-road price: From £20,905.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars