We drove the Volkswagen up! 1,0 TSI 90 High: small is truly beautiful…


When the largest car manufacturer in the world builds a compact car, which is meant to be truly what the brand stands for, namely a “Volkswagen”, than you can expect something exceptional. Well, here it is. We were always quite fond of this smallest VW, and the 90 HP TSI version we drove here really stole our car loving heart.

It clearly showed us again how much driving pleasure a powerful, nimble car can deliver. Just read on….

Hans Knol ten Bensel


The up! has always impressed us with its uncanny mechanical perfection, the smoothness of its driveline, its precise handling, its excellent high speed stability, its superb fit and finish.

Of course, we find all these good qualities back in this latest edition. Did the first series maybe look and feel a bit spartan, all this is forgotten in the present edition.

The newly designed headlights with LED daytime running lights, (see photo above) modified bumper with redesigned front trim strips and a more contoured bonnet give it a sharper, sportier look.


The range of 13 exterior colours (of which seven are new), ten different exterior adhesive decals, ten dashpad designs (dashboard styling panel) and seven new seat colours let you put together your equipment line simply and effortlessly based on the “roof pack”, “design pack” or “colour pack”:

Our test car was lavishly equipped with digitally adjustable heating for instance, and its “High” equipment version sported also heated front seats, rear view camera and driver assist features like cruise control and park assist.


The up! Is also improved in terms of connectivity. The top-rated “Composition Phone” device of the two new radio systems can be used to integrate all popular smartphones that use iOS or Android operating systems.


Simply click your smartphone into the cradle above the centre console, connect to the radio via Bluetooth, done. The Volkswagen app “maps + more” lets the driver operate the navigation system (offline navigation, 2-D or 3-D map view), multifunction display showing vehicle and trip data and the phone’s hands-free kit. Complicated tapping on the screen? Not any more! Handwriting recognition means you only need to draw the first few letters of the search term on the screen of your smartphone with your finger for the automatic preselection to make suggestions.

Delightful three cylinder.


We said it times again, the heart of any car is its engine. The 90 HP version of this state of the art three cylinder is a gem. Docile, pulling very well at low revs and being entirely happy to potter along with utter smoothness in dense urban traffic, it will rev up in beautiful thoroughbred staccato once you put your foot down.


It then really gets going. What to say of a 0 to 100 acceleration time of less than 10 seconds. It then eagerly hurtles further to an effortless top speed of 185 kmh. This puts the performance practically to the level of the “ur” or original Golf GTI…


We said effortless top speed, because not only the engine takes all this very well in its stride, also the chassis and suspension is made for it.

We find this one of the greatest qualities of this up!. Indeed, its superb chassis which is truly built for high speed “Autobahn” driving as well as delivering impeccable handling on winding roads.

All this does not come at the expense of a harsh suspension. The up! is surprisingly comfortable and has all the qualities of a Grand Turismo tourer for two.


Creature comfort

The seats are also excellent, and even the tallest amongst us find enough room and support. An ideal seating position is soon found. Access to the rear seats is surprisingly good thanks to the wide opening rear doors, and this comes in handy when you have to heave the toddlers into their children seats.


Of course the rear seat backrests can be folded down separately to give you that extra luggage space, and there is even a double boot floor to tuck away discreetly those valuable items.

Comfortable is also the way this up! steers and drives. The five speed gearbox is supersmooth, the  clutch  is progressive, steering is precise and light.

Other “big car” features include the new multifunction steering wheel which lets you select radio stations and songs and also control the volume. A reversing camera is offered with the “Composition Phone” radio, as it was in our test car. Other high spec features and options include: Climatronic automatic climate control for premium air quality, with allergen filter which even prevents fungal spores getting in.

And so that the driver does get left in the dark on the way home or to the car, the up! now has the “coming home” and “leaving home” lighting features on board.


Of course fuel consumption is very much dependant on your right foot and whether you rev up the engine or not. This three cylinder takes very low revs very well in its stride and has pulling power to match, which means that with some cleverness and anticipation, consumption around 5 liters is quite possible even in urban conditions. The manufacturer quotes 4,4 liters as an average.


This up! Is now more attractive than ever: if you are looking for a well engineered,  quality built compact car which is as well at home in town as on a Gran Turismo trip, delivering tons of driving pleasure every meter you drive it, than this is your choice. Besides delivering excellent performance, it is practical, long lived and frugal, and looks good too!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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