Road Test: Volkswagen e-up!
Volkswagen has been hinting at this model since its concept car namesake was first shown in 2007, and it forms part of plans to put an electrically-driven model in every sector that the Group competes in. The e-Golf is set to launch within the year and, like the e-up!, it’ll be built on the same production line as its fossil fuel-burning counterparts.
Similarly, there’s very little to mark this out as anything other than a conventional up! – save for some C-shaped light inserts in the front and rear bumpers, a subtle blue outline on the badges and an aerodynamic grille blank it looks identical to the top-spec High up! on which it is based.
But the technology underneath is anything but conventional. Under its short bonnet is an 82bhp electric motor, supplied by a lithium-ion battery neatly packaged under the cabin. There’s a small loss of boot capacity, but the e-up! still seats four adults, and the motor is plenty powerful enough to carry the weight.
Cabin modifications are otherwise minimal, though. The instrument cluster features battery and power gauges, and the dashtop Maps & More navigation gains additional functions such as power flow graphics, adjustable charging and cabin heater settings, and can direct drivers to the nearest charging point.
The electric drivetrain adds around 200kg to the weight of a standard five-door High up!, but most of the standard car’s agility and lightness on the road are retained. Throttle responses are pin sharp, it doesn’t feel heavy and the motor is incredibly quiet, even for an electric vehicle.
Unusually, Volkswagen has allowed drivers to tailor the behaviour of the car to suit their journey. There are three levels of energy recuperation in Drive, the most aggressive of which almost allows the e-up! to be driven without touching the brake pedal. Eco and Eco+ driving modes are more familiar, progressively limiting power and top speed and incrementally increasing the 80-100 mile range.
Beneath what would ordinarily be the fuel filler cap is the new Combo Charging Standard connector, combining an AC Type 2 connection with the new two-pin DC plug which are looking likely to become the European standard. Charged from a standard wallbox, the e-up! will reach 100% capacity in around six hours, while DC rapid charging brings an 80% charge in around 30 minutes.
The latter is a rare find on British roads at the moment, but is set to roll out across Ecotricity’s Electric Highway in the near future. Volkswagen also supplies a cable for a three-pin domestic plug socket, which takes nine hours to charge the car but vastly improves access to suitable charging points. Charging cables are stowed in the compartment under the boot floor, which almost feels made for the job.
So electrification suits the up!, it’s the right sector for range not to be a big problem and the product itself is brilliant. The shame is that it comes at such an eye-wateringly high price, compared to a range of already cost-efficient petrol counterparts, which makes this a hard car to justify financially. But as an eco-friendly city runaround, tech-savvy drivers will love it.
It’s hard to find any faults with the way Volkswagen has developed its first ever production electric vehicle – it’s good to drive, as practical as the petrol car and easy to use. But, with such a high price tag compared to petrol versions, it’s only regular travellers in London’s Congestion Charge zone who will reap the easiest financial rewards.
Segment: City car
Type: Battery electric vehicle
Price: £19,250 (after £5,000 plug-in car grant)
Electric range: 80-100 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging Port: Type 2 AC & CCS DC