Volkswagen Move up! Three-Door review
by David Finlay (7 May 2012)
I've just been driving the best car in the world. Now there's a sentence which needs clarification. Okay, here goes. Whether or not the Volkswagen up! is truly humanity's finest automotive achievement (and you may have to search through enormous tracts of time and space to find someone who believes that it is), the fact remains that in early April the up! was named World Car of the Year 2012 by an international judging panel. The new-generation BMW 3-Series and Porsche 911 were strong contenders, but the up! vanquished them both.
I am not aware of anyone having spluttered with indignation about the jurors' choice, though there would have been a great deal of this if either of the up!'s predecessors - the Lupo and the Fox - had received a similar honour. The up! is very much better than either of them. At the third attempt, Volkswagen has finally come up with a really impressive city car.
It's available with two forms of the same one-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. The High up! I reviewed recently used the more powerful 74bhp version, and while that was very nice I suspected that its 59bhp junior partner, as fitted to the Move up!, would be strong enough for the job.
Having driven the car for a week, I think I'm right. Oh, this is no hot hatch, and there are times when you have to drive it flat out just to keep going at a reasonable speed. But it's more than adequately powerful for urban duties, and in these situations it's as easy to handle as a city car should be. Only the daft rear side windows, clearly designed more to look artistic than to be seen out of, make life difficult.
On the open road it's not as good, and nor should it be expected to be. Short for its width and height, it can be slightly choppy on uneven surfaces, and it struggles a bit in strong sidewinds. But these are minor matters, and considering its target market its set-up should absolutely be compromised towards the streets rather than the open road.
Even so, I thought the up! was quite impressive out of town. At one point during this test I covered 870 miles in under twenty hours, and while I wouldn't recommend this to anyone I didn't find the up! at all uncomfortable. It also kept up with motorway traffic quite happily. On another occasion I made a 170-mile round trip in a day on country roads - often quite twisty ones - and again it performed well, largely in this case because it can be surprisingly good fun through a long series of twists and turns.
Fuel consumption on a combination of that journey and quite a bit of town driving was a measured 48.7mpg, while on the motorway marathon (when there were a lot of the aforementioned sidewinds to contend with) the average was 53.3mpg. A much larger diesel or hybrid would have done just as well, or possibly better, but the aerodynamic properties of a short car with a sharply cut-off tail do not favour fuel economy, so I was quite pleased.
You can, in theory, do better if you spend an extra £360 and buy the Move up! BlueMotion Technology instead. An otherwise identical car, it has various fuel-saving tweaks which raise the official combined economy figure from the standard Move's 62.8mpg to 68.9mpg, and lower the CO2 emissions to the point where you no longer have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty or the London congestion charge.
Actually achieving those official figures is unlikely, but with a BlueMotion Technology I'm sure I'd have stayed above 50mpg on more or less every journey.
If purchase price is the main consideration, you can have the much cheaper entry-level Take up!, but this might be a false economy. The rear seat doesn't split, as it does on all other models, and electric front windows, central locking and - most importantly, from a safety point of views - ESP are not fitted as standard. If you were to specify them all as options you'd have to pay an extra £1100, and your "cheap" car would now cost £125 more than the Move which has all of them included in its price.