Volkswagen Up


Debut: 2011
Maker: Volkswagen
Predecessor: Fox



 Published on 23 Dec 2011
All rights reserved. 


Volkswagen group has an ambitious goal to be the world's no. 1 car maker by 2018. That calls for extending its presence to all market segments. One of the few segments that it has been underperforming is the smallest A-segment city cars. Players in the field include Fiat Panda, Renault Twingo, Toyota Aygo/Peugeot 107/Citroen C1, Fiat 500, Toyota iQ, Smart Fortwo, Tata Nano and countless of Suzuki and Daihatsu K-cars. Volkswagen last competed in the segment with Lupo from 1998 to 2005. It was not very successful because it lacked the practicality and affordability that customers in the entry-level class demanded. In 2005, the Lupo was replaced with the Brazilian-built Fox. Spacious and cheap it migt be, the Fox was built with standards only developing countries would accept. Needless to say, it sold poorly in Europe.

Finally, Volkswagen got serious and started developing a brand new car tailored to the needs of entry-level buyers. In the 2007 Frankfurt motor show, the Up concept car was displayed. It featured a space-saving rear-engined layout and a compact but spacious body shell. The styling was refreshing, and the best thing was that it did not look cheap at all ! Very much like the original Beetle (also rear-engined), it appeared to be classless.



The 2007 Volkswagen Up concept

However, in the following development process VW realized the rear-engined layout would demand many unique components, such as engines, transmissions and suspensions. That would actually increase production cost beyond acceptable level. Consequently, the production Up reverts to conventional front-engined layout so that it can maximize component sharing with other Volkswagen products.

We have no doubt that rear-engined would have given the baby Volkswagen a unique character and an advantage in space efficiency, but to be fair, Wolfsburg did a great job to limit the damage to the minimum. Look at the production Up, you will be hard pressed to tell it has a front-mounted engine. Its front overhang is virtually as short as that of the concept, an achievement made possible by an extremely compact engine. This is a brand-new, all-aluminum 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine. Not only it is compact, it has the radiator positioned beside rather than in front of the engine, saving considerable space up front. On the flip side, the extremely short engine compartment is unlikely to accommodate a larger 4-pot engine in the future.



It goes without saying that a shorter engine compartment means more space can be spent to wheelbase hence cabin space. The Up is 3540 mm long, about the same as a Fiat 500, but its 2420 mm wheelbase is 120 mm longer than the Fiat's. That puts its space efficiency ahead of any European hatchbacks, just shy of some Japanese K-cars. On the other hand, its 1641 mm width is much more generous than the K-cars' maximum of 1475 mm. No wonder its cabin feels remarkably spacious for a city car, with good legroom and shoulder room for both rows. It is capable to seat 4 average-sized adults without much complaint. Besides, the 251-liter boot is also large by class standard.

Such excellent space efficiency is also helped by a square, no-nonsense shape. The Up is designed by Italdesign Giugiaro (before the latter acquired by VW group). While it is not the most memorable small car design by Giugiaro – that could be the original Fiat Panda, Uno or Punto – it is unquestionably a high quality effort, blending Italian cuteness with the typical self-restraint of VW. A few features distinguish it from other small cars, most notably the large panel covering its lower front grille and the kick of waistline near the C-pillar. The black, glass-covered tailgate with C-shape taillights is also a signature of the car. Similarly, the interior emphasizes a neat, simple and function-oriented style. Its center console is mounted high to ease access, while a wireless touch-screen sat-nav/multimedia device can be attached atop the center console. Predictably, the dashboard is made of hard plastic to save money, but it is nicely grained to look high-quality. Moreover, the dash is dominated by a body-color-matching panel to cheer up the ambience, while the door panels have their exposed metal surfaces painted in body color as well, just like the old Lupo. Overall, the cabin cannot match the more expensive Fiat 500 for style and quality materials, but it trumps just any other rivals.



One thing I admire the baby VW very much is its combination of lightweight and "big-car" refinement, something usually mutually exclusive. The car weighs only 854 kg, but its suspension damps beautifully on irregularities, and the engine, road and wind noises are never intrusive. Part of this refinement must thanks to a well engineered chassis that comprises of 17 percent high-strength steel, 39 percent ultra-high-strength steel and 8 percent hot-stamped steel, which makes lightweight and high rigidity (a class-leading 19,800 Nm/degree) possible. To save heavy and costly insulation materials, it uses a stamped acoustic firewall and optmizes the sealing of the cabin. Structural damping is tuned to interact with other acoustic elements and deliver a pleasant noise.

The EA211 three-cylinder engine is another example of sensible engineering. To keep cost under control, it is not overloaded with technology – just relying on 4-valves head and intake VVT to deliver reasonable horsepower. A lot of weight is saved by using aluminum block and by mounting the ancillary components directly on crankshaft instead of mounting brackets. Weight saving even goes as far as eliminating the usual balancer shaft. Then how does it deal with the first order vibration typical to 3-cylinder engines? The answer is by using lightweight reciprocating parts (pistons and con-rods) and swivel engine mounts. The whole engine weighs just 69 kg.


Depending on ECU, the 999 cc engine produces either 60hp or 75hp. Both have the same max. torque of 70 lbft. Predictably, performance is barely adequate for the 75hp engine, while the lower power option could be frustrating on highway. Fortunately, the engine is willing to rev and reasonably refined. It does produce noticeable vibration at very low rpm, but once it is up to rev the vibration is largely settled. The 5-speed manual gearbox is slick to shift, and it is well matched to the torque curve to deliver a quiet operation in motorway cruising, at least for the 75hp model.

As expected, the small car feels nimble and easy to drive around town. Its suspension setting is softer than the usual standards of VW, so it displays noticeable body roll into corners. Compare with Japanese city cars, however, its suspension is firmer and body control is better. Highway stability is also superior. The electric power steering is light and accurate but lack of feedback.

Being a city car, the Up is very well judged. It is not only spacious, functional, frugal and affordable, but delivers better quality and refinement than most other city cars on the market. Nevertheless, next to Fiat 500 we can't help feeling the VW is a little bit bland, not just in terms of styling but also the engine and handling. The most sensible purchase it might be, the Up still lacks the fun and sparkles that the Italian is renowned for.
Verdict:
 Published on 23 Dec 2011
All rights reserved. 
Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo

The market volume of A-segment is not as large as B and C-segment, therefore many A-segment players need to find partners to lift economy of scale. Toyota Aygo / Citroen C1 / Peugeot 107 is an example; Fiat 500 / Ford Ka is another. The solution to Volkswagen group is obvious: both Seat and Skoda are going to share VW Up through what we call "badge-engineering". Basically, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo are mechanically identical to the VW Up, even up to engine specifications and suspension tuning. What separate them are mostly cosmetic differences, such as fascia, bumpers, lamps and some interior trims. All three are produced at the Bratislava plant in Slovakia. Of course, the Volkswagen charges most money owing to its superior badge. If badge is not important to you, the other two are actually more sensible to purchase.

Verdict:
 Published on 27 Jan 2018
All rights reserved. 
Up GTI


Shown as prototype in 2012, why does it take so long to make production?


Volkswagen has a long history of GTi. Even at the very entry-level, it once had Lupo GTi to please poor car enthusiasts. However, the GTi version of the current Up city car takes unexpectedly long to materialize – more than 6 years after the Up went on sale. Why does it take so long? Rocket science to develop the car? Difficult business case to sort out? Lack of manpower? There is no reasonable answer in my opinion. As early as January 2012, Volkswagen already built a prototype Up GT and let many automotive journalists try it. Its mechanical layout was basically the same as the ultimate production car just launched: a 1-liter turbo triple-cylinder engine pumping out 110 hp and 129 lbft of torque, driving through a 6-speed manual gearbox to the front axle, and the chassis got adequate rather than radical upgrades. Some said the Dieselgate stopped its development as the company directed resources and manpower to fix the big problem. However, the Dieselgate did not broke out until late 2015 thus it was unlikely to affect the production schedule. Maybe the top management was just not interested in the pocket rocket that would bring little financial benefits. How wrong it was! For some time Volkswagen’s subcompacts were seen as dull and boring – think about Fox and the last two generations Polo. It needs a really good GTi derivative to lift its image and lure young drivers return. Anyway, late is better than never. We are glad that Up GTi is finally showing up. Poor car enthusiasts will have another good choice beside Fiat 500 Abarth, Opel Adam S and Suzuki Swift Sport.



115hp sounds a lot until you realize Ford manages to squeeze out 140hp from the same capacity...


As mentioned, the Up GTi involves no rocket science. To keep cost down, its modifications are quite modest in fact. Based on the existing 1.0TSI model, the little EA211 3-cylinder turbo engine is given a larger turbo for higher boost, while fuel injection and pistons are modified to cope. Power is lifted from 90 to 115 horsepower, which sounds a lot until you realize Ford manages to squeeze out 140hp from its 1.0 Ecoboost (see Fiesta). Its 147 lbft of twisting force is remarkable, but I suspect it is delivered on overboost, considering the peak power and torque don’t match.

Anyway, in practice, the engine feels good. There is noticeable turbo lag and little firepower below 2000 rpm, so it takes some patience, but if you keep it on boil it will feel quite strong in the mid-range. It is eager to spin to 5500 rpm, after which the power tails off until the 6000 rpm redline. For a three-cylinder engine, it is pretty good, if not the best. The sound it produces is artificially enhanced by a symposer (not digitized sound from speakers) which inducts some noise from the engine intake to the cabin. When revved hard, it sounds purposeful and sonorous.



The Up GTi has the agility only a small and light car like this could achieve...


The Up GTi feels brisk enough as it weighs just under 1 ton. 0-60 mph is done in 8.3 seconds, no match for the more powerful Fiat 595 Abarth or Opel Adam S, but it is still a decent performance for an entry-level hot hatch. Supporting the positive perception is the 6-speed manual gearbox, exclusive to the GTi and not available to other family members, as it offers slick and light gearchange.

At the chassis side, the modifications are predictable, i.e. stiffer suspension setup, 15mm drop of ride height, quicker steering rack from Polo, larger front disc brakes (though drums remain at the rear) and 17-inch wheels shod with 195/40 rubbers. The standard Up has always been good to drive, so the GTi has taken it to a higher level. Its ride quality is firm but the damping is well judged. It could feel harsh on really sharp bumps in town, but on a regular B-roads it is absorbent enough, rounding off surface irregularities and even potholes well. Obviously, it doesn’t grip as hard or turn-in as sharp as a sportier hot hatch like Ford Fiesta ST, but its body control and grip are well matched with the power. The wheels are placed right at the corners thus it feels well balanced in corner. The grip afforded by the narrow tires are dependable because they don’t need to cope with a lot of power. The steering is not full of feel but it is well weighted, accurate and quick. Most important, the Up GTi has the agility only a small and light car like this could achieve. It makes slow corners easy, fast corners assured. The only thing it lacks is lift-off oversteer, which is not in the genes of VW. Let’s face it, these days very few manufacturers are willing to offer this playful idea.



What makes the Up GTi attractive is the overall package...


However, what makes the Up GTi the most attractive hot hatch in its price range is not its engine or chassis, but the overall package. As always, the Up is spacious, practical and its build quality is higher than anything else in the class. The GTi has the latter enhanced further with some smart styling tweaks, such as the new bumpers, skirts, rear spoiler and side graphics, while its interior gets tradition GTi upgrades, i.e. tartan cloth seats, some red inserts and a flat-bottom steering wheel taken from Golf GTi. It is equipped with a 5-inch infotainment and Bluetooth connectivity to feel smart and good valued. The rear seats are good for a pair of average-size adults, something few A-segment cars managed. Moreover, you can have it in both 3-door or 5-door body. It is a well-rounded package with no obvious weaknesses.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Up 1.0
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3540 / 1641 / 1478 mm
2420 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, VVT
-
-
75 hp
70 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/50TR16
854 kg
106 mph (c)
12.5 (est) / 13.8* / 11.8**
-
Up 1.0TSI
2016
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3600 / 1641 / 1478 mm
2420 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
90 hp
118 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/55R15
927 kg
115 mph (c)
9.3 (c)
-
Up GTI
2018
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3600 / 1641 / 1478 mm
2410 mm
Inline-3
999 cc
DOHC 12 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
115 hp / 5000-5500 rpm
147 lbft / 2000-3500 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
195/40R17
995 kg
122 mph (c)
8.3 (c)
-




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