Up­ping the ante in sec­tor

Volk­swa­gen looks set to up­set the su­per­mini hatch estab­lish­ment with its Up!, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

VOLK­SWA­GEN has de­cided to set the cat among the pi­geons by bring­ing its small­est ve­hi­cle yet to the South African mar­ket in the form of the Up! three-door hatch. It will sit be­low the Polo Vivo and Polo in the prod­uct hi­er­ar­chy and will pan­der to those buy­ers look­ing for a stylish run­about with enough space for gro­ceries and room for two adults up front and kids at the rear.

While style re­mains some­thing of a sub­jec­tive mat­ter the model, in my view, is in­of­fen­sive and is eas­ily one of the most con­vinc­ing de­signs in the seg­ment. Up­front the ve­hi­cle echoes some of the Bee­tle’s styling cues, while the rest of the car seems to have been well thought out with very lit­tle of the dinky looks that seem to af­flict mod­els in this seg­ment. The rear in par­tic­u­lar has a con­tem­po­rary de­sign, thanks to the ver­ti­cally stacked lights. The side pro­file is sim­i­lar to that of the Polo Vivo three-door, re­plete with a rear side win­dow kink.

Here to take the fight to the Honda Brio, Hyundai i10, Kia Pi­canto, and the Suzuki Cele­rio to name a few, the Up! seems to have a few aces up its sleeve, but more on this a bit later. Ac­cord­ing to Petra Hoffman, sales and mar­ket­ing direc­tor at Volk­swa­gen SA (VWSA), the rea­son the model was only brought to our shores al­most three years af­ter it was launched in other mar­kets, largely hinged on the cur­rency ex­change rate, which has a huge im­pact on the pric­ing of the ve­hi­cle. She men­tioned that the slight im­prove­ment in the rand in re­cent weeks has had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the new en­trant’s pric­ing, which man­ages to un­der­cut the Vivo.

Length­wise, the model mea­sures 3.5m, is 1.6m wide, and has a wheel­base of 2.4m, the lat­ter hav­ing a bear­ing on the in­te­rior space which, for a car in this class, is sur­pris­ingly good.

Front oc­cu­pants in par­tic­u­lar will find it fairly spa­cious in a man­ner not far re­moved from that of the next seg­ment up. The boot mea­sures a use­able 251l in stan­dard guise and we man­aged to fit in a medium-sized lug­gage bag and two back­packs, thanks to the two tier boot with a re­mov­able divider. Fold­ing the rear seats yields 951l, which should come in handy when mov­ing bulky items.

Two trim lev­els are avail­able in the form of the Take Up! and the higher spec­i­fied Move Up! both pow­ered by a 1l, three-cylin­der, nor­mally as­pi­rated en­gine with 55kW at 6,000r/min and 95Nm at the 3,000r/min through a five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The com­pany claims a fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure of 4.7l/100km and 108g/km of car­bon emis­sions.

At launch in the West­ern Cape, we spent time at the helm of the Move Up! vari­ant, which also fea­tured some fac­tory op­tional ex­tras such as 15-inch Waf­fle al­loy wheels, cruise con­trol, heated seats, and a sun­roof, over and above the com­pre­hen­sive stan­dard equip­ment. Th­ese on av­er­age added about R20,000 to the list price but give the car a pre­mium feel. The in­te­rior echoes that of the Bee­tle in its ar­chi­tec­ture, thanks to the ver­ti­cal fas­cia lay­out and a sim­i­lar steer­ing wheel de­sign. It im­parts a feel­ing of retro meets con­tem­po­rary, in a very taste­ful way.

Driv­ing the model at oxy­gen-rich sea level altitude, the lit­tle three pot­ter en­gine per­formed rel­a­tively well, even though it re­quired ju­di­cious use of the throt­tle and stir­ring of the trans­mis­sion.

Set­ting off on an in­cline seemed to bug this tyke, and re­quired the use of the hand­brake and pil­ing on some revs in or­der to pull cleanly. That aside, I was rather im­pressed by the way it cruised at the na­tional speed limit and wind noise was more than ac­cept­able. Over­tak­ing re­quires a shift down of a gear or two to ex­e­cute, but not once did I find my­self won­der­ing as to whether I would make it past slower mov­ing traf­fic. How­ever, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the car will fare at power-sap­ping Reef al­ti­tudes.

Safety items have not been skimped on and both trim lev­els come stan­dard with ABS and dual airbags — four airbags in the Move Up! — while the model has also scored five stars in the EuroNcap crash test, which adds fur­ther piece of mind for those par­ents con­sid­er­ing buy­ing the model for their chil­dren.

In the South African con­text, many will ar­gue that you would be bet­ter off in a Polo Vivo than the Up! as it of­fers more space over­all, which is a valid ar­gu­ment in the greater scheme of things.

How­ever, the cheap­est Vivo is priced at some R10,000 more than the bet­ter spec­i­fied Up! model. In my opin­ion, the Up! of­fers a quo­tient of style that the Vivo sim­ply can­not em­u­late, it also drives bet­ter and, with such an ex­cel­lent safety rat­ing, it is eas­ily the bench­mark model in its seg­ment, too.

Frankly, the only fly in the oint­ment is the lack of rear doors.

Pric­ing

Take Up! R133,500 Move Up! R140,500 The Up! has a ma­jor style ad­van­tage over the larger Polo Vivo.

The rear of the ve­hi­cle is dis­tinc­tive but the lack of rear pas­sen­ger doors could put some peo­ple off.

The in­te­rior is well equipped and sim­ple in a retro kind of way.

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