Upping the ante in sector
Volkswagen looks set to upset the supermini hatch establishment with its Up!, writes Lerato Matebese
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.
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.