Rear-engined city car concept points the way to a forthcoming Fox replacement
10 September 2007

Volkswagen has taken inspiration from its past in creating a compact new supermini that is planned to go into production by the end of the decade.Previewed at the Frankfurt motor show by the contemporary-looking Up! Concept (yes, the exclamation mark really is part of the car’s name), the new four-seater will be following in the tyretracks of the original Beetle. That’s because just like it predecessor, the Up! uses a rear-engined layout that is aimed at providing low production costs and vital packaging advantages over today’s front-engined superminis. VW sees the car as a replacement for the slow-selling Fox. Styled by a team of in-house designers working under Volkswagen design boss, Walter de’Silva, the Up! is said to closely preview the appearance of the future entry-level model, with a clean and unadorned look. Details remain scarce, but VW chairman Martin Winterkorn indicates the production version of the Up! will come in two distinct versions: a contemporary city car carrying all of today’s usual creature comforts for established markets and a more basic low-cost version for emerging markets.At the upcoming Tokyo and Los Angeles motor shows, VW plans to reveal two further superminis based on the same rear-engined layout, known internally at the German car maker as the “New Small Family”.At 3450mm long and 1630mm wide, the Up! is 380mm shorter and 30mm narrower than the Fox, and of similar size to the new Fiat 500.By mounting the engine and ancillaries low in the rear, VW claims to have created class-leading levels of interior space and room for four adults while also providing a good deal of luggage space both up front and over the engine at the rear.VW also hints that the production version of the Up! promises sporty road manners; a wide 1420mm track will help road-holding. Volkswagen isn’t saying much about the potential engine, however, Autocar can confirm that it is working on a new range of ultra-frugal direct-injection petrol powerplants. These include a new turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit and turbocharged 900cc two-cylinder – both slated to go into production by the end of the decade. A new 1.4-litre common rail diesel is also under development.

Greg Kable

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