From £24,6257
The VW e-Up is a compelling, if pricey, electric city car but it still requires owners to make some compromises

Our Verdict

Volkswagen e-Up

The Volkswagen e-Up is a typically polished (if slightly uninspiring) effort, and kick-starts competition in the small electric car category

  • First Drive

    2017 Volkswagen e-Up

    The VW e-Up is a compelling, if pricey, electric city car but it still requires owners to make some compromises
Doug Revolta Autocar
24 January 2017

What is it?

The Volkswagen e-Up is the pure-electric version of VW’s popular Up city car. When it was launched the EV market was still in its early stages, but now, three years on, the alternative-fuel market is bigger and continuing to grow.

The e-Up has received a light update to keep it fresh, but nothing mechanical has changed. The main alterations are a revised front bumper and rear light clusters, and aside from that it’s all very familiar. As such, its claimed range stays at 99 miles and it’s powered by the same 18.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack that generates 81bhp and 155lb ft of instantly available torque. For a full charge, expect a three-point plug to take around nine hours, although a fast-charger will take 30 minutes to provide 80%.

Although electric cars are growing in popularity, the usual caveat applies: the compromises that their limited range and our still-limited infrastructure bring means they have to suit your lifestyle. Still, if you’re after a city car, you’re unlikely to be covering big miles, so is the e-Up the ideal electric car?

What's it like?

This is no standalone electric model like the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3. Being based on the five-door Up means the e-Up is very familiar in appearance and dynamics.

That’s no bad thing. The Up is one of the best city cars you can buy, so it’s a great grounding to base an electric car on. With instant torque, off the line the e-Up feels much sharper than its petrol-powered equivalent, and its silent cruising makes it relaxing to drive through congested cities.

That said, it’s not entirely silent in the cabin – there’s a fair bit of road noise at speed – but it is still typically comfortable, functional, high-quality and robust inside. No compromises have had to be made inside to cater for its transformation from internal combustion engine to battery – the electric motor sits up front and the battery lies in the floor – so it remains spacious by city car standards.

It’s well specced, too, with a new leather-trimmed steering wheel, alloys, heated front seats and a 5.0in colour screen and a smartphone docking station on top of the dash. There’s no infotainment system as such, but via a Volkswagen app you have sat-nav and can play music from your smartphone, while the Car-Net app lets drivers control the car’s charging process remotely and view other vehicle statistics.

The e-up is a pleasant thing to drive with decent, agile handling and a good ride, although its quick steering doesn't offer much feedback. The brake pedal feel isn’t particularly smooth either (as with many EVs and hybrids) but the regenerative braking works well and is controlled easily via the gear lever. To further conserve battery power, there are three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Eco Plus – which progressively reduce power and electrical systems to eek out the extra miles of range.

Should I buy one?

The e-Up faces competition from the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, all of which are great cars and have superior ranges. While the i3 and Leaf are more expensive, the Zoe is cheaper if you buy its battery outright and offers a lot more room inside. The e-Up does come with a generous eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty though, and it's also worth exploring the finance deals available with the car, which make it more competitive.

It’s still too expensive to be a serious consideration for the majority of car buyers, though, being around £8000 more than the brilliantly peppy 1.0-litre TSI version of the car, which is quicker on paper and won’t be expensive to run. So, although it's great in many areas, until it has a bigger range and a lower price the e-Up remains a niche choice.

2017 Volkswagen e-Up

Location Feltham, Middlesex; On sale Now; Price £20,780 (inc. govt grant); Engine Electric motor; Power 81bhp at 3000rpm; Torque 155lb ft at 2800rpm; Gearbox Direct drive; Kerb weight 1214kg; 0-62mph 12.4sec; Top speed 80mph; Range 99miles; CO2/tax band 0g/km at tailpipe, 0%; Rivals Nissan Leaf; BMW i3

Join the debate

Comments
17

24 January 2017
There's a lot of shouting going on about how Volkswagen is going to revolutionise its future electric cars, but on the evidence of this car progress is a long way behind competitors. OK, this might be a viable proposition at half the price, but £20 odd thousand (including grant)is just silly. To describe it as a "niche choice" is, I feel, being extremely kind to your friends at VW!

25 January 2017
LP in Brighton wrote:

There's a lot of shouting going on about how Volkswagen is going to revolutionise its future electric cars, but on the evidence of this car progress is a long way behind competitors. OK, this might be a viable proposition at half the price, but £20 odd thousand (including grant)is just silly. To describe it as a "niche choice" is, I feel, being extremely kind to your friends at VW!

It's a pity Brighton has such a bad charging infrastructure, i would have expected the Green Party to have made it a priority.

RogerHudson

24 January 2017
They've finally come up with a car for us Yorkshire folk!

The Volkswagen Ay Up

(Sniff) Where do I sign, lad?

24 January 2017
Straff wrote:

They've finally come up with a car for us Yorkshire folk!

The Volkswagen Ay Up

(Sniff) Where do I sign, lad?

Beat me to it lol

24 January 2017
Bit of a stopgap then. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the inadequate range and premium costs that the main stream car makers are peddling will be but a memory.

24 January 2017
I don't understand why anyone would buy this over a Nissan Leaf is beyond me. You can carry four in comfort in a leaf, it's quicker, quieter and not much more money.

I drive a leaf regularly - it's actually a fairly decent car and a bargain second hand

24 January 2017
Jimbbobw1977 :

"I don't understand why anyone would buy this over a Nissan Leaf is beyond me."

Your jottings are beyond me.

25 January 2017
Just looked these up on auto trader and you can get 2015 models with 2k for £14k, that's a lot of depreciation, I would have expected better.

25 January 2017
si73 wrote:

Just looked these up on auto trader and you can get 2015 models with 2k for £14k, that's a lot of depreciation, I would have expected better.

Used EVs are turning out to be real bargains , the depreciation seems to be the result of unfounded scares about battery life. The current generation of batteries are holding their maximum charge levels a lot better than most people realise. Also used EVs ( like all EVs) have just so much less mechanicals to wear out, like the clutch, the fuel injectors etc. etc. even brake pads last ages on an EV. The next generation e-Up! batteries will fit exactly in the old space but have far better range ( look how the Renault Zoe has managed).
The Mitsubishi/ Citroen EV is the bargain of the decade, if you can live with it's looks.

RogerHudson

25 January 2017
si73 wrote:

Just looked these up on auto trader and you can get 2015 models with 2k for £14k, that's a lot of depreciation, I would have expected better.

I also have seen VW e-Up!s on Autotrader, they get snapped up very quickly, as-new interiors, few mechanical bits to worry about, batteries with long life, absolute bargains.

RogerHudson

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