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

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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TS7 30 January 2017

Ideal Yorkshire car?

Probably not. If one lived at the geographical centre of Yorkshire, Hessay, one could barely make it to the edges of the county, the most Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western points (roughly 60, 60, 80, & 80 miles respectively), without suffering a degree of range anxiety.
ianp55 29 January 2017

Volkswagen E-Up

Oh come off it there's no way that the Volkswagen E-Up can be considered a "compelling" electric car,while Renualt & Nissan are selling the Zoe & Leaf,purpose built larger electric cars. In fact there's no point in buying a petrol Up! full stop as the Skoda Citego costs nearly £1k less for an identical product. There's absolutely no economic argument for buying the car at all and I would expect better from Autocar which is turning into the in house magazine for the German motor industry
tonylathes 27 January 2017

Next generation battery?

Ah! The "next generation" battery. How many times have we heard that one....and £20,000 for a tiny car, a battery and an electric motor? Madness. It should be milk-float money.