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Volkswagen’s smallest EV gets an upgraded battery pack, but does that make it a more viable option?

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

    Volkswagen e-Up Style 2019 review

    Volkswagen’s smallest EV gets an upgraded battery pack, but does that make it a more viable option?
  • 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
21 November 2019
Volkswagen e-Up Style 2019

What is it?

Volkswagen’s up city car has been with us since 2011, while the electrified version was its first mass-production EV to reach the market when it arrived in 2013. That car provided a useful taste of what was possible, but the early tech meant battery capacity – and therefore range – was relatively limited.

With Volkswagen’s electrified direction change now in full flow with the ID 3, the e-Up is the next EV to benefit from the latest-gen technology. 

The big news is a new lithium-ion battery with 36.8kWh capacity, compared to just 18.7kWh for the old car, which has a significant effect on its range; Volkswagen claims up to 161 miles (260km) on a full charge. Switching from prismatic to pouch battery cells has increased the energy density and cut the battery volume by 20 litres.

The electric motor remains as before, providing 82bhp and 156lb ft of torque. Take the option of CCS fast charging and the e-Up will go from zero to 80% charged in one hour, while a conventional 7.2kW AC charger performs the same feat in four hours.

The e-Up is part of a revised Up range which goes on sale in January of next year, with updates including six airbags and Lane Assist as standard. The Up will also be the first Volkswagen to carry the new company logo that was unveiled at Frankfurt earlier this year.

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What's it like?

Much of what the e-Up presents will be familiar; despite the modest tweaks inside and out it is a classy small car that manages to justify the premium price you pay for the (new) VW roundel on the nose.

The exterior has been lightly refreshed with a nose treatment similar to the current e-Golf, but it is its taut lines and chunky proportions that make it arguably Volkswagen’s most charming design.

The key mechanicals outside of the battery pack itself remain as before, with the electric motor delivering 54bhp continuous and 82bhp peak power, with 156lb ft of torque available from rest. The single-speed transmission offers four engine braking modes, while new to the revised e-Up is the choice of three drive modes, with Eco and Eco+ scaling back performance and climate control outputs in the name of energy saving.

The more capacious battery pack is only 15kg heavier than before, but that makes it over 200kg heavier than the lightest regular Up. The good news is that much of that weight is low down in the chassis as before, while the strong torque from low speeds makes it easy to forget about the additional mass.

Right now there’s a case for a car like the Up being perfect to get the most out of electric propulsion. Driven in its natural city habitat it’s even easier to pilot than a petrol version; no need to fret about gears or whether you can make that gap, and the lower noise levels make you more aware of what’s going on outside. The acceleration is brisk rather than Tesla-bothering, but the throttle action and motor linearity is just right, leaving you in complete control of how you use the available power.

Although the brake pedal switches seamlessly between regen and mechanical intervention, flicking the gearlever between modes means you can get into an effective one-pedal mode with just a little concentration – a good habit for boosting the range. During our initial drive the e-Up covered 45km for a loss of only 26km indicated range, with little effort given to saving energy.

The rest of the package fits in well with the electric drivetrain too. The ride quality is generally very good, being soft enough to soak up urban lumps but not so compliant that cornering becomes a bracing affair. On our test route across polished Valencian roads there was fun to be had too, with the extra mass allowing some additional yaw before the ESP had its say. 

At motorway speeds the small-car levels of insulation and additional wind noise make themselves felt, but chiefly because of the lack of noise from everywhere else. This may be the cheapest Volkswagen model but it still follows the sacred tenets of refinement, quality and solid design.

Should I buy one?

Although prices are yet to be confirmed, Volkswagen says it will be close to the outgoing car. With a realistic range now well over 100 miles the e-Up is a realistic proposition out of town while still making the most of its capabilities within.

As with almost every electric car currently on sale it has to fit in to your lifestyle, but as a small electric car with big car qualities it has few credible rivals.

Matt Joy

Volkswagen e-Up specification

Where Valencia, Spain Price TBC On sale January 2020 Engine single synchronous electric motor Power 82bhp Torque 159lb ft Gearbox single speed automatic Kerb weight 1160kg Top speed 80mph 0-62mph 11.4sec Economy 12.7-12.9kWh/100km CO2 0g/km Rivals Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf

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Comments
19

21 November 2019

That’s a shed load of money for something so small!

21 November 2019

Totally agree. I call these cars "toy cars". Had a Corsa once, then grew up and got a proper car. The problem with battery cars is; the high cost (this little car needs to be around £16K max), poor mileage without using the in-car stereo, heater or air-con, how long these batteries will last (petrol or diesel cars can do 250K miles no problem if looked after), who pays for the replacement batteries and what cost, future Government charges, charging times must be no more than 5 mins. Too many problems, too many unknowns. Battery vehicles are here to stay, petrol and diesel will be replaced, but not for at least 20 years. Battery car sales aren't really going up in great numbers, even if they doubled every year, still will not beat petrol/diesel sales or market share by 2030. Don't know of any viable van/truck/pickup battery vehicle yet. Tesla are annoucing one tonight. My next car will still be a petrol one.

21 November 2019
User8472 wrote:

Totally agree. I call these cars "toy cars". Had a Corsa once, then grew up and got a proper car. The problem with battery cars is; the high cost (this little car needs to be around £16K max), poor mileage without using the in-car stereo, heater or air-con, how long these batteries will last (petrol or diesel cars can do 250K miles no problem if looked after), who pays for the replacement batteries and what cost, future Government charges, charging times must be no more than 5 mins. Too many problems, too many unknowns. Battery vehicles are here to stay, petrol and diesel will be replaced, but not for at least 20 years. Battery car sales aren't really going up in great numbers, even if they doubled every year, still will not beat petrol/diesel sales or market share by 2030. Don't know of any viable van/truck/pickup battery vehicle yet. Tesla are annoucing one tonight. My next car will still be a petrol one.

Guess electric isn't for you then.

What proper car did you get, a Vectra?

21 November 2019

Brilliant riposte......

bol

21 November 2019

The Seat version is already the cheapest electric car you can lease and there aren't even any on the road yet. These three siblings are going to open up electric motoring to a whole new audience, which will force the price of Leafs and the like down as well. Excellent. 

21 November 2019
I get the impression that the reporter is an avid VW fan, the up trio are decent little cars but I'm unsure about them justifying their prices, our Mii is a great little thing and is well specified but I can't see us replacing it for an e version at these prices.

21 November 2019

i.e. so biased and full of propaganda to force people to think in a certain way.

e.g. "...despite the modest tweaks inside and out it is a classy small car that manages to justify the premium price you pay...." - really?!

This is a tiny city car, built to a low budget (e.g. bare metal everywhere in the cabin and boot) so why would I want to pay around £25k for one (the article says this model will be priced similar to the first e-UP)?

I thought Seat were taking the mickey with the £19K+ price of the electric Mii (a car that most motoring publications originally said would be launched for around £16K) but this is just ridiculous.

There's no way I'm going to replace my ICE car for an electric car in the foreseeable future - I'd rather use my bicycle to save the environment instead, even in bad weather!

21 November 2019
gavsmit wrote:

i.e. so biased and full of propaganda to force people to think in a certain way.

e.g. "...despite the modest tweaks inside and out it is a classy small car that manages to justify the premium price you pay...." - really?!

This is a tiny city car, built to a low budget (e.g. bare metal everywhere in the cabin and boot) so why would I want to pay around £25k for one (the article says this model will be priced similar to the first e-UP)?

I thought Seat were taking the mickey with the £19K+ price of the electric Mii (a car that most motoring publications originally said would be launched for around £16K) but this is just ridiculous.

There's no way I'm going to replace my ICE car for an electric car in the foreseeable future - I'd rather use my bicycle to save the environment instead, even in bad weather!

 

Getting caught up in list prices is almost irrelevant.

The list price for this, and EVs in general can seem steep, but virtually everyone leases now. Therefore its monthly payments that are the key, but more than that its monthly lease payment plus fuel that needs to be calculated.

basic example 

diesel car, lease £250 pm + £150 fuel = £400 a month cost

EV, lease £300 pm + £30 fuel (equivalent mileage) = £330 a month, still a hefty saving.

 

I'm not someone who leases, prefering to buy used via a personal loan. I've been doing the above sums for some time and I would make a big saving (doing big mileage and claiming mileage from work) were I to buy a second hand i3, the only thing holding me back at the moment is not wanting a £12-15k loan over me right now. 

21 November 2019
Bob Cat Brian wrote:

gavsmit wrote:

i.e. so biased and full of propaganda to force people to think in a certain way.

e.g. "...despite the modest tweaks inside and out it is a classy small car that manages to justify the premium price you pay...." - really?!

This is a tiny city car, built to a low budget (e.g. bare metal everywhere in the cabin and boot) so why would I want to pay around £25k for one (the article says this model will be priced similar to the first e-UP)?

I thought Seat were taking the mickey with the £19K+ price of the electric Mii (a car that most motoring publications originally said would be launched for around £16K) but this is just ridiculous.

There's no way I'm going to replace my ICE car for an electric car in the foreseeable future - I'd rather use my bicycle to save the environment instead, even in bad weather!

 

Getting caught up in list prices is almost irrelevant.

The list price for this, and EVs in general can seem steep, but virtually everyone leases now. Therefore its monthly payments that are the key, but more than that its monthly lease payment plus fuel that needs to be calculated.

basic example 

diesel car, lease £250 pm + £150 fuel = £400 a month cost

EV, lease £300 pm + £30 fuel (equivalent mileage) = £330 a month, still a hefty saving.

 

I'm not someone who leases, prefering to buy used via a personal loan. I've been doing the above sums for some time and I would make a big saving (doing big mileage and claiming mileage from work) were I to buy a second hand i3, the only thing holding me back at the moment is not wanting a £12-15k loan over me right now. 

Valid point regarding the lease payments, but I too prefer to buy, we got my wife's Mii on PCP, with very cheap monthly payments and saved for the final payment over the 3 yr deal to buy it at the end, all the EVs are so expensive that we couldn't afford to do the same again.
The thing that puts me off an i3 is it's construction, I'm not sure what repairs would be like on a carbon fibre body compared with a normal car. I have had a go in an i3 and thought it was great and they are coming down in price.

21 November 2019

...list prices are relevant, even for finance deals.

Taking your basic example - you mention a diesel but in terms of this particular car, there are no diesel rivals out there - so your figures appear to be for a bigger, more plusher and nicer to drive car than this basic city car. The gap between EV and diesel models on larger cars maybe closer than for much smaller cars; this particular UP model is estimated to cost almost double what the equivalent petrol version does!

And I believe there are also upfront deposit costs and final payments to be made in addition to the regular payments, even if you don't end up keeping the car (although I find the idea of ending up with nothing after all those payments a bitter pill to swallow).

I agree about buying second hand, although battery longevity will be crucial to getting a bargain or taking on an expensive white elephant. Some MK1 Nissan Leafs look attractive value, but like the one featured on Top Gear recently, it could only hold 35 miles worth of charge, and the battery warranties will only last so long and only for a percentage of the original range - i.e. effectively useless for a lot of people.

 

 

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