Volkswagen's city car becomes much more fun thanks to the addition of a turbocharger

What is it?

The little Volkswagen Up has received a shot in the arm thanks to a mild facelift and tthe addition of a turbocharger on its 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Considering it’s quite a giggle without boost, a bit more power and a lot more torque could make it an absolute riot.

Indeed, we’ve been hopeful that VW would add a bit more power ever since it wheeled out a performance concept years ago. Not that this is an Up GTI, GT or any other hot or warm version. No, this 89bhp motor slots into the regular line-up, so there’s still hope for an even more potent version. 

Of course, it’s not just the engine that’s new. You also get revised styling, updated technology and some new colours and wheels, all of which are being rolled out across the Up range.

What's it like?

We’ve always been fans of the Up, so the additional nags under the bonnet are welcome. If anything, this variant just shows that the chassis could handle even more power. The 113bhp version of this engine used elsewhere in the Audi range could turn the Up into a convincing little hot hatch. The Hurry Up, perhaps?

The 89bhp 1.0-litre turbo triple surprises in that it can be treated much like a diesel. We were astonished at how early the shift indicator told us to change up a gear. Despite our reservations, the Up would pull cleanly from around 1500rpm, even uphill. That’s because the torque plateau begins at this engine speed - half as much as the naturally aspirated engine.

While it sounds a bit grumbly when slogging away so low down in the rev range, it soon clears its voice and starts to emit the kind of three-cylinder thrum we’re rather fond of. It’s quieter than many rivals and is less prone to sending vibrations through the controls.

Work it harder and the little triple propels the Up along at a reasonable pace and allows a relaxed cruise on the motorway. Indeed, 'relaxed' is a good way to describe the powertrain as a whole; the long gearing makes riding the torque instead of hunting for top-end power the easiest option. Not that changing gear is a chore.

It may have more power, but there have been no changes to the suspension or braking system. That means you still get precise if slightly numb steering, a ride that is good by city car standards and keen handling. The low weight and tiny dimensions make town driving a breeze and it’ll happily carve through curves.

One word of warning, though: all of the above applies to an Up rolling on 15in wheels. We also tried one with 17s and it proved far less impressive. The tyres' shallower sidewalls and the wheels' additional unsprung weight caused the Up to crash and thump without any improvement to handling. The suspension may still be noisy on smaller wheels, but you don’t feel anywhere near as many imperfections.

Inside, the biggest news is the move away from the Garmin-sourced sat-nav unit that was optional on the old model. Instead, you get a smartphone dock for the higher-end infotainment system. This has a 5.0in screen beneath the heater controls, along with the display on your Android or Apple phone.

Once you’ve downloaded the free app and connected via Bluetooth, you can control various functions on your mobile and also see driving data. It works well, although the display quality is entirely dependent on your phone. An iPhone screen is a little small, although a Plus is better. Sadly, that’s the biggest device you can cram into VW’s dock.

Back to top

If you’re interested in music, you might like the Up Beats model. This comes with a 300-watt stereo with seven speakers, an amp and a subwoofer in the boot. You might also appreciate the additional customisation options for the wheels, roof, door mirrors and main dash panel.

As before, you can have three or five doors and there’s still the option of the naturally aspirated 1.0 triple with either 64 or 74bhp. Although you can’t expect acres of room from such a small car, you can still get a couple of adults in the back and a reasonable amount of shopping in the boot.

Should I buy one?

With everything considered, the Up remains one of the best city cars out there. It offers decent space for a car with such a compact footprint, cheap running costs and now a fair turn of speed.

There are however, a couple of issues. If you’re being super-sensible, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo offer much the same for less money, albeit without a turbo. If you want fun, on the other hand, a Ford Fiesta is still more fun, if a little bigger. But one thing’s for sure: the Up is better than ever. We just wish VW would get around to making a properly quick one already.

Volkswagen Up Beats 1.0 TSI

Location Italy; On sale July; Price £13,000 (est); Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbo, petrol; Power 89bhp; Torque 118Ib ft at 1500-3500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight na; Top speed 115mph; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Economy 64.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 101g/km, 17%

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Add a comment…
tonylathes 2 July 2016

Turo Up

In a nutshell: too expensive and not powerful enough.
audiolab 2 July 2016

Yes please

Yep I would love one of these, shame it does not have a six speed box (would even be happy if it was an option for a few hundred quid, its available on the larger cars). My only fear is that the suggested starting price of £13k sounds a little ambitious. Doubt they will let this out in the lower trim levels and current non turbo models can top £13k with ease. So I will probably wait for Suzuki as it seems they are going to drop the boosterjet engine into the Swift. This will be considerably cheaper and better equipped (and more powerful), but sadly lack the VW quality edge. You pays your money......
Einarbb 3 July 2016

Questions about quality

audiolab wrote:

This will be considerably cheaper and better equipped (and more powerful), but sadly lack the VW quality edge. You pays your money......

Depends a bit what you mean by quality. But I'd expect the Suzuki to be more reliable. And the cabin trim to last better. Fewer things likely to work loose or to fall off during the average vehicle life time.

TegTypeR 1 July 2016

"If you’re interested in

"If you’re interested in music, you might like the Up Beats model. This comes with a 300-watt stereo with seven speakers, an amp and a subwoofer in the boot."

Offda Offda Offda

300W of ear shredding in a car this size?

Cleverzippy1 1 July 2016

It's for the young 'uns not

It's for the young 'uns not us old gits.