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.