What is it?
The low power version of the city car of the moment, tested here in its most basic trim, the Take Up. It produces 59bhp and represents what you get for the £7995 starting price that Volkswagen is happy to trumpet.
You get a thrummy 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, a five-speed manual gearbox, three doors (a five-door variant will be available in late summer), and that’s about it. Air-con and electric windows aren’t offered, not even as an option. If you want them, you’ll need to choose a Move Up model – a £975 premium – which carries both as standard.
Sadly, Volkswagen’s City Emergency Braking system isn’t available on the Take Up, a shame given the ability for the £255 option to reduce the likelihood of low-speed rear-end shunts.
What’s it like?
Although the 59bhp model tested appears substantially slower on paper than the 74bhp model, it doesn’t really feel it. It will take 14.4sec to reach 62mph, against 13.2sec for the high power model, and top speed is 99mph, compared to 106mph. Even so, there’s no disguising that this is a slow car, with overtakes requiring planning ahead.
It needs working hard to pull away, but once on the move, it’s no struggle to keep up with the traffic flow on A- and B-roads. However, to do so requires judicious and frequent use of the five-speed gearbox. Peak power arrives at 6000rpm, 600rpm shy of the redline, while torque reaches its zenith at 3000rpm. The latter figure is particularly useful around town.
The eager three-cylinder buzz – reminiscent of an angry hornet’s nest - is surprisingly addictive, but while the noise levels can be tamed at town and city speeds, it will become tiresome on a motorway jaunt.
In all other respects, the low power Up is identical to the high power model. It rides well at low and high speeds. The pliant suspension causes a fair degree of roll through the bends. The steering is more suited to the urban crawl than high speed cornering. It is very light, and the turning circle is small. Despite the vagueness of steering, there is plenty of grip and it resists understeer well, even with the 165-section tyres fitted to the Take Up.
The Up’s brakes offer lots of feel and are very strong, with stopping power that’s easily able to surpass the grip supplied by the narrow tyres. Braking from speed with force will cause the ABS to kick in with surprising ease.
Should I buy one?
If the Take Up was available with City Emergency Braking as an option, the answer would be an unequivocal yes. The 59bhp version of the 1.0-litre engine gives such a small amount of noticeable performance away, it seems to make a mockery of the 79bhp unit.
Of course, your choice of engine is intrinsically linked to how much equipment you want. The 59bhp model is only available in the Take Up and Move Up. The 79bhp version is reserved for the High Up, Up White and Up Black models – models which range from £10,300 to £11,100.
So if you’re happy with an interior equipment list that’s sparsely populated – and many buyers are – the 59bhp Take Up represents the essence of a small, cheap Volkswagen.