Goodwood Test: 2021 Volkswagen e-Up! Review
This is a Volkswagen Up!. The company’s ultra-successful (although not quite as successful as when it had a Skoda badge) city car. It is a car so successful in its various guises that it has become a part of the landscape of our roads, and it’s amazing to think now that it’s only been with us since 2011. But now you can only get a petrol version of this car with a Volkswagen badge, and even then there’s also an electric alternative. Which is this car, the Volkswagen e-Up!. Dispense with all Yorkshire jokes now, this is a serious matter.
- Nippy performance
- Decent range for a city dweller
- Loaded with more tech than the standard Up!
- Looks are still the best in the segment
We don't like
- Wallowy ride to accommodate extra weight
- Fiddly system that turns regen off automatically
- Plastics still utilitarian
- Infrastructure continues to thwart electric cars
Volkswagen have not changed the design of the Up! in the near decade that it’s been on sale – and with some good reason. Ok, so there was a facelift sometime around 2019, but it’s the same car really. The e-Up! gets some differentiation to fit in with the rest of the VW hybrid/electric range. In come the snazzy c-shaped daylight running lights you’ll find on all GTE models of the larger cars in the range, the lower grille is totally blanked out (you don’t need the air intake, it’s electric) and the wheels are a lower-drag design. Other than that, it’s very much business as usual for the Up! range. There’s even still a fuel filler cap, although if you swing it open, what you will find is the electric input slots, rather than a gaping hole.
The Up! design is cute and popular and somehow still looks quite fresh in 2020. It’s probably due a new look sometime soon, but for now it’s still pleasing to the eye, even in this lower-drag, slightly more staid electric form.
Performance and Handling
The e-Up! is powered by a single electric motor, producing 82PS (60kW), or more importantly 210Nm of torque (155lb ft). To put that in perspective, the current Up! GTI produces 200Nm (148lb ft) from its turbocharged three-cylinder. While the e-Up! is not rapid to 62mph (that’s 11.9 seconds) it really isn’t a car designed to ever hit 60mph – a fact reinforced by the speedo’s efficiency-marking blue area ending at around 50. What it can do, and I’m sure you’ve read enough reviews of electric cars now to know what’s coming, is deliver a proper thump to the back at low speeds. The e-Up! is incredibly happy zipping around between 20 and 40mph, picking up rapidly and nipping through city traffic as if it was born to do such things – mostly because it was.
The top speed is just 82mph, but it will happily sit around national limit speeds if needed, just remember that this will begin to zap its 210-volt batteries pretty quickly. But to do so, is really defying the purpose of the e-Up! – electric city cars are the very definition of a city car. While their petrol powered sisters and brothers will be able nip off out into the country with just a bit more noisy fuss than normal, the electric version is a car for nipping around in town, or perhaps a between town jaunt. With a roughly 150-mile WLPT range the e-Up! will never be a car to take you to Scotland. In the real world we found the charging speed – while blessed with up-to-date dual CCS chargers – to be in the region of an hour, or 90 minutes plus with the single charger.
But if you do use the e-Up! for its stated purpose, it’s actually rather fun. The suspension feels a little more relaxed than its petrol siblings – probably to deal with the 248kg of batteries it’s carrying around – so it does sometimes surprise with a bit of a rollercoaster ride over a small hump, but that low torque makes it much nipper, and not at the expense of more noise. The e-Up! feels an altogether more relaxed place to be than the standard Up!, removing the normal thrum of the three-cylinder engine and replacing it with a pretty minimal whine. Steering feel is non-existent, but it’s light and fast so perfectly suited for your about town meanderings. My only gripe with the driving experience is that the default settings are for regen to be off and for the lane assist to be on. Until you get used to pulling the gear selector back a second time to put it in B (battery) mode, rather than D, you find yourself pulling off the throttle expecting that electric regeneration braking and finding that you’re actually just sailing toward whatever object you want to avoid. I’m not entirely sure why you’d want regen to be automatically off, but it is, but that’s a quibble. Lane guidance being on as standard, meanwhile, is down to legislation, so we can’t really blame Volkswagen.
The inside of the e-Up! is, like the outside, very much the same as the standard car. The interior of the Up! could be described as “utilitarian, but nice”. There’s no real deference to nicer plastics inside, other than on the centre console around the infotainment systems, so it’s scratchy plastics everywhere. But there are clever touches, like the mobile phone holder, which replaces the old infotainment system that you used to have to slap on the dash every time you got in.
The media functions are now in a secondary display on that dash, just below the controls for the climate. The seats are the same as standard, perfectly acceptable, but nothing special and there’s plenty of cubby holes everywhere. Perhaps the slight annoyance here is that, while there is a USB port for the phone holder – it’s just below it so you plug in through the holder – there isn’t another one, so any passengers either need an adapter for the 12v charger, or have to go without.
Technology and Features
As with many small electric cars, the e-Up! is more well-appointed with tech than most of its petrol-powered rivals. You’ll find the aforementioned climate control – although driving it in eco mode with reduce its efficiency and Eco+ remove the Air Con altogether – heated seats in the front, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and heated windscreen with rain sensing wipers all as standard. You can send data from the car (performance, efficiency etc.) to a We Connect app on your smartphone, allowing you to see parking locations, fuel level, journey time and so on while away from the car, and connecting you to a customer service line and “challenges” around efficiency – I’m sad to report that we didn’t try these out. What it does not have is Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, something many of its competitors do, but the little VW does come with integrated systems for mapping with both Android and IOS on another VW App, called Maps + More.
If you can get past your hang-ups about range then the e-Up! will make a great second car, or a first car for people who understand how long the average journey time in a car is for most people and can charge from home. It’s very well appointed inside, the boot is actually surprisingly large, even with the charging cable stowed, and will seat four adults in relative comfort. You won’t ever tire of the thump in the back from the electric motors, although not being able to do motorway speeds without draining fuel faster than an oil tanker is a little displeasing. Drive it in towns, do all the things you would do in a normal city car, and refuel for about £2 and you’ll be pretty happy with an e-Up!. The car we tested could be yours for £20,905 with the government grant, which is still a significant uplift on a standard Up!, but very competitive in the electric market.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Powertrain||Single electric motor, 32.3 kWh/210 volt lithium-ion battery|
210Nm (155lb ft) @ 2,800rpm
|Transmission||Direct drive single-speed, front-wheel-drive|
£20,555 (£20,905 as tested, including £3,000 government grant)
Reviewed by Ben Miles