Some things in the car industry can’t be faked or fiddled.
As has now been breath-takingly demonstrated, emissions figures can (and will) be falsified. Fuel consumption figures can be rigged. And are. Pricing can be staged (and is) to ensure that the gullible punter gets fleeced. But – as Volkswagen’s Club Up! proves – top quality of design, engineering and manufacture cannot be counterfeited.
It was a true pleasure to get my hands on an Up! again for the first time since this brilliant little car was launched. Even though that event in Berlin took place four years ago, the memory is still fresh of a car that unmistakably declared itself, from the first moment, as a classic. The Fiat 500, the Mini, the Renault 4, the Aygo/C1/106 – they are all abiding masterworks of small car conception. The Up! emphatically belongs in that company.
I loved its uncompromisingly utilitarian looks, created by that heroic duo Walter de’Silva and Klaus Bischoff. This is not a city car that aspires to be a bigger car – as is the curiously perverse ambition of many manufacturers. It is shamelessly, proudly, a buzz box for the pipe-thin back-streets of Rome and the psychotically competitive frenzy of the Champs Elysee. Its square shape is as unashamedly declarative as Alec Issigonis’s original Mini: “nothing is added here that isn’t necessary”, it says.
The three cylinder one-litre engine matches the design, even down to its busy, buzzy note. It’s an extraordinarily willing, flexible, energetic little unit which can give the traffic a good run for its money in the city and yet is perfectly within its powers cruising at 70 mph on the motorway. The Club Up! I borrowed had the range’s most powerful one-litre engine, delivering 75 PS at 6,200 rpm and mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. In theory, this is supposed to return 60.1 mpg on the combined cycle and emit 108 g/km of CO2 but we all know that you need to take a long pair of tongs to those figures and hold your nose.
For comfort and ease of operation, however, the Up! has always been in a class of its own among midget cars. For reassuring solidity of build quality, the only one that comes near in this class is Hyundai’s i10.
Now VW have added to that sense of quality with the new Street Up! and Club Up! models for 2015. Essentially, these are cosmeticised and accessorised versions to make the seem Up! more civilised and get more money out of customers.
My Club Up! had 16-inch Triangle alloy wheels, standard Blueberry metallic paint, 65 per cent tinted glass from the B-pillar back, “Club” badging, decals on side panels in silver, wing mirrors in silver, Up! scuff plates, black roof lining, carpet mats and “Club” Tartan Tonic cloth upholstery.
It’s all very cosy and comforting and makes you feel as much at home as a favourite aunt’s parlour but there’s a fearful price to be paid for such contentments. The price of my car as tested would be £12485, which is about 25% more than the top amount I would reckon to be reasonable for a city car.
Perhaps – in the light of its present travails – we might expect VW to be less exacting in its pricing policy in future.
That would make the Up! even more welcome.
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