Volkswagen Up (2012) Review

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Volkswagen Up (2012) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
There’s a great deal to like about the Up, not least the fact that it feels quite mature for a city car and doesn’t make you feel like it is a compromise over a bigger car.

+Funky little city car. Cheap to run with low CO2. Lively and fun to drive. Large enough for four adults.

-Automated manual is poor. Reports of clutch failure on manuals.

Insurance Groups are between 1–17
On average it achieves 82% of the official MPG figure

The Volkswagen Up is one of the most popular city cars in the segment, and competes directly with cars like the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1, Peugeot 108, Hyundai i10 and its sister cars in the shape of the SEAT Mii and the Skoda Citigo. Conceived as a joint project to create a new city car for VW as well as SEAT and Skoda, the Up mixes traditional Volkswagen build quality and smart design with urban ability and impressive space efficiency given its size. Capable, fun to drive and available as an EV, the Up has a great deal going for it.

Looking for a Volkswagen Up (2012 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

The Up was one of the most important cars Volkswagen has launched in the last few years, replacing the unloved Fox city car and instead offering a well thought out and compact package that’s economical, easy to drive and appealing to those downsizing from larger cars.

It’s nimble, distinctive, well built and represents good value for money. SEAT and Skoda both have their own versions, called the Mii and the Citigo, respectively, and while they are cheaper to buy and arguably more sensible choices, the appeal of the badge and the slightly more attractive design make it the most appealing of the three versions.

At launch, two versions of the same 1.0-litre petrol engine were offered, one with 60PS and one with 75PS. Both produce the same amount of torque and provide enough go to make town driving enjoyable, while a tall fifth gear makes motorway cruising subdued.

Latterly a turbocharged 1.0-litre version was introduced with 90PS, making the Up much more appealing to drive out of town. This same engine became the basis for the Up GTi, although this is considerably more expensive than the other versions.

The SEAT and Skoda versions went all-electric in 2019, and although the e-Up is available with the latest generation battery and motor tech, Volkswagen is the only one of the three to still offer a petrol version, in 60PS guise only.

There’s plenty of space in the cabin despite an overall length of just 3540mm. Space in the rear is good, with room for six-foot passengers, although it’s worth bearing in mind that it’ll drive much more slowly with four adults inside.

The boot is 251 litres, but can be expanded to 951 litres by folding the seats. Both the three-door model and five-door model have the same exterior dimensions and boot space, and while the Up is still ultimately a small car, it does offer an impressive amount of space given the compact exterior dimensions.

Sit behind the wheel and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a larger car. The Volkswagen ‘feel’ permeates the cabin.

Everything is solid and well put together, and although there is a lack of soft touch materials the Up doesn’t feel any worse off for it. You’re still aware that this is a city car that is built down to a price, and some younger rivals have moved the game on a little, but this is still a pleasing cabin to spend time in.

It’s easy to drive too, with a characterful engine sound, smooth gear change and light steering. Visibility is good and because of the ‘wheel on each corner’ design you’re always very aware of the car’s small size, making it simple and enjoyable to thread through tight traffic. It’s handling is safe and secure rather than thrilling, but its sheer size makes it fun to punt along a quiet road.

Arguably there are more sensible options in the sector, but none of them can match the Up’s feel-good factor.

Ask Honest John

What's the best car for an 18-year-old learner driver?
"My 18-year-old granddaughter will be getting her first car. She'll have about £5K to spend. Any recommendations, taking into account the expense of insurance and she'll have a Black Box fitted? Thanks."
The Volkswagen Up is a great little car – very safe and spacious for its size, easy to drive and cheap to run. £5,000 will be enough for her to get a car that's in great condition and has low miles.
Answered by Russell Campbell
What's the best £5k car for my wife and daughter to share?
"Sadly it's time for our 2003 Beetle Convertible to move on after 10 years. Its replacement must be okay for my wife and our 17-year-old learner daughter. It's a second car so manual, petrol and mainly local work/school/shop runs etc but if we can stick the dog in the back all the better. "
I'd suggest an Up if you like Volkswagens but it might not be big enough for your dog. How about a Honda Jazz? It's very versatile and not very popular with young drivers so should be cheap to insure! Your budget will get a 2013 model which should be very reliable.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Where to get a spare wheel for a Volkswagen Up?
"I want to buy a spare wheel for a Volkswagen Up to replace standard mobility kit, my vehicle has 15" wheels (standard for the High Up model), the spare available from Volkswagen is only a 14" wheel, is that OK to fit in an emergency situation? Secondly, a previous HJ article said a spare wheel was recommended as it would cost only £50, the dealer I spoke to today said it was £143 for the steel wheel, tyre and the tool kit (jack etc) which amazingly does not come with the vehicle. Can you suggest somewhere I get one cheaper, ie is any 15" Volkswagen wheel compatible with an Up?"
You could try My Tyres ( or
Answered by Honest John
What's the best small car on a £4500 budget?
"I want to buy a used car and have a budget of £4.5k. Can you suggest a reliable, economical small car with three doors? Boot size is not important. I have been considering an Aygo or a Volkswagen Up but is it best to look for a car with low mileage or the newest car for my budget?"
The Volkswagen Up is a really good car but not without its faults, unfortunately: If this doesn't concern you, also consider the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo - they're essentially the same car but a little cheaper. The Aygo isn't without its issues, either, and feels flimsier than the Up. I'd look for a Kia Picanto - it has fewer problems and is a great little car. I'd prioritise condition and service history over mileage or age, but there's no reason why you can't tick all the boxes with a £4500 budget.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What does a Volkswagen Up (2012) cost?

Buy new from £14,470 (list price from £16,140)