Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 2016 Road Test

The Volkswagen Up is the small car with mass appeal. Cheap to run, refined and capable of carrying four adults, the little Volkswagen has built-up a large following since its launch in 2012. It has also shown that you don't have to lower your expectations when it comes to downsizing your daily transport.

Volkswagen has updated its micro machine for 2016 with styling tweaks, a revised interior and a new turbocharged 90PS 1.0 TSI engine. The three-cylinder 1.0 TSI is offered alongside the standard 1.0-litre, but provides better performance thanks to 90PS and a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds. Fuel economy is also marginally better - 64.2mpg - although it does just miss out on zero VED, emitting 101g/km of CO2. 

The benefits of the 1.0 TSI engine are obvious, with more power and better refinement. Indeed, the turbocharged three-cylinder unit is a huge step up, with 50 per cent more torque over the standard 1.0-litre. This makes the Up a lot easier to drive, with instant power delivery. As a result you don't have to change down a couple of gears - and rev the life out of car - to join a busy motorway or leave a tight junction. Instead, you simple stay in gear and let the turbocharger do the work. 

As well as better acceleration and mid-gear pull, the 1.0 TSI is more refined at motorway speeds, with considerably less noise and reduced vibration through the steering wheel and pedals. Engine noise is well supressed at 70mph, while the higher torque levels allow you to stay in fourth and fifth gears for longer, which mean you don't have to constantly reach for the stick every time you approach slower moving traffic. 


The Up's handling remains much the same as before, with responsive steering and decent levels of feedback through the wheel and pedals. The car's nimble nature makes it easy to drive and park in town, while its light weight and low centre of gravity makes it capable on twisty county lanes, with plenty of front-end grip. 

Entry-level models run on 15-inch wheels as standard, while higher spec models get 16 or 17-inch alloys. In our view, the Up works best on the 15-inch wheels, with a cushioned ride that doesn't pitch in the corners or bounce over rough roads. Things aren't as impressive with the larger wheels, with the Up prone to crashing heavily over potholes and speed bumps. 

As well as a new engine, the Up gets a revised interior with more customisation options and improved smartphone connectivity. It now lets you connect your mobile via Bluetooth and mount it on the dashboard. The integration is easy enough to master, but its quality very much depends on how good your phone is. If your phone is slow with a small screen and limited signal, then you'll find it near impossible to use it for the navigation. You will also see your data usage go through the roof as the system is reliant on your phone download all of the data for the maps.  

The Up is offered in four trim levels - badged Take Up, Move Up, High Up and Up Beats. Entry-level models get a basic radio and cloth seats, while higher trim cars will get the smartphone system, air conditioning and the choice of seat and dashboard covers. All models get LED daytime running lights as standard. 


As before, the Up is quite spacious for a city car, with sufficient head and leg room for four adults, although the driver and front passenger will have to move their seats forward to accommodate large adults in the back. That said, the Up has the same interior dimensions as the Polo and is comfortable, with upright supportive seats. The boot is large enough for a couple of large bags too and the weekly shop, with a useful 251 litres.

As with most things Volkswagen these days, you’ll be hard pushed to tell any changes to the exterior, given that the updated Up looks almost identical to the old version. There are some minor changes, with redesigned bumpers and new indicators that are now integrated into the wing mirror housing. Volkswagen has increased the customisation options though, which allows you to choose different colours, decals and finishes for the roof, wing mirrors and wheels. This means the Up can be as funky or as conservative as you choose.

To be honest, even without the updates, the Volkswagen Up remains one of the UK's best small cars. It's easy to drive, efficent and fun. However, the new 1.0 TSI engine does take it to a new level and the updates to the interior give a much more premium feel to the cabin. Pricing is still to be confirmed, but expect the Up 1.0 TSI to start in the region of £12,000, which is £3000 more than the 60PS 1.0-litre.

This will put it into the same territory as the Ford Fiesta 1.25 petrol, which is larger inside and more comfortable with better leg room in the back. Buyers should also be mindful that SEAT and Skoda will soon offer newer and cheaper versions of the Mii and Citigo in the coming months. That said, the Up is a great small car and the addition of the 1.0 TSI engine reinforces its status as one of the best premium city runabouts money can buy. 

The Volkswagen Up is available to order in mid-July with deliveries starting in October.

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