Stupid name, smart car

The Northern Echo: Volkswagen's up! Volkswagen's up!

VOLKSWAGEN just can’t seem to do anything wrong at the moment. Where other car companies have suffered setbacks, natural disasters and boardroom scandals, VW has seen its sales reach record levels.

The company has pursued a relentless strategy of identifying every possible niche in the market and plugging it.

This has keep a dazzling array of new models arriving in showrooms at a rate none of its rivals, not even mighty Toyota, seems able to match.

But the latest VW could just be the most important - despite having the silliest name since the Sharan.

The up! might have a ridiculous boot badge but there’s nothing dopey about its credentials.

An entirely new design, offering the maximum amount of passenger space in the smallest possible footprint, the up! is set to do battle in the hard fought city car segment.

Although VW has dabbled with this market segment in the post (most notably with the Fox/Lupo twins) the up! represents a full-on assault at a time when the Toyota Aygo/Citroen C1 twins are starting to look desperately old.

There are three versions and each has a name to make you cringe. There’s the take up! entry level version, the move up! comfort oriented model and the high up! range topping version which comes in two versions up! black and up! white. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be put back on the Beetle production line polishing VW badges. Thank goodness they didn’t apply the same logic to the VW personal contract purchase scheme, otherwise we might have had an up! yours.

Of more interest is the new generation of three-cylinder petrol engines making their debut. Combined with VW Bluemotion Technology, which includes a stop/start system, the 60PS version of this engine sips fuel at the rate of just one gallon every 67 miles and chucks out less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide every kilometre meaning you’ll pay no road tax.

Another interesting gizmo available on the up! is an optional laser scanning system which keeps a beady look out for signs of an impending collision and slams on the brakes when you need them.

At 3.54 metres in length and 1.64 metres in width and 1.48 metres in height, the up! is one of the smallest four-seater cars currently available.

However, those dinky dimensions conceal a long wheelbase of 2.42 metres and an engine that is mounted well forward, to create a useful amount of passenger room.

The 251-litre boot is also significantly larger than is typical in this class. When the rear seat is fully folded, cargo space is increased to 951 litres.

VW also promises the up! will set a new quality benchmark for this class (not exactly difficult, I know, when so many city cars are build down to a price) and set standards for driving enjoyment and equipment.

The company is particularly proud of the up!’s maps + more system (what is it with the lack of capital letters, can’t these people spell?), This consists of small LCD display unit (rather like a Tom, Tom sat nav) which snaps into a docking station above the centre console and interfaces with the up!’s networks to control its navigation, telephone and audio systems. The screen can also be used to display important information, such as the parking sensors where fitted, and download VW-specific apps from the internet.

Daffy names aside, the up! looks set to take the city car segment by storm when it arrives in UK showrooms in a couple of weeks.

In fact, it promises to send VW’s sales up, up and away in 2012.

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