Urbanites will appreciate the 2014 Volkswagen e-up!’s tiny physical footprint, point-and-squirt performance, and the ability to profoundly relax its occupants. Build quality is also stratospheric while the controls are intuitive.


The e-up! comes well-equipped, but it’s easy to be skeptical about a car that’s roughly £6,000 more than the most expensive conventional up! yet promises a fraction of the range.  It’s also a car that belongs firmly in the city.


You’d be forgiven for letting one of the most significant car launches of recent times slip under your radar, as the arrival of Volkswagen’s e-up! has been so surreptitious as to border on subversive.

Why is the e-up! so significant? Because it’s the first pure electric car from Volkswagen Group – all things considered arguably the most powerful automotive entity in the world - and thus a vote of confidence for this burgeoning technology.

Deliveries of the tiny zero emissions city car began in January, costing buyers £19,250 after the UK government’s £5,000 electric vehicle grant. Yes, £24,250 is a lot of money for a Volkswagen up! with a driving range of 93 miles. The product itself, however, is compelling.

While that limited range will be a deal breaker for those with longer commutes or who live in rural areas, take it out of the equation and the e-up! is a better car than its oil-burning siblings in almost every department.

Most noticeable is the performance. An 82hp electric motor delivers maximum torque the moment the throttle is squeezed. The result is a 0-37mph time of around five seconds, making the e-up! genuinely quick in 40mph-limited built up areas. Even on a full 0-60mph run, the electric car is around a second quicker than the next fastest up!.

The real surprise is that the e-up! has handling to match this pace, and – surprisingly for some, given the ‘soulless’ electric powertrain – an abundance of character.

Volkswagen’s engineers have spread the lithium-ion battery the length of the chassis, so the e-up!’s centre of gravity is low and the car changes direction on a whim. Factor in the tiny overhangs, superb forward visibility, and accurate steering and it’s easy to understand why the e-up! is so convincing on congested urban routes.

The e-up! also sets a high standard for perceived quality, although that’s not the only advantage it has over rivals such as the smart fortwo electric drive and the laudable Nissan LEAF.

Almost every electric car makes use of regenerative brakes, whereby the car uses its electric motor to slow down rather than the physical brakes. The idea is to recuperate energy normally lost in the form of heat during the braking process and harvest it back into the battery, preserving range. What makes the e-up! different is that it has four different settings for the ‘strength’ of that regenerative braking.

The least obtrusive setting – ‘D1’ – gently slows the car down once the driver takes his or her foot off the throttle. It’s beneficial, of course, but only slightly, and most drivers will probably use ‘B’, the most hardcore setting.

Take your foot of the throttle in B-mode and the e-up! instantly starts to slow down – fast. After a period of acclimatization you’ll become so adept at judging how long the car will take to come to a complete stop that driving using the throttle pedal alone is possible. And you’ll save that all-important electric range in the process.

Inside it’s all refreshingly ordinary, with easily interpreted dials for remaining range and energy consumption among the usual up! features, namely a speedo and a detachable Garmin sat nav infotainment system. This is an easy car to use everyday, and comes with a virtual instructor that scores the efficiency of your driving style and helps improve it.

If you don’t trust yourself or have an recognized lead foot, there are ‘Eco’ and ‘Eco+’ settings that progressively limit power from the electric motor as well as reducing power to the climate control system. In these settings you can hammer the accelerator all you like, safe in the knowledge that you’re not hammering the battery as well.

If ‘how far will it go?’ is the first question most people ask of electric cars, the second is ‘how long does it take to charge?’ With the e-up! there are several options. From a standard mains socket, like the one in most people’s garage, the e-up! takes a lethargic nine hours to reach full charge. Install a wallbox charger, however, and that time drops to six hours.

Unlike some electric cars the little Volkswagen can also be charged from a DC supply, meaning that at CCS charging stations (there are more around than you think) it’s possible to replenish 80 percent of the battery capacity in half an hour.

As a forerunner for the pure electric Volkswagen Golf arriving later this year – and a host of future zero emissions models from Volkswagen Group – the e-up! is extremely promising. It takes many unknowns out of electric driving and replaces them with intuitive controls and a fun driving experience.

It’s an excellent proposition if the limited range suits your needs, and worthy of consideration alongside any rival – electric, petrol or diesel-powered.

Comfort                    4 stars

Style                         4 stars

Handling                  4 stars

Depreciation            2 stars

Economy                  5 stars

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