It wasn’t long ago that we were on the streets of Milan singing the praises of the Volkswagen Up’s new turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine. That model retains everything that’s great about the Up’s chassis but injects a welcome turn of pace, even if its inflated price pushes it ever closer to supermini territory. Now we’re driving the facelifted Up in Bedfordshire, and this time there’s no turbocharger. This 74bhp three-cylinder engine was available in the Up before, but the other facelift additions still apply, such as revised styling, updated technology and new colours and wheels.
Most notably, VW has done away with the old Garmin-based removable touchscreen. The entry-level Take Up model still makes do with a single monochrome screen, but the mid-range Move Up now gets a 5-0in colour screen in its place as standard and our High Up model adds a smartphone cradle as well. One thing stands out: the modesty of its pace. Perhaps comparison with the new 89bhp turbo triple is to blame, but the 74bhp model feels slower than it used to – and that’s backed up by our figures. Although the extra-efficient Bluemotion Technology7 version’s official 0-62mph time (13-5sec) remains the same as before, we couldn’t achieve 0-60mph in anything less than 14.3sec, whereas the non-BMT version of the 1.0 75 managed it in 12.9sec in 2012.
Even so, this Up feels nicely within its depth around town. Take it onto a motorway or fast A-road, though, and it has to be thrashed hard to keep pace. Happily, everything else about the Up’s drive remains very nice indeed. It steers better than most city cars, and although its body isn’t afraid to move around under hard braking and over high-speed undulations, its damping is pleasingly sophisticated for a car at this sort of price level. Revving out its engine brings the same addictive thrum as before, although it does come with some vibration through the controls, too.
Even so, the Up still does a good job of stopping most road noise from entering the cabin and it can’t be beaten for its high-speed stability. Inside, the driver is treated to good all-round visibility. There’s room for four adults, if those in the back put up with their knees against rather than forced into the front seatbacks, and its 251-litre boot will transport the week’s shopping with ease. If you’re often housing people on your back seats, though, it’s worth noting that a Hyundai i10 provides more space.
An i10 can’t match the Up’s interior quality or infotainment, though – at least not before it gets its own facelift later this year. VW, especially in the High Up, has nailed scaling down the look and feel of its bigger cars in this smaller package. The switchgear feels substantial, the plastics textured and the piano black accents classy. The new infotainment is impressive, too. The 5.0in colour screen is underlined by menu buttons and flanked by a couple of rotary dials, making it simple to use and easy on the eye.
Fit a smartphone into the supplied cradle above and, after downloading an app, it can in effect replace the old car’s screen by displaying sat-nav and a range of trip computer information. We wondered if it was worth spending the extra on the new turbocharged car and, having now driven this non-turbo 75 model, we’d say it is – for private buyers eyeing more expensive trims.
For the sake of a couple of hundred pounds, its greater performance will come in handy outside town and it complements the Up’s class-leading ride and handling.
However, with more power comes reduced fuel economy and more CO2 from the tailpipe, and those looking for the most cost-effective company-owned Up should rightly seek out the cleaner models. Ultimately, an i10 is bigger and more refined, but the Up still does just enough in the areas that matter to remain a class act.