- Feb 2015

Volkswagen goes UP! with it’s new hatch

They often say less is more. In the case of Volkswagen South Africa’s new offering they can say down is up, or should I say UP! That’s the name of the new little vehicle that has hit the South African market and it’s the most entry level passenger car they have in their stable. Is it new? Yes and no. Yes it’s new to the local market but no it’s not new to the rest of the world, although it’s design looks stylishly new. The UP! around the world has been a success, it’s won awards and been given good reviews by important people. The important question is though, how will it do in our market which can be quite fickle at times?

The small car game is big here, the consumer doesn’t have one or two options to choose from. Try about five or six and you’re on the money. What I find personally interesting is how all the manufacturers use a similar recipe, three to four cylinders and less than 1.5l in displacement. This choice in small engines makes sense because smaller engines equal better fuel economy, it’s quite simple. From Citroen and Peugeot you essentially have the same car but with different badges, the C1 and the 107. And then there’s the Nissan Micra and the Toyota Etios too.

Honestly if I was in that market I would have to draw straws and take my pick from there. The reason being that all the cars listed above are not bad cars. Mind blowing? Not really but they get the job done and they sell. How many times have you been at a red light and you all of a sudden hear Katy Perry playing loudly next to you, you turn and look and it’s a preppy girl singing “You’re gonna hear me roar!”. The chances are that she will be singing like that whilst being behind the wheel of one of the cars listed above.

So here’s the question, how do you go ahead choosing what to buy? Well this is where Volkswagen have got a slight upper hand. Their trump card is the fact that they are Volkswagen, a brand synonymous with quality and reliability. Unfortunately there are also synonymous with crime and hi-jacking. If you are potential UP! client I wouldn’t worry too much about that though. You need to think like a criminal and criminals aren’t really in the market for something retro, fuel economical and cute, criminals don’t listen to Katy Perry. The only reason why I even bring up the crime aspect is because many people have that stigma against Volkswagen. So what does the UP! offer? A lot. There are two models, the Take UP! and the Move UP! The Move UP! being the more plush model with more options as well as more standard features like a fancy radio and electric windows and a height adjustable driver seat. Besides that, the cars both have the same 1000cc engine with the same 55kw’s of power, but the most powerful selling point is not the car itself but rather the price.

See long long ago cars were cheap, one could get a decent start up car for under R100 000, with a fair bit of spec too. Obviously in those times a “spec’d” car had a CD player instead of a tape deck. USB meant something else in those times, probably an acronym for something important . In the case of the UP! the price is right at R133 500 starting mark. Most of the competitors are in a similar region, some less some more, from a finance perspective the cars are in the hundreds of Rands of a difference between each other per month. Now let’s talk driving experience of this German tot. The car is…German, which means when you close the door, you hear a thud instead of a clink. Thud is what you want, clink not so much. Some of the competitors do have a clink factor but not so much that you find yourself wondering if you’re in a Fiat UNO again.

What did impress me about the UP! was the ride handling, I’m not going to dwell too much on the size of the car (which is decent) because these are all small cars and a small car is a small car. It urks me when people go on about how spacious a small car is for a small car but at the end of the day its exactly that, a small bloody car. If you want a sedan sized car, don’t open the boot of an UP! and say “Oh but it’s so small” what were you expecting? A Jetta? Anyways before I rudely interrupted myself, I was discussing ride handling. The problem with a lot of these small cars is that they are light and sometimes you want some sturdiness to handle a decent highway cruising speed or strong winds (for my Capetonian readers). The UP! felt quite good on the highway and when turning bends quite sharply. I once had a hairy experience in a Japanese small hatch where I found myself squabbling for grip whilst I under-steered through a bend on a rainy day doing normal speeds. I have yet to drive the UP! in the rain, once I have done that depending on the outcome you will hear from me or the article may remain unchanged, only time will tell.

So here are the facts, small, cute, reasonably priced German hatch with a good badge on it and decent spec. That sounds like a recipe for some good sales and happy customers? It certainly seems so. I give the UP! a thumbs up but let’s wait and see if the Katy Perry lovers think so too.