ChargedUp: Volkswagen e-Up! (2014) Electric Car Review

Volkswagen’s first entry into the modern electric car market is the e-Up!. Based on their city Up platform, the e-Up! is a fully electric vehicle capable of carrying four adults (although possibly more suited to two adults and two children) in a way that is both practical and immensely enjoyable.

Transport Evolved got invited to the official press launch where we recorded our first impressions. This was followed up by a week loan of the car, our QuickCharge review of this car was taken at the beginning of this week. But what did Nikki and Mark think of the e-Up! after having lived with it for a week?

The e-Up! costs £19,250 including the UK Government £5000 grant. But what does this get you? On paper you may be forgiven for thinking the e-Up! isn’t that impressive. The 0 – 62mph time is 12.4 seconds, the top speed is 80mph and its range is only 93 miles on the NEDC test cycle.

The VW e-Up! is full of surprises.

The VW e-Up! is full of surprises.

But this is a car full of surprises. It feels nippy – more than that even: It leaps off the line as if it read your mind rather than waiting for your foot to actually move. It’s low centre of gravity (provided by the batteries slung on the underside of the car) and the corner located wheels combine to make this car take even the most extreme corners like it is on rails.

Couple these two factors with some solid, almost sporty suspension and the e-Up! becomes not just fun, but exhilarating.

The e-Up! has a 60kW motor that produces 210Nm of torque – more than enough for city driving and adequate on motorways, although overtaking at speed will require a little bit of planning. This is coupled with a 18.7kWh air-cooled battery. While this may seem to be on the smaller side for an all-electric car, the e-Up!s size and many user-selectable eco and regenerative breaking modes make it enough to get a real-world range of around 70 – 80 miles putting many larger electric cars to shame for their electron hogging ways.

This motor may look small, but it's more than enough for the e-Up!s size.

This motor may look small, but it’s more than enough for the e-Up!s size.

It’s not all praise though. Charging in the e-Up! leaves something to be desired.

Rapid charging is taken care of using the new European standard CCS. This provides up to 40kW of direct current straight to the battery. However, Nikki and Mark were unable to test this as the only compatible charger in range was swamped with horse-racing fans at the time of the review. This in itself was just unfortunate, where the e-Up! really suffers is on alternating current charging – that is, charging at home and at non-rapid public charging stations.

Using a standard Type 2 connector the e-Up! can charge at a maximum rate of 16A single phase. There is no upgrade option for this. This leaves AC charging times in the 8 – 9 hour range even if more power is available.

Charging in public without a CCS rapid charger will be a bit of a pain.

Charging in public without a CCS rapid charger will be a bit of a pain.

A lack of a USB socket irritated both Nikki and Mark more than you’d think it would. Not to have a USB socket in a modern car is almost unheard of. Charging of mobile devices on the go is fairly commonplace, so is playing music directly from a USB device on the in-car radio system. For the latter an AUX input has been provided although this substantially cuts down options.

Nikki loved the looks and styling of the e-Up! praising its fit and finish. Mostly Mark agreed although pointed out a few places where seams and seals didn’t quite meet flush or hadn’t been fitted perfectly. In a car like the Up!, a cheap alternative to VW’s usually more expensive cars, this could be forgiven, but with the e-Up! price tag setting a new high-point in the Up! range (by around £5000) Mark wasn’t sure this applied.

Fit and finish, while good, isn't perfect.

Fit and finish, while good, isn’t perfect.

In the end Mark gave the e-Up! an 8 out of 10 saying it was one of the more enjoyable electric vehicles he had driven. He praised the high-end features that help to conserve range (heated front windscreen, variable regen) rather than just for the sake of adding gadgets to an electric car.

Nikki gave the e-Up! 8.5 out of 10, stopping just short of her 9 out of 10 rating for the Tesla Model S. In fact, she went as far as to say that the e-Up! is the Model S of its class! High praise indeed.

What do you think of the e-Up!? Have you had a drive in one? Would you consider trading in a slightly larger EV for this? Let us know.


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