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Volkswagen e-up! – first look at the new electric car which proves that small can indeed be beautiful…and silent [Review]


There’s no question that the electric car momentum has now well and truly started gathering pace, with the latest entrant to the market coming from the German giant with two letters as a logo. The Volkswagen e-up! (don’t forget the exclamation mark, Mark!) is nowhere near as revolutionary as the one we were expecting, but it’s still pretty cool, and actually breaks new ground in at least one specific piece of tech.


We took a visit to a VW centre in the middle of the countryside last week, to check out the launch of the new e-up! electric car, and came away very impressed. It may not be the most stylish of the EVs, nor the cheapest, but it has a lot of good things going for it, which we think will make it a worthy contender in the market.

First impressions
The e-up! is one of the smallest EV we’ve driven so far, which makes it different and interesting all at once. It’s not too small though, which means that it manages to offer that perfect compromise between city parking space friendly and family runabout useful. You’ll easily get all the shopping and gear in the back and the brace of kids too, and maybe even gran, as you slide gently through the smoggy city traffic.


There’s also definitely enough style chops inside to make even the most fussy passenger happy. In typical Teutonic fashion, everything has a place and there’s no sign of any frills or superfluous buttons to be seen. Such a refreshing change for an EV. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to tell at first glance that this is a full electric vehicle, so conventional is the interior.


The only real giveways are the small B on the gearshift and the twin battery dials alongside the speedometer, but apart from that, this could easily be its conventional ICE cousin. It’s only when you turn the key – yes a key, how strange on a digital car nowadays – that you learn the exciting truth. No noise!


The space in the rear cargo area is not massive, but again perfectly adequate for carrying those important things around, and if you need more, just sling the kids out onto the pavement and drop the rear seats and your IKEA wardrobe will fit in beautifully. The model we tested out also came with electric windows on the front, and those cute clip out windows on the rear doors, which are so loved by European car makers.

Check out our video below to get an impression of our quick test drive of this fun runabout.

In use
The fun really starts when you get behind the wheel and start off. It’s typically quiet as are all EVs, but the cool bit is how nice it is to drive around in a smaller tight car which begs to be driven. In our brief jaunt we threw it around the country lanes with not a care in the world, so sure-footed did it seem. It was almost like going back to the old days of the hot hatchbacks, only without all that nasty petrol engine noise. Just a whoosh and a whistle as you accelerated along the tarmac.


The e-up! features an 82PS electric motor driving the front wheels (see the video for an in-depth look under the chassis at what these EVs look like all naked), and offers 0-62 mph in just 12.4 seconds, with a top speed of 80 mph. These figures don’t illustrate the fun factor though, which is considerable. The car has a gross weight of 1500 kgs (vs 1965 for the Nissan Leaf) which may go some way towards explaining that.


When you actually see just how small the engine and gearbox blocks of these cars are, you’ll be as amazed at we were (it’s in the video too). It really makes the old petrol engines seem truly antiquated. And they’re so clean, not a drop of oil or black grease to be seen. The engine compartment also looks to be nicely uncluttered, with just the block of the power controller on top dominating the space.


Electric living
The key difference between driving this e-up! and others that we have tested lies in the B mode regenerative braking function. The car comes with two standard Eco modes, which progressively lower power to the wheels and moderate the air conditioning to give longer battery range at the touch of a button. But the addition of an extra B mode, which is engaged by either tapping the gearshift sideways or selecting the full B letter, is a whole new ball game.


With B mode engaged, just lifting your foot off the throttle will significantly decrease the speed of the car, so much so that the brake lights automatically come on. The result is you quickly find yourself using the throttle as a general brake, with the left pedal used only when you really need to do a proper dead halt stop. We’ve experienced similar on both the Ford Focus and the Renault Zoe, but the version on the VW is a step up from these in a big way.

It’s clear to see that as things develop, we’re probably going to be driving cars which reward much more of a nuanced driving style than we’ve been used to. Anticipation of road conditions, and avoidance of sudden acceleration and braking are all paramount if you’re to maximize battery range, and at the end of the day that’s the name of the game. Things like B mode make this trait even more of an easy habit to adopt.


It’s small, it’s cute and it’s fun to drive. Need we say more? However, it’s also a little more expensive than the Renault Zoe, which is something which may give potential e-up! buyers pause. We’re a little surprised in fact that the company aren’t offering a battery lease option with the car, since that’s a quick and easy way to get the sticker price down immediately. But hey, maybe that’s not how VW want to roll?

But for all that, we have to say that the e-up! has got to be one of the most instantly appealing EVs we’ve tested so far. Relatively expensive it may be, but it’s a typical VW hatch in every way, and that may be enough of an incentive for those who know and love the marque to take the plunge.

Price: £19,250 on the road (after government grant)

Power – 82PS BEV
0 – 62mph – 12.4 seconds
Top Speed – 80 mph
Gross Vehicle Weight – 1500 kgs
Battery Range – 93 miles
Battery Warranty – 8 years

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