2012 Volkswagen Up! Track Test

2012 Volkswagen Up! Track Test

Track Testing Volkswagen's 1.0-Liter Ultracompact

Edmunds tests hundreds of vehicles a year. Cars, trucks, SUVs, we run them all, and the numbers always tell a story. With that in mind we present "IL Track Tested," a quick rundown of all the data we collect at the track, along with comments direct from the test drivers. Enjoy.

At the 2012 New York Auto Show, the Volkswagen Up! was voted World Car of the Year despite the fact that one of the world's biggest markets — the U.S. of A. — doesn't get it.

But what exactly are we missing? Well, the Up! eschews the U.S. trend of hybridization by going with an absolutely tiny motor to power the small and lightweight hatchback. The 139.4-inch Up! is powered by a 1.0-liter, naturally aspirated inline-3 that produces 74 horsepower and 70 pound-feet of torque.

Thankfully for those 74 ponies, the Up! only weighs 2,023 pounds. By going with a normally aspirated, port-injected three cylinder, not only does VW save weight, but a good deal of cash as well. Hybrids and turbos are expensive, and if your goal is to spend less money on transportation, paying more for fancy tech often overshadows the savings.

Mini and Fiat have tried a similar route and even Scion is giving it a shot with the iQ. There's no word yet on whether Volkswagen has any serious plans to bring the Up! to the U.S. but we took one to the track anyway to see how it would fare against its American competition.

Vehicle: 2012 Volkswagen Up!

Date: 9-5-2012
Driver: Mike Monticello
Price: $13,000 (EST)

Drive Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Five-speed manual
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated, port-injected inline-3
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 999/61
Redline (rpm): 6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 74 @ 6,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 70 @ 3,000
Brake Type (front): Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): Drum
Suspension Type(front): Independent MacPherson strut, coil springs, antiroll bar
Suspension Type (rear): Semi-independent twist beam axle, coil springs
Tire Size (front): 185/55R15 (82T)
Tire Size (rear): 185/55R15 (82T)
Tire Brand: Continental
Tire Model: Conti Premium Contact 2
Tire Type: Asymmetrical summer
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,023

Test Results:

0-30 (sec): 4.8 (4.7 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 7.9 (8.1 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 12.9 (13.4 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 12.6 (13.0 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 20.0 ( 20.7 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 19.0 @ 73.0 (19.2 @ 72.2 w/ TC on)

30-0 (ft): 27
60-0 (ft): 107

Slalom (mph): 63.6 (62.8 w/TC off)
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.83 ( 0.82 w/TC on)
Db @ Idle: 42.0
Db @ Full Throttle: 73.5
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 64.4
RPM @ 70: 3,100


Acceleration: Turns out lightness can't make up for this pathetic little motor. No power anywhere. Doesn't help that it won't rev beyond 4,000 at launch, causing it to bog with an easy clutch release, or nearly stall with a drop-clutch. Shift action feels cheap but there was no problem finding gears quickly.

Braking: Light makes right. Summer tires and a low curb weight help the Up! stop very short, despite significant nosedive and drum rear brakes. First stop was 109 feet. Second stop was shortest at 107 feet. Sixth and final stop was longest at 112.


Skid pad: Non-defeat stability control is so intrusive that you can just keep the throttle pinned all the way around, whether with ESC on or "off." Still, steering does exhibit some good feedback.

Slalom: If VW would let us fully turn off the nannies, this little thing could post a good time. Helps that it's so narrow and has such a short wheelbase. Hardly have to turn it at all to get around the cones. Which is good, because if you get too aggressive the ESC starts stabbing the brakes. Steering is reasonably quick and feels natural. Lots of body roll, but not ridiculous.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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