Downsizing has become the rule rather than the exception, particularly in the middle segments of the market where many people tend to buy down a segment due to the volatile economic landscape.
For many, buying down would be ideal should it mean they do not compromise on those conveniences and niceties. The A-segment, it can be argued, has little to offer in the way of convenience items, but mostly, many of the offerings here impart to the driver and passenger a feeling befitting being in an entry-level vehicle.
Well, there seems to be an exception to the rule in the form of the Volkswagen Up that was launched in three-door only guise in 2014 that compromised its practicality. Now the model is offered in five-door configuration and has been given minor cosmetic tweaks.
These include an updated lower valance, new 15-inch alloy wheels in the instance of the flagship Move Up derivative and darkened rear light clusters. The cabin has been given a few new items such as a Bluetooth-enabled infotainment system, while the multifunction steering wheel has been borrowed from the Polo. It is a classy cabin that feels a cut above most offerings in the segment.
The doors close with reassuring solidity, while the cabin materials are anything but cheap. In fact, the only thing that reminds you of the vehicle’s pecking order is its diminutive size when viewed from outside.
Powering this plucky German is a 1.0-litre, three cylinder engine that puts out 55kW and 95Nm via a five-speed manual gearbox. The numbers might not seem like much on paper, but considering the model’s paltry weight, the little motor manages to pull the pint-sized veedub with great conviction. It offers good all-round visibility and parking is a cinch.
Cabin space is good for a vehicle in this segment and the driver’s seat has good scope for adjustment to suit most body frames. Although the rear quarters are relatively accommodative the fact that the rear windows do not wind down (they tilt outside instead) does mean that it can get rather hot there, requiring a constant flow from the air-conditioner.
Boot space measures 251l, which is more than acceptable, and accommodates a few grocery bags, but I also had to place some items on the rear seats. The boot can be expanded to 959l with the rear seats folded and the boot floor has an extra parcel shelf below for added convenience.
The model is zippy around town and its compact dimensions mean it can nip through traffic with relative ease. The occasional highway jaunt is most welcome with the vehicle never feeling overwhelmed or the engine grossly underpowered. The gearing is a bit long with a relatively short first gear for quick, off-the-line bursts, while inclines and overtaking do take some calculations and a lower gear to complete.
Once up to speed, the engine thrums along with little fuss, while fuel consumption was particularly good. We managed about 400km having only used a quarter of the fuel and we reckon we could eke out a further 300km out of the remaining three-quarters of the 35-litre tank.
Safety includes ABS and EBD and four airbags, which is exceptionally good for an A-segment vehicle. It feels steady and has the big-car feel that somehow eludes many vehicles in this segment, save for the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto.
For those buying a segment down or looking for a runabout second family vehicle, the VW Up ticks many boxes. It is thrifty, well built and well specified.
While there are slightly cheaper offerings in the segment, none offers the blend of exemplary build quality and functionality in a desirable package such as this. Having spent a week at the helm of the Up I am more than convinced that it is the leader of the entry-level hatch pack. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: 2017 Volkswagen Up! Move Up
Engine: 999cc three-cylinder petrol
Power: 55kW at 6200rpm
Torque: 95Nm at 3000rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
0-100km/h: 13.2-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 171km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 4.6l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 108g/km (claimed)
Price: From R179 900