Volkswagen e-Up Driven - The Price You Pay For Fun

There are many reasons for buying an electric car. Environmental-friendliness. The instant low-down response of an electric motor. The silence. Never having to visit a petrol station again.

Running costs are another great reason. Electricity is a whole lot cheaper than petrol or diesel and is likely to remain so for decades, and the prospect of doing a hundred miles or so on a few quid is quite appealing.

Volkswagen e-Up front

A pity, then, that you'll need a full 19,250 to get behind the wheel of the Volkswagen e-Up. We questioned that price when VW announced it, and we still can't fathom it now. Not only does a regular Up start at less than half the price, but even close electric rivals like the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf are several thousand cheaper.

The lofty list price is even more frustrating given how good the little e-Up actually is.

Volkswagen e-Up back

If you're a fan of the regular car, you'll be blown away by the electric version. All of its qualities seem enhanced by electric power, from its refinement - now better than most luxury vehicles - to its nimble handling, aided by the low-mounted battery pack, despite the extra weight.

And at the traffic lights, the e-Up would leave even the 74-horsepower petrol Up for dead. A 0-60 run of 12.4 seconds is nothing special, but you don't hit 60 in town anyway. What you do hit is 20, 30 or 40 mph, and over those increments the electric motor's hefty 155 lb-ft of torque - over double the Up's 70 lb-ft - means punchy, instantaneous responses.

Volkswagen e-Up motor

The car's silence means you don't even feel like a hooligan doing a full-bore standing start. You just plant your foot and scoot silently off, leaving taxis and bodykitted Vauxhall Corsas in your wake.

Left in Drive, the car will coast as you come off the throttle pedal, but knock the gear lever back to 'B' and the car's regenerative braking kicks in - a little like engine braking in a regular car. This helps charge the battery, adding to your range. Officially, you'll get 99 miles - real-world is likely to vary depending on driving conditions and ambient temperature. VW suggests 75-100 miles in summer, 50-75 in winter.

Volkswagen e-Up dash

Sensibly, VW hasn't gone too heavy on the weird eco stuff, so most drivers would feel instantly at home.

You do get a few extra menus on the detachable infotainment device showing energy use and the like, and the fuel gauge and tachometer make way for their electric equivalents in the instrument cluster. There's no compromise on interior or boot space either - it feels as spacious as the regular car.

Volkswagen e-Up rear seat

You also get light, cheery trim materials, a body-coloured strip on the dashboard and high-end equipment like heated seats, polished 15-inch alloys and snazzy LED daytime running lights.

Priced from: 19,250 (including 5,000 government grant)
Range: 93 miles
CO2: 0 g/km

Volkswagen e-Up badge


The Volkswagen e-Up is an immensely likeable car, with performance that shames its combustion counterparts, neat styling, low running costs and all the virtues of regular petrol Ups. It doesn't really even matter that its range is under 100 miles, as that's still several times greater than the vast majority of city cars do each day anyway.

No, the e-Up's major failing is price. A 20k tag cannot be justified by the VW badge alone, and good though the e-Up is it's not leagues ahead of the Zoe and Leaf, both of which are available cheaper. For the time being at least, the e-Up will be a hard sell next to its petrol brothers and sisters.

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