Volkswagen’s Up is a fantastic little car. It looks great, feels well-built, its three-cylinder engine makes a cacophony of amusing noises and its ride quality shames many a larger vehicle.
It stands to reason then that the Volkswagen e-Up should be even better – all the Up’s positive attributes enhanced with a quieter, smoother, torquier electric drivetrain, ready for anything the city might throw at it. A veritable wheeled iPod in a market of Minidiscs.
Up-ending your wallet
Sadly, Volkswagen has taken inspiration from Apple’s business model too and lumbered its new e-Up with the price tag of a Passat.
You’ll need a full 19,250 to get behind the wheel of VW’s electric baby – and it’s only that low due to the government’s hefty 5,000 plug-in car grant. To offer some perspective, that’s a full 6,170 more than the Rock Up special edition, already a car of questionable value when Ups start at 8,265.
It’s also 5,800 more expensive than a Renault Zoe, and over 3,200 dearer than a Nissan Leaf – both cars with better performance than the e-Up’s 12-second 0-60 time, greater interior space, and longer potential range.
For the latter, Volkswagen’s offering manages a maximum potential range of 93 miles. That’s par for the course these days but certainly nothing special, even if it manages that class-matching range with a relatively small 18.7 kWh lithium-ion battery. This can be charged in under nine hours from a standard household socket, or receive an 80 percent boost from a half-hour quick charge.
A host of exterior changes enhance the Up’s attractive form, with C-shaped LED daytime running lights and unique 15 ‘Tezzle’ alloys, while inside you’re treated to a natty white and blue interior colour scheme.
Equipment levels are high too – heated seats, cruise control, Maps More navigation (enhanced with electric car specific features), a heated windscreen, DAB six-speaker radio, City Emergency Braking, rear parking sensors and electronic climate control are all standard. For a full list, we’d suggest picking up VW’s no-doubt glossy brochure on the subject.
But even with all that kit, an eight-year battery warranty and 10,000-mile/one-year service intervals, the e-Up is simply too expensive.
Let’s say you cover 10,000 miles per year in your city car. Let’s also say you average 75 percent of that predicted range (70 miles), and squeeze 75 percent of the battery’s full capacity in each time you charge – 14 kilowatt-hours.
Current Economy 7 electricity tariffs run to around 9.1 pence per kWh, so each 70-mile charge costs you just 1.27 – a bargain! At 10,000 miles per year, that’s still only 181 quid in electricity. To do the same distance in a regular Up at 60 mpg would cost you 989 at today’s average of 130.59 pence per litre. Or 808 more.
But the e-Up is 6,170 more than the most expensive petrol-powered Up, so on fuel alone you’d have to drive for over 7.5 years to make up the deficit. If you’re a London-dweller that difference would close quicker – Congestion Charge can run to a couple of grand a year if you regularly slide into the city. And in reality, petrol prices will go up quicker than electricity – but the gap is still huge.
And if you just want a cheap city car, you can get a basic Up for eight grand – with a further 5,000-or-so gap to make up. All of which renders the e-Up pointlessly, frustratingly expensive.
Yes, we know there are other benefits to running an electric car – cleaner air, a smoother drive, better low-down performance – but if you wanted all those benefits then there’s still that Zoe – or Smart’s Fortwo Electric Drive, also cheap to buy and run. The Zoe and cheapest Smarts require a monthly battery fee, but this is less expensive the fewer miles you travel – and if you really are city-bound, you probably won’t be covering 10k a year.
Expensive and unimpressive technically then, can the e-Up sell on image alone?
Orders begin on December 2nd and the first cars hit the road in late January – we’ll see then whether the VW badge is strong enough to carry that price…
Alternatively check out a standard Up! with our VW Up! deals page.