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Up to be VW’s latest conqueror

Stunt man: One (lucky) man and 15 women crammed themselves into the tiny Up to set an unofficial record.

VW says the vast majority of Up buyers will be first-time customers for the brand

24 Oct 2011

VOLKSWAGEN expects no fewer than two-thirds of Up customers will be new to the VW brand globally, including young first-time car buyers and the “silver generation” aged over 50, which are forecast to account for half of all sales.

Available from December in Europe, where it will replace VW’s more expensive Lupo and Fox city-cars, the all-new three-door Up hatchback will go on sale by the end of next year in Australia as the German giant’s first sub-light model.

As we reported earlier today, VW will discontinue its smallest and cheapest current model in Australia – the $16,690 three-door Polo variant – by early next year to make room for the new micro-hatch and a volume-selling version, which are expected to start from either side of $15,000.

Priced from €9850 ($A13,240) in Germany, the Up will be the first Volkswagen to be priced under “the psychologically important barrier” of €10,000 – a sales segment that accounts for 10 per cent of the European car market and as much as 25 per cent in markets like The Netherlands.

“The 00 segment is a very important part of the market,” said Up product manager Christine Roch at the global launch last week in Rome – Europe’s most popular destination for some of the world’s smallest cars, including the Fiat 500 and Smart ForTwo.

“The Up will have the same quality and reliability of all Volkswagen products. It is everything Volkswagen stands for. Don’t compromise – compress.”

3 center imageClass-leading interior space will be a key focus of VW’s Up marketing campaign.

To prove the point, VW recently staged a publicity stunt in which it squeezed no fewer than 16 people into the Up, which is more than half a metre shorter than a Polo.

The Up somehow accommodated – albeit uncomfortably – 15 women and one man, including two in the boot, one on the dashboard, seven on the rear bench seat, four on the front seats, two in the footwells, with the doors, tailgate and windows shut.

Justifying the publicity stunt, VW said the move is the latest in a tradition of similar attempts, starting with people jamming themselves into phone booths in the 1950s and including 17 Australians getting cosy in a Beetle and, in 2001, no fewer than 27 US students cramming themselves into the New Beetle.

“The European population grew between three and five centimetres taller over the last 20 to 30 years, so it’s important everyone fits comfortably into the Up,” said Ms Roch.

“Up is for all manner of customers, including young first-time buyers, the ‘silver generation’ aged over 50, who will make up 50 per cent of sales, and people who want premium features in a small car.

“Both groups lean towards premium brands and 75 per cent of people use their cars primarily in the city. Older buyers are more risk averse and for them VW stands for trust.” Ms Roch said simplicity would be another key pillar of the Up’s advertising pitch, which will reach 95 per cent of Europeans and include campaign slogans such as ‘4 seats, 3 doors, 2 engines, 0 gimmicks’, ‘Never compromise if you can compress’ and ‘Small is great’.

“The world is complicated, so people look for simple solutions,” she said. “We developed a product that is easy to understand and can be configured in less than a minute at home. Up is easy, but not boring.” As such, two launch-edition models will be available in Europe –the Up Black and Up White, both featuring a host of colour-coded cosmetic additions – based on the most expensive of three specification variants (Take Up, Move Up and High Up).

In Germany, the base Take Up will come standard with twin front and head/thorax airbags, twin front seatbelt reminders, electronic stability control, ABS brakes, 14-inch steel wheels, body-coloured bumpers, a tilt/slide front seat function for rear-seat access, a folding rear seat, daytime-running lights and one-touch indicators.

The mid-range Move Up adds body-coloured door mirrors and handles, chromed wheel covers, gloss-black interior highlights, driver’s seat height adjustment, chromed door pulls, central locking, front power windows, a split rear bench seat, variable cargo floor, a glovebox door, passenger vanity mirror and tacho.

Flagship High Up models gain 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, a choice of dash pad colours, chrome-ringed air-vents, centre console, instruments and major controls, power mirrors, air-conditioning, an RCD215 CD/MP3 player and leather-clad steering wheel and park brake.

Initially, all three levels will be available with both 44kW and 55kW versions of the same new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, matched with a five-speed manual transmission.

A new five-speed single-clutch automated transmission will become available in Europe next year, when the compressed natural gas (CNG) powered EcoUp, which employs idle-stop and low-resistance tyres to return Toyota Prius hybrid-beating CO2 emissions of just 79g/km, also hits Europe.

No diesel or LPG versions are planned yet.

VW said the Up will not be the cheapest model in its class, but would offer “a lot of features for the money”, including luxury-car options like a City Emergency Braking (which automatically brakes to avoid accidents between five and 30km/h), rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloys and a five-inch colour touch-screen with SD music card slot and satellite-navigation.

In line with the simple Up model line-up and the fact VW expects half of all purchases to be financed, VW will offer a finance deal in Germany for as little as €9.90 ($A13.25) a month.

In Europe, VW will also offer a fixed-price scheduled service program to Up buyers – a move that could be replicated in Australia.

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