After tantalizing us with several years of worth of promising concept iterations, Volkswagen finally presented the production version of its diminutive “Up!” at Frankfurt – along with a selection of other variations on this new platform theme. Despite its sub-Polo size, the 2012 Volkswagen Up! provides legitimate room for four in its space-optimized cabin, several super-efficient powertrain choices and a number of clever tech touches. Three trim levels will be available when the car launches in Europe this December: the entry-level take Up!, a comfort-centric move Up! and the top-line high Up! If that’s not enough VW plans to split the premium-grade model into Up! black and Up! white editions, although details on each will have to await its public debut -- as will word on if or when we might see any iteration turn up in America.
This boxy three-door hatch measures a mere 139.4 inches in length, but a relatively long 95.3-inch wheelbase, wide track dimensions and short overhangs should ensure the unapologetically angular Volkswagen Up! matches its excellent combination of people/cargo space with equally impressive dynamic stability. While form was indeed dictated largely by function, Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design for the Volkswagen Brand says the firm's design language remains intact."The face is unmistakably that of a genuine Volkswagen, but with a very independent personality. More than on any of the other models, the Up! definitely shows a smile. The Up! is simply appealing, and it appeals in a simple way!"
Initially, motivation for the Volkswagen Up! will come from a new generation of 1.0-liter/three-cylinder engines. Two gasoline-fired versions will make 59 and 74 horsepower, and fitted with VWs' BlueMotion Technology and a Start/Stop system, return combined fuel economy ratings of 56 and 55 mpg, respectively, while emitting less than 100g/km of CO2. Later, a 67-horse natural-gas fired variant that's even cleaner and earns 73 mpg Euro mileage stats will join the lineup with an electric-power Up! to follow in 2013.
Inside, the VW Up! follows the lead of cars like the Mini and Fiat 500, backing a bold visual statement with numerous thoughtful design touches. Prominent use of color on both the dash in interior trim is matched with an innovative modular "box" system -- named, scaled and configured to conveniently store everything from snacks to travel gear -- and the availability VW's "maps + more" system. Downloadable to a Portable Infotainment Device that snaps into the Up!'s center console, it brings together navigation, infotainment, phone functions in a fully upgradable package. When cargo takes precedence, the car's rear seats can be folded to turn a generous 8.9 cu-ft trunk into a huge 33.6 cu-ft cavern.
The 2012 Volkswagen Up! will also introduce a new safety feature to the mini-car segment: City Emergency Braking. Automatically activated at speeds up to 18 mph, it uses a laser sensor to detect the potential for an imminent collision and can autonomously apply the brakes to prevent or mitigate the severity of any impact.
Intent on displaying the full potential of this cheeky newcomer, VW also created six other variations of Up!-based alternatives. An electric-powered e-Up! with range of 80 miles and a top speed of 84 mph will go on sale in 2013 while on a concept level, the automaker showed a more potent 100-horsepower GT Up!, a natural gas-fueled eco-Up!, a nautically-themed one-off called the Up! Azzurra Sailing Team and a four-door crossover iteration called the Cross Up!.
Last but for many most interesting was the funky Volkswagen Buggy Up! A 21st-century homage to Bruce Myers original ‘60s-era dune buggy, this steel-bodied open-air funrunner dispenses with doors in favor of low-cut side sills and rides on a slightly longer-wheelbase Up! platform. In addition to its integral rollbar, the Buggy Up! features 18-inch alloy wheels with 205/40 tires, a fully waterproof interior, snap-in/out soft top element and a removable modular infotainment system.