Road Test: Volkswagen Move up! ASG
Sector: City car Price (April 2013): £10,170 Fuel: 64.2mpg CO2: 103g/km
With style, space, agility, fuel efficiency, price and that Volkswagen badge in its favour, you’d struggle to find any way in which the little up! city car – or indeed its Škoda or SEAT siblings – has put a foot wrong. It’s such a polished product that for short-distance drivers you could question the logic in opting up to the Polo.
On the face of it, an automatic version should add a little extra appeal. Petrol engines and manual gearboxes dominate the A-segment, but the option of letting the car swap gears itself while scything through heavy inner-city traffic should be an attractive one. Even more so when manual and ASG versions fall into the same BiK banding, separated only by £595 and a 1.4mpg rise in fuel economy.
Unfortunately, the gearbox is a bit of a chink in the little Volkswagen’s armour. The manual version is a surprisingly amusing driver’s car. By no means fast, but direct, robust and lightweight to dart around town in. The ASG box adds an unwelcome lethargy to the experience, which almost completely alters how it drives.
Anyone familiar with the smart fortwo’s gearbox or the automated manual in Peugeot and Citroën’s cars will find similarities here. Point the up! at a dual carriageway, squeeze the throttle and it still growls through the revs like the manual car. But, as it decides it needs another ratio it pauses, dips the front end as if it’s suddenly driving into a strong headwind, then eventually selects the next gear and carries on.
In the meantime, nothing happens.
The way around it appears to be to anticipate the next gearchange – or knock the stick into manual mode – and gently lift off the throttle as it’s about to do so. This smoothes the drive for passengers, but really doesn’t feel very natural from behind the wheel. Unless you’re on an automatic-only driving licence and can’t buy the manual, you’d be hard-pressed to love how it feels.
All of which is a real shame. The up! has set new benchmarks in the city car class, but the gearbox just doesn’t feel up to the same standard as the rest of the car. If you’re legally allowed to drive the manual, it’s unquestionably the one to go for.
There’s really very little to fault in the up!, as it’s a thoroughly accomplished, neatly packaged and well-made city car. It’s just a shame Volkswagen hasn’t seen fit to equip it with an equally brilliant automatic gearbox. The BlueMotion Technology manual is cheaper, more efficient and a much better car to drive.