Would You Buy It? 2012 Volkswagen Up!

Historically, tiny cars haven't found much success here in "bigger-is-better" America. Change is afoot, however, as more micro cars hit U.S. streets. Smart's ForTwo may have been a flop, but Fiat's 500 is gaining some traction in the market here despite a weak debut. Is the U.S. ready to go smaller and is Volkswagen the brand to help us do it?

One appealing new model that just went on sale in Europe is the Volkswagen Up! Its tiny 139.2-inch footprint and too-cute styling could make it a hit with young city drivers. It joins like-sized competitors the Ford Ka, Fiat Panda and Hyundai i10 in Europe. Reviews from across the pond are favorable, but VW doesn't plan on selling it here. Is there a market for the Up! in the U.S.?

The tall-body two-door hatch just went on sale in Europe last month and a four-door version was just announced. It uses a tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that makes 60 or 75 horsepower depending on the version; a five-speed manual transmission is standard. It might be tough for U.S. drivers to get past its pokiness: VW says the 60-hp version does zero to 60 mph in 13.6 seconds and the 75-hp model gets there in 12.4 seconds. Swapping it out for the brand's popular, peppy 2.0-liter four-cylinder could solve that problem.

Fewer cylinders and less horsepower than we're accustomed to make for impressive fuel economy, though. Volkswagen says the Up! should see a combined fuel economy of 56 mpg (based on New European Driving Cycle standards). The car's standard engine start/stop system also helps with those numbers.

Another feature that could win over safety-conscious U.S. drivers is the Up!'s City Emergency Braking system. At speeds lower than 18 mph, it automatically brakes the car before a crash.

Alternative-fuel variants should also appeal: Volkswagen plans to add an electric Up! to the lineup in 2013; a natural- gas version will be available, too.

But how much does it cost? Well, in Europe, the four-door version will start at 10,800 euro when it goes on sale this spring. That's about $14,000 in the U.S. The two-door version is a bit cheaper. That's not too bad considering a 2012 Fiat 500 starts at $15,500.

It's not that cut-and-dried, however. VW will have to spend more on the Up! to make sure it meets U.S. safety and emissions standards. Then there's the added cost of shipping it here. VW's avoiding those costs with other vehicles in the U.S. by building them here, but the Up! is made in Slovakia. Getting it here will certainly add to the bottom line.

Is the Up! good enough to shake up the U.S.'s subcompact car market? We may never know. It isn't likely Volkswagen will offer it for sale here, but maybe it should. Would you buy it?



By Jennifer Geiger | February 1, 2012 | Comments (22)



yes...but Canada seems to accept small city cars much more than the US

Amuro Ray

Only if it costs less than or around $9K, well-equipped.


How about the Polo first? Specifically the Polo GTi.

and this does not have room for a 4 cylinder engine.


No, too small


No, but only because it's a Volkswagen.


The 1 litre turbocharged 3 cylinder Focus with 125hp would probably make more sense for the US market, not least because the car is already compliant with US regs (engine excepted of course.) Better yet if that engine were in the Fiesta.

M. Belknap

With certain qualifications, yes:

*Four-door hatch
*0-60 time of no-slower than 10.5 seconds
*Decently-equipped for under $15K
*Some interesting color options

If I could get all of the above specifications, I would likely, in all seriousness, buy one.


i wouldn't consider this version for the same reasons i wouldn't consider a base fiat 500, a base mini cooper, or a smart four-two - insufficient power for the typical urban/suburban lifestyle here in the usa.

i do believe this car would be a terrific option for primarily urban situations where the power wouldn't be as much of an issue.

i'm not put-off by the size (in fact, i LOVE small cars) but i would want something with more "go" than the engine selections offered in the base model.

i agree that vw should at least consider the polo/polo gti for this county (slightly bigger than the up!, but smaller than a golf/gti), and if they thought about the up! gt with improved power as an option then this might be a decent option.

Jennifer Geiger, Editor at Cars.com

I agree on the Polo. I actually had the chance to drive one in Wolfsburg, Germany a couple years ago and was really impressed with its high level of refinement--something you don't often see from tiny cars here.


The 5 door version or the Bulli...then yes definately.


I drove the Polo in Mexico and VW should have brought it here. We don't need this thing, they already have the Beetle and Fiat 500.


Too small for me.


No, too small and it's a VW.


Well, they [VW] would have to slap a TVS supercharger to the engine, 90-100hp target. (depending on whether or not an intercooler is fitted)
Then it would have to have the same 3 door arrangement that the Hyundai Veloster has. Just take the right hand side of the 4 door UP!, with the left hand side of the 2 door.

That would do orders of magnitude better than the 'Smart' car.


The exclamation mark at the end of UP is really stupid. That's why I would not drive one! ! ! !


No, too slow


Yes I would with no doubt !
Of course been Québecois we know small car and love them.

Bring it on for un in Québec please :)

norman maestas

yes, anything with an automatic transmission that can compete with the minimum 40 mpg that the Geo used to get would be perfect. Wouldn't have to worry about the grid and electric cars.


I'd consider it for my daughter. For a new driver, just learning and just tooling around town, this is the perfect kind of car. Can't go too fast, easy to park, great gas mileage, etc. A winner I think for the "first car"/teen driver set.

very nice car, i found a youtube video with the complete car.


Yup...I'd buy it!

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