Ouch, we leaned far out of the window! Many owners of a used VW are punished with broken timing chains, defective dual clutch transmissions or rotten TSI engines. With Up, however, the headline applies. The smallest Volkswagen, of all things, cultivates old brand virtues: it runs and runs and runs...
As an auto editor, you are often asked which model you can really recommend. But this is always a tricky matter. Firstly, at least ten typical defects immediately come to mind for each series. And secondly, it is of course extremely damaging to one's own reputation if the person asking the question then goes shipwreck with just such a recommendation.
Body: square, practical, good
But there are vehicles where this risk is kept within manageable limits. This includes the VW Up. Why? Quite simply: cars that survive up to 300,000 kilometers in pizza and care services can't be that bad. Which of course doesn't mean that you should buy a sled like that afterwards. After all, according to the relevant online exchanges, the market always has around 3,500 Up ready, so there is bound to be one from a caring private hand. Like the mayan blue one on these pages, made available by the VW car dealership Spreckelsen in Stade. It was first put on the road in January 2016, has driven 22,300 kilometers since then and is not exactly poorly equipped with the middle equipment variant Move Up. Extras include seat heating and the RCD 215 audio system along with better speakers and the storage package with the double loading floor in the trunk. At 8,290 euros, this up is also moderately priced in, which is why the city runabout already had a new owner at the time the photo was taken. But all the ups offer the relatively generous amount of space. On quite tolerable seats, long distances can be covered quite easily, even by tall people. It also sits neatly in the back with enough knee room. Behind it is a smooth-surfaced luggage compartment, the size of which can compete with that of the Polo. The three- or (usually) five-door house is also durable, provided it is still completely sealed. More on that in the defects section.
Interior: space in VW's smallest cabin
If you take a longer look around inside, you will see that the Up is in no way inferior to its larger brand colleagues around Golf and Co. in terms of processing quality. Of course, there are rather simple surfaces made of hard plastic or simply painted sheet metal in the small car, but none of it creaks or rattles, everything sits in narrow gaps. To bring some life into the cockpit, almost all Up have a decorative panel on the dashboard.In our photo car, it consists of high-gloss colored plastic. Others are also printed or painted.
Engine: Durable three-cylinder
The basic engine with 60 hp provides the drive, as with all models - except e-Up - a one-liter three-cylinder from the EA 211 engine family, which celebrated its debut in the Up in 2011. At the time, it was considered an admission by the VW Group that it was unable to construct durable timing chain drives.
Because in the EA 211, a toothed belt rotates the two camshafts, which the developers trust to have a lifelong - well - service life. What durability is meant by this is not clear from this information. But the water pump will probably draw attention to the end of theirs at some point. Then the toothed belt should also be replaced.
Otherwise, the engine, which was later distributed throughout the Group as a four-cylinder with a displacement of up to 1.5 liters, offers even more design refinements, such as a phase-adjustable intake camshaft or the exhaust manifold in the cylinder head. In this way, the hot exhaust gases heat up faster and the heating system with the cooling water. The engine block also has its own cooling circuit, with the turbo versions having another one for intercooling.
However, the turbo share in the up is only ten percent. And thus in similar lowlands as that of the Eco-Up with its natural gas drive. While the purchases its more than halved fuel costs with paralyzing phlegm, TSI and GTI are really fun. The gas tanker, on the other hand, manages the feat of taking almost two seconds longer to reach 100 km/h than the basic model with 60 hp, despite a nominal eight horsepower more.
By the way, that's enough for most cases, because it's a joyful spinner that doesn't miss the 15 more hp of the next more powerful engine and also keeps up bravely on the motorway. At the same time, it remains amazingly quiet; a few years ago, the interior noise values would have been in the upper middle class. At best, the somewhat unsteady straight-line stability at higher speeds is annoying, because with the Up, a short wheelbase meets a wide track width, which is not exactly conducive to directional stability. That means more frequent corrections to the velvety responsive power steering. (Caution: The basic models of the Up siblings Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo did not have power steering!)
Gearbox: Easy to handle
The vast majority of all petrol and gas-powered Ups have a manual five-speed gearbox. It is standard for all drives except for the 115 hp GTI, which is only available with a crisp six-speed manual transmission. As is typical for VW, shifting gears is very easy and precise. Also in the style of the house, the good gradation of the respective gear ratios succeeded, so that the basic drives always appear sufficiently lively in city traffic.
Until autumn 2020, an automated gearshift for the otherwise unchanged five-speed gearbox was also available for the naturally aspirated petrol engines. The coupling and the actual shifting process is carried out here by mechatronics. It is generally considered trouble-free, but it is not the first choice for hotheads to use. Only those who deliberately give the gear selectors time to change gears will be rewarded with reasonably smooth shifting.
Chassis: Tight and handy
On the other hand, the Up looks really agile on winding country roads. Which is also due to the rather tightly tuned chassis. VW actually always has a good hand for that. However, if, as with the Up, the payload is around 40 percent of the curb weight, the springs have to be wound a little tighter. Which is why the rear axle has special short heels that move somewhat pithy inwards. Nevertheless, there is not much to complain about in terms of driving comfort overall, the front seats are definitely suitable for longer journeys.
Flaws: City flea with few quirks
So far, so practical. But what about the reliability of the Up? Let's check with those who need to know, at the ADAC. He maintains a defects forum on his homepage, so take a quick look – and: "No defects were found." The legendary breakdown statistics are just a few clicks away. The shows the color green for the year 2012. Not the super good dark green you often see on Toyota. But at least green. From 2013 to 2016, however, the defect index slipped to yellow, only after the major facelift in mid-2016 did it turn green again. The most common cause of breakdowns: the battery.
This coincides with various internal service actions that VW has taken care of during regular maintenance appointments. Most of them were (warning: pun!) updates. This allowed the instrument cluster to draw too much quiescent current. In addition, a so-called quality-improving measure involved updating the gateway control unit or reprogramming the body control unit.
Speaking of quality measures: One of the most important is probably the rust protection around the cutout of the tank cap. Up to and including the 2016 model year, corrosion and even rusting through the side panel could occur here. Classic car fans are familiar with the phenomenon from the Golf I and II, and it's celebrating a revival with the Up. The cause is damage to the sheet metal coating in the dirty area of the right rear wheel in connection with thick accumulations of earth in the pipe and hose worm of the tank nozzle. In extreme cases, VW replaces the side panel and retrofits inner fenders.
Almost a running gag in the Up until year of construction 2016 is water leaking into the interior. The door sills are most frequently affected, which is noticeable by loud sloshing noises. Or, in winter, the rumble of the chunks of ice.Incidentally, as a countermeasure, VW recommends drilling holes in six specific rubber plugs on the rocker panels. Other causes of moisture in the car can be misaligned front doors whose seals then let water in, the third brake light and the shaft seal of the rear wiper. And of course the drains at the front under the windshield. A stray leaf is enough to block it. So it can't hurt to look out for musty interiors, mold under the floor mats and wetness in the deepest part of the trunk in such vehicles.
But that should be a standard procedure with every used purchase, not just the Up. We can now close his list of problems. And make a recommendation as an author editor.
Prices: Keep an overview, compare new prices
The Group models Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo are technically identical to the VW Up, differ only in bodywork details and the scope of equipment. Both appeared on the German market in mid-2012 and were available with the same engines up to 75 hp as the Up. From mid-2019 there were also Mii and the Citigo with electric drive, then already in the version with the larger 36.8 kWh battery. The combustion engines disappeared in 2019, Mii electric and Citigo-e were still available until 2021. It is currently no longer the Up GTI, at the time of going to press there was a freeze on orders again. Used GTIs start at around 14,000 euros - having fun costs money.
The rest, mostly not turbocharged, starts at around 4500 euros for serious specimens, depending on the offer. From here onwards, the only differences are in the equipment and condition. The clear range of engines, which has hardly changed over the long construction period, otherwise causes quite small price jumps. Our tip: Prioritize the condition and engine performance over the year of manufacture. Many Up are moved relatively little anyway and the shortcomings of the early years of construction can also be easily avoided for little money.