Volkswagen e-Up 2020 UK review

The new battery has added 15kg to the e-Up’s kerb weight but the car’s mechanical package is otherwise unchanged, as are its other performance stats. Even weighing 200-and-something kilograms more than any of its range-mates, it’s a pleasingly nippy drive and its handling isn’t as penalised by that kerb weight as other small EVs seem to be.

On the inside, the car differs from other Ups with its special analogue instrument pack. There’s a big central speedo flanked by simple, readable dials that tell you how much battery charge is remaining and how hard you’re working the motor. All it really lacks is an equally clear estimate of remaining range, although you can conjure one of those up onto the digital trip computer screen.  

The car benefits from Volkswagen’s updates to the wider Up range, so it now has a pretty basic camera-based lane-keeping assist system and curtain airbags as well as front and side ones. As city car interiors go, it’s certainly smart and pleasant and reasonably spacious up front; perhaps a bit less spacious, compared with the most practical city cars, in the back. This tester would have rather the car had conventional front seats with adjustable head restraints than seat squabs with ‘integrated’, non-adjustable head restraints.

The car offers you five primary drive settings, as well as three broader drive modes – and while it could make it easier to ramp up and down battery regeneration settings through the fitment of steering wheel paddles, there would at least probably be less to be gained in terms of energy efficiency than for drivability if it did.

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Engaging ‘D’ on the transmission puts you in the default driving setting, and from there you can adjust battery regen settings (D1, D2, D3) by flicking the shift lever left and right. Pull it backwards and you engage ‘B’ mode, in which you get maximum regen when you lift off the accelerator pedal, allowing you, for the most part, to drive the car in ‘one-pedal’ style.

It’s as well to remember, of course, that once you’re at cruising speed, allowing any car to coast on its accumulated kinetic energy is always the most efficient option, and that slowing down and speeding up for the sake of it can never be as energy-savvy. Having said that, when you really need to slow the car down, the e-Up’s regenerative braking options allow you a choice of how you’d like to do it, and they leave it with one of the less woolly and imperfect-feeling brake pedals if you do choose to ramp up the motor braking.

Accelerator pedal response is predictably good and particularly linear, meanwhile, and outright performance is smirk-inducingly swift from town speeds, remaining moderately perky even at B-road pace. The e-Up is something of a nipping specialist. It’s small enough and brisk enough to seize opportunities in traffic that other cars couldn’t, you can see plenty out of it and judge its size easily, and it feels suited to the urban environment in a similar way to the BMW i3.

At higher speeds, the car’s weight occasionally makes its presence felt, but much more so over long-wave bumps than when cornering. Although its lateral grip levels aren’t particularly special, the e-Up’s lateral body control is quite good and it feels nicely agile around tighter bends. The car’s body isn’t brilliantly isolated from wind noise at motorway speeds, but if you keep it off high-speed dual carriageways, as many owners surely will, it does at least ride reasonably quietly and with decent bump compliance.

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