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Small, micro cars make a lot of sense in an urban city environment like Rome. Take a stroll on any Roman streets and countless number of Smart fourtwos, Fiat Pandas and 500s, Peugeot 107s, Citroen C1s, and Toyota Aygos and IQs among others will zoom by. With narrow streets, limited parking spaces and fast flowing, haphazard traffic making up the most of Roman motoring culture, it’s no wonder the Romans love zipping around town in these micro city cars so much.
Among the abovementioned city cars, none of them are from Europe’s biggest car maker, Volkswagen. Well, it’s not that the people of Rome do not like VWs but the German giant have not had a convincing city car model since the Lupo was last offered in 2005 as the current Brazilian built and rather utilitarian Fox just isn’t good enough in the competitive city car sector. Volkswagen though, aims to make amends with their new city car offering, the up! (Yes, that’s up! with an exclamation mark). The up! will supersede the Fox as the brand’s main city car offering and sit below the Polo in the line-up.
Appropriately, we’ve come to Rome for the International Driving Presentation of the up!. Slicing through the fast moving and in most instances, impatient and haphazard Roman traffic and narrow cobblestone streets of the Italian traffic will surely test the up! to its limits in the environment it was made for.
First unveiled as a series of concepts that first made its debut at the 2007 Frankfurt Motorshow, the production up! finally became a reality at the 2011 edition of the same show a few months back. Like the original Beetle, the up! concepts featured a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive format but in order to make it cost effective for mass production, the up! Volkswagen will sell you features a more conventional transverse engine, front wheel drive layout.
The production three-door up!’s styling is pretty much similar to the original concept up! study from 2007, with only the use of smaller wheels and some toning down of the styling details from the latter. For now, Volkswagen has introduced only a three-door body style but a five-door model is due in 2012 as well as a CNG-powered Eco-up! and in 2013, the electric powered E-up!. Other possible up! variants include the 100bhp hot GT up!, the cross up! crossover and so on.
Measuring a diminutive 3540mm in length, the up! certainly doesn’t look out of place amongst the countless Smarts and Fiats on the streets of the Italian capital. The production up! features the original concept’s distinctive styling themes like the wheel-at-each-corner stance, the smiley face and cheeky headlamps, oversized VW roundels (original Beetle inspired it seems) as well as the single piece glass tailgate (just like its Pug 107/Citroen C1/ Toyota Aygo rival). It looks most distinctive at the front but the rear can somehow look a tad nondescript to some – remove the oversized VW roundel from the glass tailgate and this tiny Vee Dub can be mistaken to be a model from any of Volkswagen’s European rivals. Despite its nondescript rear styling though, the up! oozes charisma, individuality and a happy character that is unique from its city car rivals and should have a very wide appeal.
The up! can be specified in a range of trim levels like the special edition up! black and up! white that gives the car its own unique style and character depending on the trim model. The up! white looks especially chic thanks to its original Beetle inspired 16-inch alloy wheels with large chrome VW roundel in the middle, chrome trim on the wing mirror housings and so on. Other up! trim variants offered at launch include the base model take up!, the mid-range move up! and the top of the line high up!.