If there was ever a competition for “Most Drawn-Out Pseudo-Vaporware Concept,” first prize would go to the Volkswagen Up!. For those automotive archivists keeping track, the Up! concept first debuted way back in 2007, when people were still paying money to see Spiderman 3. Since then, Volkswagen has trotted out a multitude of Up! mutations, from an electric version to a minivan to a three-door hypermiler. All they need is a sports sedan and an electric cheese grater, and the range will finally be complete.
But hold the phones: This Up! is the final, ultimate production version. Honest. Slotting underneath the foreign-market Polo, which itself slots in under the Golf, the Up! is Volkswagen’s smallest and most fuel-efficient car, designed for maximum efficiency in the city. Smaller than a Mini Cooper and offering another row of seats against a Smart, the Up! represents rational, conservative everyday motoring — rather than a flight of commuting fancy like the NILS Concept, which also debuted on the Volkswagen stage.
The Up! sticks remarkably close to its initial 2007 concept in both styling and size. At just 11.6 feet long, the Up! is one of the smallest four-seat cars ever. The wheels are pressed out to the corners, and despite its small size it offers 33.5 cubic feet of miscellany with the seats folded down.
It’s been fun to see the evolution of the Up! as well. Instead of the 2007 concept’s rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, the production Up! will feature a three-cylinder engine up front and driving the front wheels. Electric and plug-in versions will come later, but for now the Up! gets Volkswagen’s BlueMotion gasoline technology, which Volkswagen says will enable 56 mpg in mixed driving. Two engines are available, with 59 and 73 horsepower.
Inside, panels are color-matched to the exterior color. An optional City Emergency Braking system uses a laser to detect obstacles in front, and it can stop the car automatically at speeds of up to 18mph, a sensible addition considering its city-prowling credentials.
Sadly, there are no plans to bring the Up! to America. Rather than risk the nonexistent sales success of the Smart, the Up! will simply be the next car to rent on your next trip to sunny Slovakia — where production is slated to begin in December.