Volkswagen Up! – Simple Joys
With the Skoda needing a minor teething issue sorting out under warranty, I took it into my local dealership and as usual received the excellent standard of care Skoda is so famous for over here in the UK. ‘I wonder what car I’ll get to borrow while it’s being repaired’ I thought to myself as I sat in the service area sipping on a fresh cup of coffee from the machine. ‘Oh, I do hope it’s an Up! I hear those are fantastic.’ I was interrupted suddenly by the service manager.
“I’m afraid we can only offer you an Up! today Mr. Edge as some of our other models are out, it’s not much fun compared to what you are used to, is that OK?”“YES! er, I mean yes I suppose so, thank you.” Brilliant! I was going to be able to see what all the positive reviews were about at last. A smidgen of concern then took over. “He said it wasn’t very good though… surely it can’t be a bad car after all the positive press that’s been out there, no… surely not.” Not wanting to wait around to find out, I politely took the keys and calmly walked outside to the car.
Taking my position in the driver’s seat I was immediately aware of how basic it was, but was pleased to find a good old fashioned 5-speed manual and a nice simple steering wheel with a good feel and shape. It had no toys as such but it’s a car that doesn’t need toys. Why? Because the whole car is one. It’s tiny, but you don’t feel uncomfortable in it. The driving position is decent for a diddly-car and the pedals feel just right under your feet, it’s a very welcoming car, one might say inviting. But what was it inviting me for? I was soon to find out.
It was inviting me to drive it absolutely flat out everywhere I drove. This car wants to be driven. The engine is small enough to fit on a pinhead with room for a few more; it’s a 1.0l 3-cylinder unit producing a measly 60bhp. But that’s not really a bad thing, this car doesn’t feel as terribly slow as you might expect it to and the Up! doesn’t under-perform. You can chuck it around a bit and the real focus when driving it is keeping up momentum. You’ll want to keep your speed high so you don’t lose any of it because you have to work so damn hard to get it up to a high speed in the first place. The engine is not turbo charged, it is what it is, you don’t get anything to help you go faster. So it’s ‘Up!’ to you to bring the best out of it.
As you can see from the picture above, I live in a beautiful but rural area. I drove this car around a lot of small twisty roads and even down some single track lanes out to the coast where this image was taken. It was fantastic down those roads, a genuinely fun experience, light, nippy and cheerful despite my constant thrashing of it. I covered around 100 miles during that day, and the fuel consumption was excellent too. That was despite me driving it around like a lunatic pretty much from the moment it left the forecourt. The fuel gauge did drop of course, but I didn’t have to top it up and you all know what a measly amount of fuel dealerships keep in these cars. The only time this wonderful little car found itself lacking was on the A-road when it was overtaken by just about everything.
But do you know what? I still had fun. I was jumping up and down in my seat shouting ‘POWERRR’ just like Clarkson trying to keep up with everybody passing me while my girlfriend looked over from the passenger seat with a mixture of humour and concern upon her face. She secretly loved it too, I know she did.
In an age where accessible and easy power is found in nearly all of our cars, I can’t tell you how refreshing it suddenly was to be made to work for every single MPH I could get on that speedometer. I loved how the steering wheel was just a steering wheel, not a glorified stereo remote that can occasionally be used to make a car change direction, and I loved having just 5 gears again. We shouldn’t be too quick to judge these cars for being too small, too slow and too dull. Instead, we should be getting out there and driving one for ourselves and reacquainting ourselves with the simple joy of driving a car. No computers, no fiddly buttons, no extras we don’t really ever need or use. Just a little car with a little engine, and a great big personality.