I’ve made no secret of my disgust at Greenpeace’s recent anti-Volkswagen campaign, The Dark Side – it was misleading, divisive and downright ignorant. These raging activists took Volkswagen to task for their failure to sign up to more stringent CO2 targets in Europe, castigating them for lobbying against the proposed 30 per cent threshold that environmentalists were campaigning to become law.

Let’s be absolutely clear, this wasn’t experts presenting a well thought out analysis of the car industry, it was self-righteous vigilantes treating the public’s intelligence with utter contempt.

To quote some of the Greenpeace rhetoric, “(Volkswagen)…are not as efficient as you might think. For every ‘greener’ vehicle VW sells, it shifts around 15 others which emit much more C02. Volkswagen adds a huge price mark-up for its greener vehicles – way above the cost of the technology – as it tries to cash in on your green conscience.”

Introducing the NEW Volkswagen up!

Anyone with an ounce of awareness will know that Volkswagen have been developing their new hyper-efficient city car for most of the past decade, it was first shown in 2007 as a rear-wheel-drive mid-engined concept and is intended to be built by at least three of the VW Group marques.

So it sounds like a pretty serious effort to reduce global CO2 emissions, given that most of VW’s customers live in cities.

It’s also designed from the outset as a new affordable small car range, although Volkswagen have not yet confirmed pricing of the up! It’s an entirely new design, offering maximum space on a minimal footprint (3.54 x 1.64 m) and will be launched in Europe in December.

There are three versions for different budgets and needs: take up! is the entry-level car, move up! the comfort-oriented model and high up! the top version. At the car’s market launch, there will also be two models based on the high up!: up! black and up! white.

Volkswagen up!

Making its debut in the up! is a new generation of three-cylinder petrol engines, with outputs of 59 bhp and 74 bhp. Combined fuel consumption as a BlueMotion Technology version (including a Stop/Start system) is 67 mpg (59 bhp), and CO2 emissions for this version are less than 100 g/km. There are also plans for an up! with electric drive.

No doubt we could criticise VW for not making BlueMotion the standard across the range, but let’s remember VW are a commercial enterprise who ultimately can only survive by offering products which customers want to buy – they are giving customers a choice and no doubt will focus even more of their future development on BlueMotion technologies if buyers vote with their cheque books.

The same thing happened with large luxury cars – the availability of more fuel efficient 3-litre turbo diesel engines eventually made V12 and V8 models about as commonplace as the white rhino.

Efficiency without compromising safety

An important new safety technology in the up! is the optional City Emergency Braking system. It is automatically active at speeds under 18mph, and uses a laser sensor to detect the risk of an impending collision.

Depending on speed and situation, City Emergency Braking can reduce accident severity by initiating automatic brake interventions that can even avoid a crash. So far, the up! is the only vehicle in its segment to be offered with this function.

At 3.54 metres in length and 1.64 metres in width and 1.48 metres in height, the up! is one of the smallest four-seater cars. Its overall length consists of short body overhangs and a long wheelbase of 2.42 metres. Use of space in the car is exceptionally good, because of the wheelbase, which is one of the longest in the segment, combined with an engine that is mounted well forward on the front axle.

The 251-litre boot is also significantly larger than is typical in this class and when the rear seat is fully folded, cargo space is increased to 951 litres.

The most economical journey is also one that takes the most efficient route

Volkswagen up! - Interior

For the first time in a Volkswagen, the maps + more system is now being offered, which is a mobile Personal Infotainment Device (PID). In the economically priced up!, this is an equally economical system that was developed to organise navigation, telephone, information and entertainment, and was designed in cooperation with Navigon, one of the world’s leading suppliers of navigation systems.

The user simply snaps the PID into place above the centre console. Unlike many other similar systems of this type, maps + more melds with the car’s network of systems more effectively: navigation, telephone and infotainment can be controlled and viewed via the maps + more touchscreen, which can also be used to view vehicle information, such as the display of the parking sensors (where fitted).

Apps specially developed for the up! also let users extend maps + more to meet their specific needs and therefore make it possible for buyers to take advantage of future traffic avoidance systems.

Volkswagen’s message to Greepeace

I suspect Volkswagen would be delighted to show Greenpeace their new efficient city car range, then perhaps the environmental lobbyists could turn their efforts towards encouraging people to buy this sub-100 g/km car and thereby help save fragile environments like the Arctic.

In fact I’m certain Volkswagen would welcome such support. Over to you Greenpeace..


Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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