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The Charging Point

Your one-stop destination for electric and hybrid cars

The Volkswagen e-Up driving along the open road

VW e-Up

Why does this car matter?

The e-Up might sound like a Yorkshire greeting, but as one of the more affordable EVs currently on sale, it's a rather important little car. Tasked with being cleaner and cheaper to run than any combustion-engined small hatchback, it will give many buyers their first taste of zero emissions motoring.

Equipped with an 18.7 kWh battery, the e-Up has a range of up to 100 miles according to VW. That battery powers an 81bhp electric motor that drives the front wheels.

Is it good to drive?

Being as compact as it is and with so much instantly-available torque - 155lb ft of torque, to be exact - the e-Up is quicker off the line than many more powerful cars. The motor does its best work below 50mph, where the pocket-sized VW is small and nippy enough to burst through gaps in traffic. At higher speeds it loses its advantage, but it certainly doesn't get left behind. Around town it even feels brisk enough in the Eco+ driving mode, which actually limits performance in order to preserve battery charge. And it's around town where the e-Up really belongs. Apart from being brisk and quick off the mark it also has a mature ride quality, crisp steering and decent cabin space despite the tiny exterior dimensions. The cabin quality, incidentally, is very good.

Among the hustle and bustle of city traffic, the e-Up's regenerative braking is very effective. When you lift off the throttle to slow down for a junction the car recovers energy that would otherwise be lost as heat under braking. You only need to use the brake pedal itself to bring the car to a complete halt. On faster, flowing roads that function is more frustrating than it is helpful, in which case you simply turn it off.

The stack of batteries weighs 230kg, which means the e-Up is around 20 per cent heavier than its petrol equivalents. You do feel that extra mass in cornering, but it doesn't entirely erode the e-Up's agile and lively handling behaviour. Importantly, there is still fun to be had.

VW may claim a 100-mile range, but you'll only achieve that at a steady cruise. Even then you'll need to be unnaturally light on the accelerator pedal and leave the air conditioning well alone. Drive the e-Up as though you've got somewhere to be and it'll return 60 miles, although with a little care and attention you can stretch that out to 70.

According to VW's own research that should be enough to satisfy 90 per cent of electric car drivers' daily needs. The e-Up's battery will fully recharge in nine hours via a household three-pin socket. By using one of the Combined Charging System (CCS) points that are dotted around the UK's road network, though, the battery can be replenished to 80 per cent in as little as 30 minutes.

Rear view of a white Volkswagen e-Up driving through a bustling street

What's the verdict?

Being as limited on range as it is the e-Up won't work for everybody - and if you can't charge it at home or at work it's a total non-starter - but for anybody who wants a nippy, emissions-free urban runaround, it's very hard to fault. It isn't exactly cheap, though. At £21,275, even after the £4,500 government grant, the e-Up is the most expensive version of VW's smallest hatchback by some £7,000.

Score 7

Data

Engine/power unit Electric motor
Transmission Single speed direct drive, front-wheel drive
Power 81bhp
Torque 155lb ft
0-62mph 12.4 seconds
Top speed 81mph
Weight 1,214kg
Fuel economy n/a
Emissions n/a
Electric range 100 miles
Price £21,275 (after government grant)

One of the most accelerative cars on the road is also among the most relaxing. Who saw that coming?"

Read more Portrait of writer Dan Prosser