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Automotive Engineer

Volkswagen Up

Outstanding packaging, sub-1,000kg kerb weight, sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and autonomous emergency braking make this A-segment vehicle the benchmark city car

Excellent packaging in the engine bay and in the cabin means lots of space from a compact footprint

Margins in the A-segment are small but it’s an increasingly important market for  manufacturers as consumers downsize in their choice of vehicles, and as CO2 emissions targets make larger vehicles less attractive.

Volkswagen has had mixed fortunes here. The Lupo was well engineered but was relatively expensive. Its replacement, the Fox, was less compact than models such as the Toyota Aygo, and lacked style against the Fiat 500.

The VW Up must do better. It should – low weight, low emissions and good interior packaging were the main targets against benchmark models, it has what’s claimed to be the segment’s first autonomous emergency braking system, and the entry-level model costs less than €10,000.

Another reason is the role of senior management. As well as receiving monthly reports on project status, the firm’s chairman and head of development took great personal interest in the programme.

“Martin Winterkorn and Dr Ulrich Hackenberg are highly interested in the technical aspects of the car – they aren’t like chief executives from some OEMs who want to have a good product but don’t know the details,” says Gunnar Wagner, VW’s head of technical project management for the Up. “With materials, with production, with all components: they want to know about it.”

The first concept was shown at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show as a rear-engined city car. This configuration was intended to improve cabin space, but a conventional front engine, front-wheel drive layout was chosen for the series model.

It meant a lot of extra work, but achieved far greater commonality with modules used in models such as the B-segment Polo. And the cost of developing a bespoke powertrain that could not be used in any other VW Group vehicles would have been prohibitive.

So the firm developed a modular gasoline engine family, known internally as the EA111, which will be used by all brands. 

The Up gets three-cylinder versions; Audi will be the first to receive the fours, which will appear in the latest transverse-engine vehicle platform known as MQB.

“You can say that we started in the wrong direction but then we worked with our colleagues to create a new engine family,” says Kai Persigehl, responsible for EA111 engine development. 

“The three-cylinder is the first; the four-cylinder will start at the beginning of next year with Audi.”

The cooling circuit has been carefully optimised. It could be made smaller than before, which meant that the radiator could be moved to the left of the engine bay and positioned in front of the transmission instead of further forwards in front of the engine.

Active assistance: A lidar sensor from Continental scans the road 10m ahead