By on March 17, 2014


As of late Brazil has been on a roll and a multitude of makers have set up or are in the process of setting up in our tropical paradise. Everybody from Jaguar to Hyundai (not to mention a motley crew of Chinese brands) are placing their bets, but they face an obstacle that nobody has really noticed: the existence of a number of foreign makes that locals consider, well, local. Among them, the most Brazilian of makes – Volkswagen. Currently trailing Fiat, and sometimes GM, VW nonetheless is as Brazilian as feijoada, and for the first time in decades, VW has deemed us worthy of getting a taste of the best they have to offer on their European menu, the whimsically named up!.

My oh my, what a wonderful little thing it is, albeit different in its Brazilian incarnation. The up! delivers a nutritious meal in a tight, dare I say it, beautiful package. Never having been one that cared much for the looks of VWs, I’m humbled to say I approve. I approve very much. Though it sits quite upright, it is both narrow and short, using the beauty of its simple lines to create a positive impression. Most impressively in our post-Bangle world, it does so without any undue reliance on wanton creases and bulges. Peculiarly attractive is the way the windshield meshes into the front fenders and hoods. To nitpick, my only objection would be that the front could have been done more demurely, but that’s besides the point. To compare this with the unwieldy shapes that usually come out of Asia’s subcompact cars is truly a lesson to be taken to heart.

The Brazilian up! at 142 inches long is 2.5 inches longer than the European one. Although it is about an inch taller than the Euro version, its width and wheelbase remain the same. The extra length is explained by the need for more trunk (285m³) and the extra height is due to a taller stance that better handles our bad roads, and VW recognizing that some extra tirewall does add comfort. In Europe the up! is strictly a four seater, while here it is homologated for five. Other differences include rear windows that actually go down and a hatch made of metal and not glass.

Though it starts at a reasonable R$26,500 (and goes up to a very unreasonable R$46,000), most versions are equipped with the bare, legal minimum level of safety features(ABS and 2 frontal airbags – thank God for government regulation) and all desirable equipment (electrical windows, locks, AC and on it goes and goes and goes) costs a pretty penny. Besides the looks, the mini VW pales in comparison to some of the competition in terms of features, but VW does have a trump card.

Surprisingly enough, that ace comes in the form of a 3 cylinder 1.0L 12v engine. Believe me, it’s a gem. It has an aluminum block, variable valve timing and a double cooling circuit (which allow the head and block to work at different temperatures). All of this, I’m told, helps the little engine in terms of efficiency and output. The mill corrals 75 horses on Brazilian gas (E25) and 82 hp on pure Brazilian ethanol.

More importantly, 85% of total torque (9.7m.kgf and 10.4m.kgf, respectively) is available at a low 2000 rpm. While the engine struggles a little against its inherent 3 cylinder imbalance at idle, the effect is minimal in comparison to other brands (namely Hyundai’s) 3 cylinders in our market. Most Brazilians will not even notice it’s not an I4. It also pulls very well up to its lofty redline and thanks to its suave functioning, it never feels unduly strained.

Top speed is a little low, around 165km/h, and 0-100km/h is accomplished at about 12-13 seconds. The consumption is the highlight of this car. Real world drivers are reporting 10km/l in heavy stop and go traffic. Other cars in the 1.0L category, in such circumstances, rarely get more than 9.

I find most Volkswagens a tad on the stiff side, especially the best-selling VW in Brazil and perennial market leader, the Gol. The Gol is fun to take out on the road and gun it, a situation in which it shines. However, in the city, that extra stiffness proves not at all pliant. That makes for a downright unpleasant ride. The up! on the other hand, took the curves I threw at it in a nonchalant manner, all the while being quite comfy in our slow traffic and took in the bumps on our imperfect pavement in a more civilized fashion. I hope this sets a trend for future VWs. Though surely stiffer than some of the competition, the up!’s suspension system does not add discomfort at low speeds due to its relative competence at higher speeds.

Once inside the car, most Brazilian buyers will probably be pleasantly surprised. In spite of the gimmicky flat bottomed steering wheel, the rest of the interior is modern and minimalist. VW was careful in choosing plastics that did not feel any less substantial than that in competitors. Some will balk at the metal apparent on the doors, a throwback to more pristine times, but on the whole it seems rather well screwed together with no glaring deficiencies as to finishing. Instrumentation is adequate, as are seat adjustments. The seating position is very pleasant and one does sit more up than in other small VWs, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Seats, pedals and wheel are almost perfectly aligned and the gear shift action is minimal and light, and most especially quiet. I, who stands 1.8m tall, found headroom and shoulder room more than adequate while in the back footroom and hiproom are at a premium.

The most glaring defect is that air vents are only present off to the side. In the center console there’s simply no room. Up on the dashboard, close to the windshield, there is another one, but its adjustability is limited. Also, since the infotainment system is a couple-on affair that goes right in front of that vent, its usability is rendered even lower. On the day I drove the car it wasn’t that hot, so I didn’t suffer, but I’d be wary of the apparent lack of climate control in a country where temperatures can get up to and above the 40°C mark in the summer.

Due to its tall greenhouse, sight lines are better than in most, though the pillars can intrude. In all honesty I expected better, but quite good for a modern car. The light steering and compact dimensions, added to the adequate sight lines make city parking quite easy. Finally, this is the second Brazilian car to score a perfect five star rating in Latin NCap testing. So, safe it is.

All in all, a nice surprise from VW. The Volkswagen up! offers great economy, tidy but relatively spacious cabin, modern internal ambience, technological gadgets, safe, nice interior design, great exterior design. If you can stomach the relatively high asking price, and the usual VW-games with accessories, this is a Volkswagen that even I would be happy to own.

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40 Comments on “Dispatches Do Brasil: Movin On Up!...”

  • avatar

    Nice work Marcelo….Its always interesting to get another countrys perspective.

    BTW How much does gas cost in Brazil?

  • avatar

    What VW have done there (for Brazil) is put the Up front clip on a Skoda Citigo 5-door, hence the main differences from the Euro model.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really, the Brazilian up! sits on the same platform as the current Euro up platform. VW was even given federal money as they called it a technological transfer investment. As touched upon in the article, this is the first time in decades thst Brazilian VWs are using the same equipment as the Euro ones. Henve, the 5 star frontal crash test and (i don’t remeber now) a 4 or 5 star rating for kid’s protection in the back.

      When VW launched this car in Brazil, they made a big deal asto the up being the world’s safest subcompact. This could only be achieved using the latest tech. Though simple,I have to admit being admired as to how well it was screwed together. At the dealer there was a cut out showing where they applied the special steels etc.

      The pic BTW is wrong. It’s a Euro model. All Brazilian ups have 4 doors for now.

      • 0 avatar

        In Europe there’s also 2 different lengths, one is normal (3,54 m)and other is Cross UP!(3,563 m), kinda Allroad/Volvo XC version of UP!, a bit higher and with plastic “off road” crap attached. Their difference is 2,3 cm which is purely because of different bumper design. I don’t know if VW really went and created 3rd version which is only one inch longer than that Cross Up! Seems kinda pointless.

        • 0 avatar

          Manic, actually it does make sense. The Brazilian up will be exported to all Latin America and VW expanded their unit in Paraná to take n the extra demand. VW’s expectation for this car is that it’ll dispute the crown of the market. Though it’ll cannibalize Gol sales and the Gol sales will do the same to the up, 200 000 ups a year just in Brazil is possible within a short time frame.

          VW added the extra length to make it larger than its main rival the Fiat Uno (at 280m³). It’s an important selling point as these cars sell to family, often as their primary or only car.

          So, let’s say 150k units a year in Brazil, another 80 to 100k in exports. Well worth VW’s while.

          The CrossUp is planned for here too. As is the Taigun. It’ll spawn a large family. Even a sedan is in studies.

      • 0 avatar

        The Up! and the Citigo are on the same platform anyway … so swapping some body bits to gain the extra length would be quite easy.

        • 0 avatar

          I may be completely wrong, but I see nothing really in common. Anyway, the narrative in Brazil is that the up was developed from the start with Brazilian input as VW thinks the up is the 21st century’s Beetle. They even go so far as to name a VW Brasil designer as the up designer. These things tend to get muddled up and all local VW branches (including Skoda in the Czech Republic) will say they were instrumental in the car’s development. I guess it comes down to whom one chooses to believe.

  • avatar

    I could see commuting in one. Maybe not every day, and not for more than 15 miles, but for quick trips here and there, it would be fine, and so easy to park.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the review, it’s refreshing to get another perspective.
    How do you get the best deal on an automobile like this one in Brazil?

  • avatar

    marcelo, i thought ethanol had less power than gasoline. if that is so how does running it on pure ethanol result in more horsepower than E85?

    • 0 avatar

      I think it has less energy density, which results in less mileage, but a greater explosive capacity that gives it more burst. Or something like that. Am in a bit of a hurry now, and I don’t remember how to techinically expain it, but maybe one of the BandB can do it. Later on I’ll check and see the technical explanation and deliver it if no one does it before.

      Thanks for reading!

      • 0 avatar

        > I think it has less energy density, which results in less mileage, but a greater explosive capacity that gives it more burst.

        It has greater resistance to exploding, which allows higher compression or in this case probably more aggressive timing which implies more power.

        • 0 avatar

          Remember that the engines here do have relatively high compression to deal with the ethanol content. And you’re right I think, it’s more rsistant so compression can be higher and timimng delayed without incurring into knocking. That’s why ethanol is worse for mileage, but does give more hp, all esle being equal.

          • 0 avatar

            The engines may have bit higher compress to start with if e25 is the baseline; I was mostly explaining the claimed increase in power with a simple change in ethanol ratio, which is unlikely due to variable compression.

          • 0 avatar

            agenthex, the compression rate on the Brazilian engine is 11,5:1, a full point higher than that in the German engine. According to the link below, which contains a very good, technical explanation of the technology used in this engine. It’s in Portuguese, but a Google translate could make it readable in English.
            autoentusiastas blogspot com br/2013/06/motor-de-3-cilindros-vw-chega-ao-brasil html

    • 0 avatar

      Ethanol has a much lower stoichiometric ratio with air than gasoline does. While any given volume of ethanol will contain less energy than gasoline, you can burn far more ethanol than you can gasoline in an engine of a given displacement and atmospheric pressure.

      Gas burns completely with air at a 14.7:1 ratio by mass, meaning almost 15 parts air per unit of gasoline. Alcohol burns completely at 9:1. The mixture at complete combustion for a gas engine is 6.8% gasoline, while for ethanol it is 11.1% alcohol. That’s why you can make more power, but you’re still accomplishing it by sacrifices in efficiency, in this case burning up to 63.3% more fuel at peak output. Fortunately for people pushing ethanol, union organized schools don’t teach the tools required to not be a chump.

      • 0 avatar

        That sounds about right. Not being an engineer, people explain these things to me and then I forget. Then, when someone explains it again, I say, oh yeah, I remember now.

        Thanks CJ.

      • 0 avatar

        Stop the presses, CJinSD finally managed to get something right for once. We should organize some sort of prize-giving to mark this monumental occasion.

        > That’s why you can make more power, but you’re still accomplishing it by sacrifices in efficiency, in this case burning up to 63.3% more fuel at peak output. Fortunately for people pushing ethanol, union organized schools don’t teach the tools required to not be a chump.

        But unfortunately it’s back to business as usual. Efficiency isn’t calculated by volume but rather by utilization of chemical energy. I guess they managed to teach simple ratios at the “right to learn” school but not any science.

        • 0 avatar

          The fundamental difference here was that my answer to the question was true while yours was a great illustration of ignorance attempting to spread ignorance. Here’s a thought: if you don’t know the answer to a question or have any relevant knowledge or experience, don’t pretend that you do. Just stick to expressing your worthless opinions. You won’t look much less silly, but at least you won’t mislead anyone.

          • 0 avatar

            Again, I fully acknowledge broken clocks to be correct once in a while. However, some folks apparently generalize anomalous events into expectations.

            This is the fundamental reason why some people rapidly increase their accuracy with time, while others continue to believe it’s always 2pm.

            Human ignorance of the world is the norm but can be trivially fixed, but stupid is forever.

          • 0 avatar

            ” Human ignorance of the world is the norm but can be trivially fixed, but stupid is forever.”

            If it’s so trivial, then why are we having trouble fixing your ignorance? I’m leaning to the second half of your sentence as an apt description of your supercilious pronouncements. Maximum Power in DC electric motors is developed low in the rpm range unlike gasoline engines, you say. Since that’s wrong, what other technical gems are you preparing to bestow on us, your lowly serfs, oh lord?

            Have you awarded yourself a Nobel Prize for all round brilliance yet? If not, why not , thermo man?

          • 0 avatar

            > If it’s so trivial, then why are we having trouble fixing your ignorance? I’m leaning to the second half of your sentence as an apt description of your supercilious pronouncements.

            It’s truly irrelevant how the clueless lean.

            > Maximum Power in DC electric motors is developed low in the rpm range unlike gasoline engines, you say. Since that’s wrong, what other technical gems are you preparing to bestow on us, your lowly serfs, oh lord?

            And this is a prime demonstration of why that is. Regardless of valiant attempts to test the dummies’ literacy against the original link in question, here they remain stuck at 2pm:


          • 0 avatar

            ^ Also just to be clear since it defies the lowest of expectations what this crowd gets confused about, gas engines tend to operate on similar principles as steam ones far as torque curves are concerned. Once you learn what those are this implies relatively flat instead of inverted like electric.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile


    Did you really have to start an article referring to that? Now I’m hungry… and in need of a recipe. I’d love to have a plate of that “bomb” for lunch.

    I’ve seen that little thing around here, not very frequently. A-segment cars are not very common here.

    The consumption numbers are a bit rubbish. My V6 averages 13.7 lt/100 in mixed city/freeway driving, the city part being mostly uphill in stop&go traffic. I more often than not use E10. That little thing must be, on a bad day, 8lt/100.

    • 0 avatar

      hola Athos! LOL, feijoada is da bomb!

      As to the consumption, remember I’m talking of slow, hot, heavy Brazilian traffic with almost no freeway or even avenue speeds. From what I’ve heard, kind of like the traffic in Caracas. My commute takes 15-20 min on Saturday. Rush hour, anywhere from 50 to 1h and a half.
      São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte all have hills too. Finally, the gas here has anywhere from 22 to 29ish ethanol content. And the gas is relatively low quality with high sulfur content and low octane. On Astralian gasoline, even in this traffic, I could see 15 to 16 km/l easily.

      Recently one of the local papers did a review here with the Prius. It only got 18.6 km/l. In real wrld could be even less. In our conditions, pretty good.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Caracas’ traffic is the very definition of hell. I counted one morning how many gear changes I did and stopped counting at ~600. It took me nearly 2 hrs to get to work back then.

        When I moved to the “interior”, it was 40 minutes… without speed enforcement ;)

        Petrol down here is not bad. E10 is marketed as 95 octane. I buy because it’s cheaper and usually don’t carry the supermarket discount docket with me (4c less). On straight petrol, I go for nothing higher than 91. I’d give E85 a go, but my car is not prepared to take it.

        The lovely bit is that you can have up to 98-100 octane depending on the brand.

        • 0 avatar

          Your in Oz Athos?
          VW UP sales have been very quiet, Feb 2014 YTD 29 vs Feb 2013 403.
          Using my finely calibrated brain, that sounds like stock issues, but the micro segment is down 20% Year to Year.

          Re: E10 being 95Octane, that because some fuel companies can’t be bothered producing 89 Octane and then blending up to 91 Octane.
          However imported fuel is brought in at 89 Octane, and splash blended to 91Octane. So E10 is not always 95Octane

          • 0 avatar

            The US uses the AKI method to measure octane; much of the rest of the world uses RON.

            95 octane RON = 91 octane AKI. 91 RON = about 87 AKI.

          • 0 avatar

            In Brazil we use RON. Besides the fact that our gasoline includes a 22 to about 29% ethanol, the official ratings are: common gasoline 87, common gasoline with additives 87, “premium” gasoline 91 and “podium” gasoline 95. Most local makes recommend the common gasoline, some recommend with others without additives. The podium gasoline is almost double the regular kind.

            Ethanol has a RON rating of 100 or 110, depending on who you consult, but the official number is 100.

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile


            Seems you have access to some VFACTS numbers there. I go by what I see on the streets.

            Regarding the E10, that’s what the United or Liberty bowser says. I started using it after going to an engine conference in which a lady working for some lobbying company explained where the ethanol here came from, its benefits, etc… There were some Holden engineers talking about the LPG Commodore, they explained me some stuff about SIDI during snack time.

            Thanks for the 89 octane/petrol mixes info bit, didn’t know that.

  • avatar

    Great test Marcelo! Is the reliability of this new VW UP! or DOWN¿

    • 0 avatar

      It’s been out for about a month, but the VW Fox already uses this engine, possibly for 6 months and in effect was a sort of beta tester. So far so good in that car’s case, rapidly developing a reputation as the most economic in Brazil. Being that the Fox is bigger and heavier than the up! that title should be taken by the up soon. Contrast that to the also new 1.0 I4 or 1.6 I4 present in the Gol, Fox and Polo. Those are developing a very bad reputation as self imploding dogs!

      6 months is probably too early to tell though

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The up! is one VW I’d consider owning. I saw a very compelling video review of this vehicle a while ago, and it’s a pretty nice car.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey SCE to AUX! Me too. Shame that interior pics were not posted as it looks really nice. There are colors, bold reds, white, creamy dashes and seats, seats with splashes of red and striking striped colors. It is also very roomy (in the front) and could be a great, economic, kind of support car for our Logan that serves (very well) as the family car.

      It also drives great, the engine revs well, is refined (free from undue vibrations, except for a little at idle) and for a 1.0 has very good pulling power. Plus the ride is just firm enough to make it fun, but doesn’t break your spine. The electric steering is some of the best I1ve experienced yet. It really doesn’t completely disconnect you from the cars like so many others.

      Like I said in the article, in all my life, this is the first time I’ve ever wanted a VW.

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