LA Auto Show: VW Up! Lite

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes

VW’s biggest news from LA today is the Up! Lite, no doubt designed by some uptight Germans intent on bring a strange looking, Germanically efficient vehicle to the shores of America (or Poland). Obviously a result of VW’s development of a 100+MPG 1+1 seater car, the 70 mpg Up! Lite makes up for its homely looks with in-town efficiency. But then its main competition, the Toyota iQ and Smart FortTwo aren’t exactly lookers themselves. Under the hood lurks a 0.8L TDI engine and a 10kw electric motor making for leisurely acceleration despite the featherweight kerb figures.

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

More by Alex L. Dykes

Join the conversation
2 of 16 comments
  • Kendahl Kendahl on Dec 03, 2009

    Chuck and Saponetta: Please remember that the fuel used over an arbitrary distance is inversely proportional to mpg. This makes comparisons very unintuitive. People think linearly and mpg is nonlinear. To compare two cars, you have to take the inverse of each one's mpg rating and then subtract. That difference tells you how much you can save with one versus the other. Consider driving a thousand miles, which is somewhat less than than the national average for a month. A 15 mpg truck will burn 66.7 gallons. A truck that gets 20 mpg will use 50.0 gallons for a savings of 16.7 gallons. Over the same distance, a 33 mpg Civic will use 30.3 gallons and the 70 mpg VW will use 14.3 gallons. Compared to the Civic, the VW saves 16.0 gallons. To put it another way, a 33% improvement in truck mpg saves slightly more fuel than does the 112% improvement from the Civic to the VW. This isn't magic or sleight of hand. It's a direct consequence of the fact that mpg is a shit stupid way to measure fuel consumption. It misleads in two directions. At the low end, it understates substantial reductions in consumption. At the high end, it exaggerates marginal differences between highly economical vehicles. I don't doubt that some people are making buying decisions over a couple of mpg. They are the same ones who threw away thousands of dollars when they dumped nearly new trucks and SUVs in an attempt to save a few hundred dollars on gas. They do this because they don't (or can't) properly analyze their options. Two years ago, I was shopping for an automotive toy to enjoy through retirement. Fuel consumption was enough of a consideration that I invested several hours in building a spreadsheet that compared a broad range of candidates from a Civic to a Pontiac GTO. My analysis showed that the difference between the high and low ends was less than many people spend on cable TV or cell phones. At that point, I deleted the spreadsheet and stopped worrying. I agree that the Prius was a major accomplishment and that this VW is an engineering tour de force. However, it will do more good to replace Ford Explorers with Ford Escapes (I mean conventional Escapes, not the hybrid).

  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Dec 03, 2009

    70 mpg? The Euro press release says 2.44 L/100km, which is 96.4 mpg. For the combined figure, not for highway. Math fail?

  • MaintenanceCosts Absolutely. Most old classics are not Boss 429s or Busso Alfas. Most of them have powertrains that are just crap by modern standards. I'd love to have a classic without the pre-emissions stinky exhaust or the need to futz around constantly with points and jets to maintain drivability.
  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.
  • FreedMike Depends on the used car. If we're talking a numbers-matching GTO or something like that, then hell no. But if we're talking about something like a six-banger '67 Mustang, it'd be cool to make it into an EV with modern suspension, brakes and electronics. Call it an electro-restomod.
  • Billccm I think history is repeating itself. In the late 1980s the French acquired AMC. They discovered no easy money in that deal, Chrysler took AMC and Jeep is all that remained.Present day the French acquired FCA, discovered no easy money in the deal, and some Asian manufacturer will take what remains of Chrysler, and Jeep and RAM will be all that survived.To understand the future study the past.