The ability to negotiate a one-way system with reasonable vigour is no longer sufficient. Consequently, the Up must be economical, refined and responsive in equal measure – a tall order for a car with a three-cylinder engine.
The paucity of power even in the 74bhp version – and the characteristic rasp of the vocal three-pot – are most noticeable when pulling away, even though the 89bhp turbocharged versions go some way to negating that issue. Considerable revs are required even with only a moderate getaway in mind. More aggressive starts are met with an incredulous response from the clutch and throttle, usually resulting in a humiliating crawl before the engine catches up with your intentions.
Fortunately, the experience improves from there. Three-cylinder petrol units are often characterised as lively or ‘happy’ motors, and VW’s latest generation by and large lives up to the billing regardless of which power output you choose.
Its hoarse tone never totally disappears, and the engine’s natural cylinder imbalance means that there’s always a hint of shiver through the car’s short spine, but both are softened at a cruise, and progression often seems reasonable for the Up’s character – especially around town.