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April 10, 2012

Volkswagen Up! Wins World Car of the Year in New York

by lacarguy

by Zack McDonald

The Volkswagen Up! small car has been announced winner of the 2012 World Car of the Year at the New York Auto Show last week. The diminutive new vehicle beat out the Porsche 911 and BMW 3 series to take the honor, with judges citing superior innovation and refinement as the chief reasons for its selection.

“The little Volkswagen Up! has altered what we have come to expect from the citycar segment,” wrote the panel.”Of note are the responsive steering, sophisticated suspension setup, new efficient engines and the quality of materials and finish… Never before in this economy segment have owners felt so premium.”
The Up! has received critical acclaim and performed strongly in the market since its release in Europe late last year. Volkswagen says it hasn’t decided whether to bring a version of the car to the United States, where small cars are less common and the Up!’s 60-horsepower engine might not be enough to satisfy consumers. What might be very attractive to drivers here though is the vehicle’s 56 mpg under the forgiving European test cycle (official fuel economy numbers would be somewhat lower in the U.S.)

Volkswagen has shown off nearly a dozen variations on the Up! since its debut as a concept in 2007. Two of those variations are the e-Up! electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid modeled on VW’s “1-Liter” concept that gets 79 mpg. Other revealed Up! concepts include an outdoor adventure model called the X Up!, a five-door version, a GTI with 25 percent more horsepower, and the Eco Up!, which runs on both gasoline and compressed natural gas.

Why all the concepts? Volkswagen has been committed to developing what it calls its New Small Family (NSF) class for several years, meeting what it thinks will be emerging demand for ultracompact city vehicles in the coming years. Toyota, Fiat, BMW and others are also very interested in this segment, with Toyota having released its Scion iQ and Fiat its 500 in the United States in just the past year. The Volkswagen Group will be gradually rolling out a number NSF platform vehicles across its multiple nameplates, including a possible new Audi e-tron series.

As yet its still unknown how many of these cars will make it to North America, though Fiat has built significant momentum behind its 500 of late and there is evidence that American consumers are “thinking small” once again—always a good sign for the prospects of a diminutive Volkswagen offering in the United States.

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