We were the first to tell you about plans to resurrect the rear-engined Volkswagen (see Volkswagen City Expert), and now the VW Group is making it public with the Volkswagen Up! concept car that debuts at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. The tiny Volkswagen four-seater is the first member of what VW head Martin Winterkorn calls the NSF, or New Small Family, of diminutive city commuters. "This car represents affordable mobility for everybody," says Winterkorn. "Many different variants are possible." Indeed, insiders hint that we'll see different takes on the theme as early as the Tokyo Motor Show in October and again at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. (Let's hope they differ from each other more than Mini's endless string of nearly identical Clubman concepts last year.)
Measuring just over eleven feet in length and some 5.3 feet in width, the Volkswagen Up! concept car has virtually no overhangs, no front grille, and a large glass hatch with the familiar VW logo mounted under the glass; the logo illuminates at night. Inside, all secondary controls--navigation, radio, trip computer, and climate--are controlled via a seven-inch touch screen, and vehicle systems are displayed on a second, eight-inch monitor. Volkswagen insists that these systems will be completely intuitive, and although the company does not mention Apple Computer by name, it's clear that the goal is to for the Up! to be as easy to use as an iPod. The foldable seats (except for the driver's seat) can either be removed or stowed in the rear cargo area. An air-inflation device inflates the seats around the individual shapes of different occupants.
No powertrain was specified for the Volkswagen Up! concept, but the implication is that a variety of fuel-sipping gasoline, diesel, or hybrid power sources could be installed at the rear of the vehicle. VW head Winterkorn claims the Up! is capable of some 67 mpg, although we'd have to say that's a very pie-in-the-sky number.
It's very likely that the Up! is our first glimpse of an actual future production Volkswagen; the question is whether it will come to the United States. Adrian Hallmark, head of VW of America, notes that he and his Stateside colleagues have expressed their interest in getting a version of the car here, but he would prefer a four-door. Hallmark repeatedly has noted this year that he would very much like a car smaller than the Golf for America, in light of rising gasoline prices and widespread interest in cars like the Honda Fit.