2013 Volkswagen E-Up! Headed For U.S. Market

The Up!, Volkswagen's ambitious new minicar, has not been earmarked for North-America. But in the most recent planning round, we find the E-Up!, also known as NSF BEV (New Small Family, Battery Electric Vehicle), scheduled to hit select U.S. cities for 2013. Technology and range are still to be determined, but the concept E-Up!, which debuted at last fall's Frankfurt auto show, featured a 60 kilowatt-hour electric motor and could go a distance of about 80 miles, per Volkswagen claims.

The electric vehicle will be the lowest volume variant of the Up!, which Volkswagen has billed as the spiritual successor to the original Beetle and projects at 600,000 sales annually in its initial production stage. Originally conceived as a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive urban runabout, plans quickly switched to front-wheel drive for cost and complexity reasons. The styling, however, has changed little from the concept first seen in 2007, so expect a slim wraparound air intake, a short upright rear end, and blacked out B-pillars on the outside combined with an ultramodern, Bauhaus-meets-Apple interior. Initially, there will only be two body styles to choose from: a two- and a four-door hatchback. Still to come are the Space Up! microvan and the Audi A2, which will use the same basic matrix.

Pricing for the EV is still up in the air, but the gas and diesel versions will go for between 8000 and 9000 Euro ($10,000 to $11,000). Not surprisingly, the base Up! is not generously equipped, but it's no Tata Nano either. Antilock brakes, stability control, and two airbags are said to be standard, though the bargain model lacks power steering, height-adjustable seats, electric windows, central locking and even a spare tire. The new baby Volkswagen surprises with its high-quality appearance, denoted by ultra-thin cut lines, top-notch materials and detailing good enough for a Passat. A low-cost version of the VW Up! may be built by Suzuki for distribution in certain low labor-cost markets like China and India.

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