First Look: 2012 Volkswagen Up!

Volkswagen is looking to get small – it has taken the wraps off of its all-new Up! city car before its official debut next month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Previewed by the concept of the same name at the 2007 Frankfurt show, the Up! slots in at the bottom of VW’s lineup – filling the hole left in 2005 by the Lupo – ready to take on the tight streets of European cities.

The Up! is tiny at under 140 inches long, roughly the same size as Fiat’s 500, and will have room for four. Interior space is maximized by a long wheelbase and short overhangs with 8.9 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the rear seats and up to 33.6 cubic feet with the seats folded. The look of the Up! is true to the concept: an upright greenhouse; a large, black glass rear hatch; and minuscule overhangs. Both front and rear fascias are almost identical to those on the concept, wearing a minimalist version of Volkswagen’s new corporate face and large taillights. The interior is kept simple with body-color dash trim, a large central speedometer, and an optional portable touch-screen device that integrates with the vehicle’s diagnostic system and includes navigation.

Powering the Up! is a trio of all-new three-cylinder engines. Most likely to be seen when the car goes on sale in the U.S. are the two gasoline-powered engines which make 59 and 74 hp, respectively. Standard is a start/stop system to help save fuel, yielding returns of an estimated 56 mpg for the 59-hp engine and 55 mpg for the 74-hp engine. A 67-hp natural gas-powered engine will be offered shortly after the car’s launch that Volkswagen estimates will return up to 73 mpg. All three of the engine options for the Up! will be offered with a five-speed manual transmission. And coming in 2013, the 2009 E-Up! concept will come to life with a production version of an all-electric Up!.

VW will also pack the Up! with high-end safety technology including its new City Emergency Braking system. Similar to Volvo’s CitySafety system, CEB uses a set of lasers to detect pedestrians or vehicles in front of the car and can automatically activate the brakes to reduce the possibility of a crash. The system is active at speeds up to 18 mph and will be standard on all Up! models.

The 2012 Volkswagen Up! will make its official debut next month at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and European sales will begin in December of this year. While pricing has not been announced yet, VW has announced along with Up! White and Up! Black launch editions, buyers will be able to choose from base and high Up! trim levels. We’ll have more details next month after the car’s unveiling.

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