Small cars like this are built for cities, and the e-UP! has performance that’s perfectly in tune with this role. Because electric motors produce all of their power as soon as you press the accelerator pedal, the little VW feels very perky when you pull away from a standstill. Up until about 20mph it will keep up with far more expensive cars. The acceleration then tails off a little, but it’s never enough to embarrass you or cause concern that you’re getting left behind on the sprint up to dual carriageway speeds.
The 0-62 time of 11.9 seconds isn’t going to have your kids boasting in the playground, but it’s more than respectable for a city car of this size. It’s unlikely you’re going to be doing sprints like this all the way to work of course, so what this performance potential really means is that you can drive gently enough to conserve the battery without having a queue of traffic building up behind you.
Driving the e-UP! couldn’t really be any easier. The controls are as simple to operate as any small automatic city car – start, select ‘D’ and move off. The only real difference is the lack of engine noise - although there is a faint, artificially created whirr which is designed to warn pedestrians that a car is nearby.
Once you’ve had a chance to digest the owner’s manual there are a few other options to make the e-UP! more efficient and perhaps more fun too. You can select four levels of ‘engine’ braking, where the car automatically turns the motor into a generator when you lift off the accelerator or touch the brake. This puts power back into the battery and improves the range. In the most extreme setting, it’s enough to warrant the car putting on the brake lights if you completely take your foot off the throttle pedal. However, it’s not quite enough to mean you can drive without touching the brake at all, as it is in some electric cars (such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3).
Other than the pedals, the e-UP! drives like you’d expect – it’s a very grown-up city car which is surprisingly refined and good fun.