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Engines on test: Volkswagen 1.0-liter TSI

Since its launch, there have been numerous calls for VW's slick city car, the Up!, to gain a turbocharger. Now that it has, we find out whether it's been worth the wait

 

In on test at the same time as the Bentley Bentayga, the diminutive city car made for a hilarious real-world comparison in terms of dimensions side-by-side with the luxury SUV.

Nevertheless, and despite being at the complete polar opposite of the VW Group spectrum, the Up is another model from the German giant making use of turbocharging, and TFSI technology. Since launch, the car has been available with a 1.0-liter engine in a number of tunes, but the addition of the singular turbocharger has helped boost headline performance statistics to 90ps and 160Nm, and has transformed the driving experience.

It isn’t a revolutionary change however, more a ticking of the final check box, giving the Up a flexibility that it never really had when normally aspirated. And while it hasn’t transformed the Up in to a fire-breathing racer, the new engine has allowed the city car to slash over 3.5 seconds from its 0-60mph time, in comparision to the outgoing 74ps model. The addition of the turbocharger doesn’t restrict the engine too much either as it remains willing to rev freely, albeit noticeably less so than the normally aspirated version.

In situ in the lightweight city car though, and with little weight over the front axle, the three-cylinder unit makes making progress in the Up a joy, be it on B-roads or around town, all accompanied by that unique three-cylinder off-beat thrum that strangely, sounds rather appealing inside the Up’s cabin. Internally, the engine retains the fundamental principals of the normally aspirated version, with bore and stroke untouched at 74.5 x 76.4mm respectively as well as the 82mm cylinder spacing.

The 5-speed transmission and lowly power output do leave the car exposed on faster A-roads and dual-carriageways. However, the free-revving nature and slick nature of the gearbox – a well-weighted gear throw and clutch combined with an ergonomic stick – do counter the car’s tendency to run out of steam at higher speeds. While the Bentayga’s 6.0-liter W12 may make it exceptionally easy to cover huge distances in great comfort, the ability to comfortably drive the Up at 8/10ths – and remain on the right side of the legal speed limit – means that you can have just as much fun on the road, at 1/18th the price of the Bentley.

 

23 February 2017

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