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LA show: VW ‘Ups’ the ante with premium Lite

Lite on: VW's micro Up! Lite concept weighs just 695kg yet seats four.

Volkswagen unveils sleek three-door hybrid hatch capable of 2.4L/100km

3 Dec 2009

VOLKSWAGEN has unveiled a lightweight, ultra-economical and production-oriented version of its Up! concept series at the Los Angeles auto show overnight, marking a new design direction for the forthcoming 2012 ‘New Small Family’ model line and drawing from the radical L1 diesel hybrid to create a compact hatch capable of 2.44L/100km.

The fifth Up! concept to emerge from the German car manufacturer, the Up! Lite shown in LA discards the tall, upright design seen in previous iterations – most recently on the E-Up! electric version shown at the Frankfurt motor show in September – for one with a longer, lower and sleeker profile that contributes to a drag coefficient of 0.237Cd.

This highlights the unwavering commitment to economical – but also practical, comfortable and appealing – motoring in the Up! Lite, which is true to name with a 695kg kerb weight (30 per cent lighter than VW’s current Fox city car) and is said to have an interior that accommodates four adults in comfort.

First seen in the L1 concept also shown at Frankfurt in September, the diesel-electric powertrain onboard the Up! Lite combines an electric motor (E-motor) with a 0.8-litre two-cylinder direct-injection common-rail turbo-diesel engine for a total power output of 48kW.

Derived from VW’s new 1.6-litre four-cylinder TDI unit, the 800cc diesel engine develops peak power of 38kW at 4000rpm, with maximum torque of 120Nm delivered between 1800rpm and 2250rpm.

The 10kW electric motor is designed as a so-called ‘pulse start module’ (starter, alternator and E-drive) and is integrated on a driveshaft between the TDI and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, driving the front wheels.

As with the L1, the hybrid system enables electric-only drive for short distances at low speeds and includes familiar technology such as engine idle-stop and regenerative braking.

While VW claims the super-light 380kg two-seater L1 can achieve an incredible combined fuel consumption value of 1.38L/100km, and CO2 emissions of just 36g/km, the bigger Up! Lite is also said to offer remarkable environmental performance.

As well as the sub-3L/100km figure – which in order to attain the driver will need to switch to an ‘Eco’ operating mode (via a dash switch), which reduces power output to 26kW – VW claims the vehicle emits 65g/km and that it can achieve a fuel range of more than 800km, despite a 20-litre fuel tank.

The 0-100km/h acceleration benchmark can be achieved in a claimed 12.5 seconds, while top speed is 160km/h.

“No other car is more sustainable,” Volkswagen claims. “The three-door concept (is) the world’s most fuel-efficient car – and from the perspective of its overall CO2 footprint, the world’s most environmentally friendly four-seat car as well.

“Both technically and visually, the Up! Lite is a preview of the future. The image of the car body with its clean lines, as though sculpted from a block of aluminium, underscores just how fascinating a car tuned to aerodynamic perfection can look.” The Up! Lite measures 3840mm in overall length, 1600mm in width and 1400m in height, which makes it a size smaller than the Polo light car.

The frontal design is reminiscent of Polo and other small production cars, including the Golf, although the window line and rear-end treatment are designed for additional sporting appeal. The broad shoulder section is said to be reminiscent of the Scirocco.

The 18-inch wheels are made from a combination of aluminium and carbon-fibre – materials that are used throughout the Up! Lite’s construction to keep the kerb weight down.

There are other interesting features. The front grille closes and opens automatically depending on the cooling needs of the engine (dubbed ‘active thermal management’) and a trio of cameras are installed in place of conventional mirrors.

When the car is parked in summer, hot air is vented to outside the vehicle (‘passive park ventilation’), while an ‘optimised Easy-Entry feature’ enables ultra-convenient access to and from the rear seating area.

Interior height is 985mm in front, and 926mm in the rear, where headroom is described as sufficient for passengers up to 1.85m tall. Overall interior space is said to be comparable to the Polo, although the narrower width has forced a four-seat configuration.

There is 217 litres of cargo space when the rear bench seat is upright, expanding to 847 litres with the bench folded down. The latter process occurs via a newly designed unlatching mechanism dubbed ‘Easy Switch’, which requires no more than the head restraints to be pushed forward.

The main controls for the operation of the vehicle are grouped around the steering wheel, while the climate and entertainment functions are handled by a central 5.7-inch touchscreen.

The classic gearshift knob was eliminated, with a manual control ball (said to feel like a large computer mouse) used instead.

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