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Volkswagen confirms pint-size Up for Australia

One Upmanship: VW's all-new sub-light model will hit Australian roads by the end of next year.

Sub-Polo Suzuki Alto rival to hit local Volkswagen showrooms late next year

Volkswagen logo10 Sep 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

VOLKSWAGEN has finally confirmed its Up city-car will go on sale in Australia in a little over 12 months from now.

Now officially confirmed for local release during the fourth quarter of 2012, the pint-size Up will slot beneath the $16,690-plus Polo in Volkswagen's Australian model line-up, priced from about $14,900.

The all-new three-door micro, which will make its world production debut at this week's Frankfurt motor show, will represent the booming German brand's first bona-fide competitor for the likes of the Suzuki Alto, Holden Barina Spark, Nissan Micra ST, and Kia Picanto.

However, in order to aid the Up’s chances of success in Australia, Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) will probably drop its existing entry-level Polo, the Trendline three-door before its smaller sibling arrives here.

The late 2012 timing, incidentally, will coincide with the local launch of Volkswagen's third-generation Beetle.

Unfortunately, however, the hotly anticipated plug-in electric version of the Up, which is also due to debut soon, is not on VGA’s local agenda for the time being.

The regular three-door Up hatchback will be joined by a variety of other spinoff models from 2013 as they come on stream from VW's Bratislava, Slovakia plant.

Apart from Skoda's version of the all-new city-car, these may include a five-door hatch, as previewed four years ago by the Space Up concept, and a sleek two-seater ‘eco-coupe' capable of extraordinarily low emissions.

3 center imageAll Up models will be built on Volkswagen’s new New Small Family (NSF) light car architecture featuring a transverse engine driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual or automated dual-clutch gearbox.

For the Australian market a 55kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol unit is thought to be engine under consideration, although a less powerful 44kW version - as well as compressed natural gas (CNG) variants - will also be made available elsewhere when the Up is introduced in Europe early next year.

As GoAuto reported in July, the strong Australian currency and increasing sales in the sub-light segment has prompted VGA to take a punt on the Up.

But, according to VGA managing director Anke Koeckler, while its sales projections should see Volkswagen’s latest baby rise beyond niche-car status, it will not be a volume-seller in the same way that the Polo is for the German company.

With a string of car-of-the-year awards under its belt, the fifth-generation Polo has more than doubled its sales figures in the first eight months of 2011, averaging around 400 sales per month.

In contrast, the Up’s monthly horde should be in the vicinity of about 250 to 300 buyers – which is about what the Alto and Spark have managed so far this year.

Most Up buyers will be first-time Volkswagen purchasers consisting mainly of younger singles or couples, as well as second-hand car buyers attracted to its low starting price.

“We have finally worked out the pricing… and it makes us very happy. It was an ongoing process (to achieve that),” Ms Koeckler told Australian journalists this week at the Volkswagen Scirocco R drive in Italy.

“The favourable exchange rate has helped a lot in negotiations. We are looking at having a (very keenly priced) entry-level model, to target young people and couples.

“And we are looking at all the options made available to us.”

Asked if the Up might cannibalise Polo sales, or whether the Polo’s starting price will march upwards in order to accommodate its new baby brother, Ms Koeckler said she believes there is enough space in the sub-light and light car classes to accommodate both without the need to change things around.

“We intend to help grow the sub-light segment with the Up,” she said.

“And we will not take away from the Polo because that is one of our volume pillars.”

While the Up’s 2420mm wheelbase is almost as long as the Polo’s (2456mm), significantly truncated front and rear overhangs and a 20mm higher roof means that the former’s 3540mm length is some 524mm shorter than the latter’s.

Despite that. the Up's boot capacity still comes within just 10 litres of the larger car’s 261-litre cargo space.

The Up’s not down when it comes to safety either, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and six airbags to be included as standard in every vehicle destined for Australia.

Whether VGA sticks with the ‘Take Up’, ‘Move Up’ and ‘High Up’ model naming policy in Europe is not yet known.

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