Volkswagen up! in Rome. (photo)

The up! is the first member of a new city car family in the booming small-car segment. Volkswagen gave visitors to the 2011 International Motor Show in Frankfurt a taste of what is to come with the cross up!, buggy up! and GT up! concept cars. The natural-gas model eco up!, that produces only 79 grams of CO2 per km, and the e-up!, a zero-emission electric city car, are scheduled to be launched in 2013.

Stella Jean says goodbye to Tommaso – her assistant Seni is waiting. She thanks Tommaso but declines his offer to help guide her out of the parking space. She already has a built-in assistant. The “maps + more” infotainment system is a navigation system, onboard computer and Bluetooth hands-free set all rolled into one. Together with the “drive pack plus” package, it also offers an acoustic parking assistant. The five-inch color display can be removed once the vehicle is parked and used as a pedestrian navigation system.

Rear view of the up! (photo)

The fashion designer steers the up! through the hectic traffic of the Italian capital in typical Roman style – left, right, around obstacles. Even the smallest opening is big enough to secure a good starting position at the traffic lights. The 32-year-old loves living life in the fast lane and enjoys the nippy 55 kW2 (75 PS) three-cylinder petrol engine. And, with a standard fuel consumption of 4.3 liters, she doesn’t need to think about refueling for a while yet – she can travel 800 km on a full tank.

Stella smiles as she revs the car and a sporty purr comes from the engine – much sportier than its 999 cubic centimeters would suggest. She moves her hand over the dashboard, painted in the same color as the exterior of the vehicle, and along the precision stitching of the seats. She adjusts the air jets to the side and they snap into place with a quiet click. “Nice and simple – simply nice.”

The up! whizzes past a sign that says “Varco Attivo”. Starting here, there is a toll for entering the city center during the day – Rome’s city government regulates personal traffic in the city. The designer parks at the famous Piazza del Popolo. After spotting the small white car, her assistant takes a closer look at the up!. She starts by climbing into the back. “Even you would fit back here!” – which says a lot about the spaciousness of the small car, considering Stella’s height. She surveys the trunk (“plenty of space”) and wonders aloud whether a garment bag will fit over the folded-down back seats without being creased. Stella is certain – “I’m sure it does.”

Time for an espresso. Stella and Seni watch as the locals discover and eye the Volkswagen up! with interest. The car is creating quite a stir. Stella plays with her car key and smiles to herself. “Big things really do come in small packages.“

 AUTHORS Tina Rumpelt, Iwan Zinn

 PHOTOGRAPHER Andreas Mader

 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION www.volkswagen.com

1 up! fuel consumption in l/100km: combined from 4.7 to 4.1; CO2 emissions in g/km: combined from 108 to 96.

2 up! 55 kW, fuel consumption in l/100km: urban 5.9/extra-urban 4.0/combined 4.7; CO2 emissions in g/km: combined 108.

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