The next-generation Volkswagen Up! will hit the roads in 2017 as a slightly longer car with a new platform engineered to fit either a torque converter or dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Visiting for the launch of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Wolfsburg-based technical head of transmission development Michael Schafer explained that the design of the current Up! was such that it could only accept a single-clutch automatic (below) – widely criticised by overseas media – but that would change for the next car.
“The Up! has a very small compartment at the front,” he began.
“That’s the real problem why we don’t have a [torque converter or dual-clutch] automatic transmission in that car. It was only the possibilty to get automatic-manual [single clutch] transmission inside because it was only designed for this car.
“The next Up! will get a larger compartment.
“Then we have the possibility to get an automatic transmission or a dual-clutch transmission inside the car. The dual-clutch transmission we would make by ourselves and produce by ourselves, the automatic transmission we can buy from Getrag or Aisin or Jatco [but] it is not decided yet.”
The reason the Up! was designed with a single-clutch gearbox as the only automatic option, Schafer tells, was because of small volumes of sub-compact hatchbacks with automatic transmissions worldwide.
He hinted that this could also be a reason to choose a torque converter automatic over a home-made DSG dual-clutch, as it is cheaper to buy a transmission off the shelf rather than develop a DSG in-house.
“The problem with that car [Up!] is you have a very small volume on automatic transmissions – 20,000-30,000 overall – and it’s very difficult to produce for such a volume by yourself because you have to invest such a lot of money to produce such a transmission and the volume is small.”
This is despite the Australian market, specifically, being heavily skewed towards automatic over manual transmissions.
Yet Volkswagen chose not to import the Up! with a single-clutch automatic primarily because of the poor reception the gearbox has had overseas, although local boss John White said that decision could be reversed.
The “larger compartment” Schafer speaks of will also allow Volkswagen to utilise plumbing for turbochargers for a new breed of TSI engines.
“We’re looking also for TSI engine with more power,” he explained.
“Today only we have the MPI with 44kW and 55kW; that’s not a good feeling in this car, it’s not very sporty or very smooth.
“We are also looking for TSI engines on the side of CO2 emissions and driving performance. Also the TSI needs the larger compartment, and with this step we can put torque converter or dual-clutch transmission”.
Yet where the current Up! utilises a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, the forthcoming Up! GT already scores the same 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo engine found in the Polo 77TSI Comfortline. But, Schafer explains, the Up! GT also already gets a slightly longer nose than the regular models.
He adds that the longer nose destined for every next-generation Up! is also required for reasons other than fitting in more engine and transmission hardware.
“We have to make the [next] Up! for passenger safety, for pedestrian safety, it has to be a design change in the next generation, that’s why it [the front] gets a little bit bigger.”
Asked directly when the next-generation Volkswagen Up! will arrive, Shafer confirmed “it will be 2017”.