2009 LA Auto Show: Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept

By Alison Lakin
Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept
Among the many concepts presented at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Volkswagen Up! Lite concept seemed to stand out from the crowd for both its fuel efficiency developments and seamless design. You read correctly, this beautiful car really is a combination of elegant design and efficiency, a feat that few concepts manage to cull together. The Up! Lite concept, which VW talks up as being the 'ideal car for the daily commute to work,' is estimated to get 70 mpg on the highway by combining a turbo-diesel engine with an electric motor and seven-speed DSG transmission.The two-cylinder TDI - that we first saw in the L1 concept at Frankfurt - will be assisted by electric start, regenerative braking and a special 'boost' function.

Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept


Volkswagen Up! Lite Concept

The exterior design also has remenents of the L1 concept, but the styling is more practical - potentially signifying an intent to eventually put it into production. It features an almost edgeless aerodynamic and lightweight body (it weighs just 1,500 pounds) made of a combination of aluminum and carbon fiber. Instead of side mirrors - because they're just so passé - the Up! Lite has 'winglets' with cameras pointing toward the rear of the car. These images, and ones from a camera in the roof spoiler, will be transmitted to a screen within the car.

Other technology exists on the exterior as well, like the radiator inlet, which opens only when the engine temperature needs to be regulated. The 18-inch aluminum wheels are also supported by ten carbon fiber spokes, though VW hints that in a production version 16-inch aerodynamic wheels fitted with low-resistance tires would be more likely.

The interior is highly geared toward space and functionality. The two-door design means that the seats need to move forward to allow access to the rear. Shirking convention, the front bucket seats are singular structures. Just pull a loop on the side of the seat and it moves up easily. The rear seats unlatch to fold flat with a pull of the headrest, creating a surprising amount of cargo room. To keep the interior cooled while parked on hot days, VW has equipped the Up! Lite with a 'passive park ventilation' system. As hot air rises, it is filtered through an opening between the end of the roof and tailgate.

We've seen a number of the Up! concepts at auto shows, most recently the e-Up! at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, but the Up! Lite is clearly one that fits within the classic VW design aesthetic without sacrificing real-world functionality. They are considering launching this car globally, with a modified design. There go the 'winglets.'


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