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Click above for a high-res gallery of the Volkswagen up! Space concept.

It was rumored last week and now it's been confirmed: Volkswagen's up! minicar will be switched from a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout to a front-engine, front-wheel-drive arrangement when it goes on sale in 2011. According to VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, "Our engineers favored a rear engine and fought until the end for that solution." Unfortunately, the rear-engine layout had to be nixed due to cost constraints and the limitations it imposed on passenger space.

Volkswagen originally planned to launch the up! in Europe sometime in 2010, but the architecture switch has bumped back its sale date by four- to five-months, meaning it will likely hit showrooms in early 2011. While a few months wouldn't normally be a big deal, the Toyota IQ is set to debut in dealers early next year and the Fiat Topolino will launch late in 2009, putting VW behind the eight ball by almost two years.

Volkswagen plans to launch the up! in three flavors: a hatchback, minivan and sedan. The automaker expects sales in Europe and emerging markets to hit approximately 500,000 units per year, although a decision has yet to be reached on whether the up! will make it to the U.S.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req.]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      really...most of the people who will end up buying this car could care less if it's FF or RR. RR would have been neat though
      • 7 Years Ago
      Boo. As wagonphile said, it is now completely unremarkable.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So much for having a competitor to the Mitsubishi i, then...

      Why even build it at all now? They should just call it the Screw up!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks like cost outweighed innovation, again.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If only VW had a previous design that maximized the interior space in a small rear-engine RWD setup?

      • 7 Years Ago
      I want the minivan, its the most useful shape

      I've said before that a front engined, front wheel driven car is more space efficient than its front engine, rear wheel driven cousin.

      These things are supposed to be cheaper than the Rabbit (Golf), so I'm looking forward to this immensely, cheap, stylish transport (please god make it fun)

        • 7 Years Ago
        Excuse me for saying, but there are hardly any good small cars in America, so I'll take every single one I can get

        The rear engine thing was pie in the sky concept rubbish anyway

        I saw these in person, they looked great - easily the best of show. I bet that the engineering won't change the look or proportion per say, thats fine
        • 7 Years Ago
        You're right that an FR layout makes little sense in a small economy car, but this one was supposed to rear-engined, it was kinda the whole thing that set it apart in the first place. Now that they dropped that, it's just another econobox. As such, don't expect it to be fun to drive.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So it's not only FWD but it's an FF car?

      That sucks, the whole RR/RF idea seemed very interesting.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder how much money VW wasted trying to fit a front peg into a rear hole. And as has been written here, there likely was little gain for the company in forcing a rear-engine layout that would cost more to build and price the car out of many buyers' range.

      It's all well and good to try and build a Mini-fighter, but you have to not only beat Mini at its price game but also be able to lure the masses -- because Mini's the original and the "But this is better!" line only goes so far with the general driving public.

      It's too bad, but entirely predictable that it was doomed before it got anywhere near production.
      • 7 Years Ago
      ...and once again, the MBAs with slick suits & even slicker hair have won, just like in all other engineering companies! They all seem to think that they have all the answers & us engineers are a silly distraction in their quest for world conquest.

      I honestly thought German companies gave more respect to engineers. Looks like this malaise isn't restricted to American companies....
        • 7 Years Ago
        Traditionally, they did. Both the Japanese and Europeans placed their engineers on a pedestal. But you miss one very important social and historic point. One of the United States most successful exports in the past 20 years has been the business school student. Sadly, we'll see more of that MBA-inspired cold corporate thinking creaping into things all around us and eating the country from the inside out.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So it's just going to be basically a slightly smaller Polo...

      like the lupo...

      what's the actual point now?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well they just neutered it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      What a complete and utter waste of time.
      Figures VW wouldn't go through with it.
      Just like GM scrapped its Northstar V8 replacement and a bunch of rear drive car plans even though smaller outfits in Europe continue to procede.
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