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L.A. Auto Show: VW plagiarizes the Volvo C30, stuffs result with teeny engine

December 2, 2009 |  5:35 pm

Vw A car that is, in the words of Volkswagen R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg, "indicative" of VW's future "New Small Family" -- which kind of sounds like a brood of gnomes -- the Up! Lite concept car landed in L.A. for its world premiere. The car bears and astonishing resemblance to the Volvo C30.

Volvo has not yet sued VW for plagiarism.

The Up! Lite is a paragon of efficiency. A mere speed-bump in the wind, the little car has a long, deeply raked windscreen attached to a stretched roof line and a very low and narrow front end. One cheeky feature is the "active thermal management," which opens and closes the grille openings depending on the engine temperatures. Put it all together and the Up! Lite scores an aero drag number of just 0.237.

The guts of the thing are borrowed from VW's L1 concept car last seen in Frankfurt. A diesel hybrid, the combustion side consists of a 0.8-liter, two-cylinder turbo-diesel combined with a 10-kilowatt electric motor/generator, which totals a gusty 65 hp. The generator/starter/motor thingy operates just like Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system.

Honda has not yet sued VW for plagiarism.

The concept has a lithium-ion battery aboard and a seven-speed DSG gearbox for ratio-changing. VW says, as conceived, the Up! Lite can hit 100 mph and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 12.5 seconds. Meanwhile, it can return a massive 70 miles per gallon. That's a mere 65 gram/km of carbon emissions.

The four-seat Up! Lite has amazing rear cabin space for such a little squib, and the seat release slides and pitches the seats forward for easy entry and exit. Brilliant, actually.

Some notes from the scrum: Hackenberg says that VW has developed a much more cost-effective method of doing carbon fiber body panels, as compared with the whole pre-preg/vacuum bag/autoclave method. In VW's proprietary method, the carbon panel is a simple mold injection process called RTN. However, it's still too expensive for economy cars, he said. The Up! Lite has this extraordinarily lovely carbon-fiber roof panel, much like a BMW M6.

BMW has not yet sued VW for plagiarism.

But never mind all that. Check out the wheels of the thing. The Up! Lite's rims are these stunning aluminum fan-blades with curved carbon-fiber struts in between the blades. They are completely mad, totally money. Got to have them! These are my Rims of the Year!

I asked Hackenberg if they come in 22-inch size. He laughed. "They'd be bigger than the car."

--Dan Neil

Photo: VW's new Up! Lite car makes an appearance at the L.A. Auto Show. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times