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Germany

Get 'Up'! A First Test Drive In The New 9,500-Euro Mini Volkswagen

Volkswagen’s smallest model – the up! – will launch in December. We tested it, and much more than the price is right about this little gem of an automobile.

VW up! : Volkswagen's latest creation
VW up! : Volkswagen's latest creation
Reinhold Schnupp

It's not hard to find out if a mini car has a big future. You open the door, climb into the driver's seat – and, best case scenario, nothing's missing. All the things you'd find in a small or compact car are right there. Not only that: space isn't tight.

It's like the first time you ride in a Smart -- you can't believe that the space for two passengers in such a miniscule vehicle is so generous. But of course with the Smart, the car ends practically right behind the front seats. Now along comes VW, revisiting its core "Volks-Wagen" (peoples' car) concept, with the up!: 3.54-meter (11.61-foot) long, and space for four people who are not supposed to merely be able to squeeze in, but travel comfortably.

I got to test drive the car that's due on the market before the end of the year at prices starting from less than 10,000 euros. My first thought as I turned on the ignition, put the car in gear, pressed down on the gas pedal and pulled out onto open road was: how do these folks ever hope to sell another Polo, or for that matter Golf? That's how smooth this little beauty is: holding the road solidly (sitting behind the wheel, you don't for a second feel how small the car is), and passing is no-sweat thanks to a three-cylinder engine that accelerates well.

The car is gasoline powered, but a natural gas version is planned.

Surprising storage

Up! engineers freed a lot of space by fitting the front-engine in horizontally. Seating front and back is very comfortable and there's even some storage, including collapsible drinks holders and a trunk that's much roomier than you'd expect.

Lower-case "u" aside, nothing about the up! is minimalist or cheesy. Many aspects of the inside resemble a Mini, but VW kept the design-y bits to a minimum -- so, while everything is attractive to look at, functionality wins out.

An unusual feature is the portable navigation system "maps + more." Although mobile, it links to many of the car's functions such as the (optional) parking pilot.

What didn't I like? No blind-spot mirrors. Asked if any were planned, even VW head of development Ullrich Hackenberg said he didn't know.

VW will be launching the car with three trim levels -- take up!, move up! and high up! Air conditioning is not included, but even with all the extras included, the up! is not expected to top 15,000 euros.

Target market? Young drivers, for a first car experience with the VW brand that could cement loyalty; and the "silver generation," which is to say middle-aged and older folks who, for city driving, "will prefer to leave the Mercedes SL in the garage" and scoot around town in their up!

That's an entirely plausible scenario for anyone who's driven the car, but more certain is that -- thanks to the up! -- the perception of the VW brand is about to change. It won't all be about Touaregs, Golfs and Tiguans anymore; it'll be about a widely affordable automobile that does not for one moment give the impression of being a cheap car.

Read the original article in German

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Green

Fading Flavor: Production Of Saffron Declines Sharply

Saffron is well-known for its flavor and its expense. But in Kashmir, one of the flew places it grows, cultivation has fallen dramatically thanks for climate change, industry, and farming methods.

Photo of women harvesting saffron in Kashmir

Harvesting of Saffron in Kashmir

Mubashir Naik

In northern India along the bustling Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Pampore — known as the saffron town of Kashmir —people are busy picking up saffron flowers to fill their wicker baskets.

During the autumn season, this is a common sight in the Valley as saffron harvesting is celebrated like a festival in Kashmir. The crop is harvested once a year from October 21 to mid-November.

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