So ... I found this car is parked in my neighbourhood today and nearly ran into something. It is a pretty rare sight after all. It is part of a fleet of about 30 (don't pin me down on that number) that are currently used to get some real-world data on the car, using both employees and a few select people outside VW, including some customers.
There are not many cars that startle me by just sitting there; this is one. Your first impression is that it's something from another planet altogether ... after that you realize just how tiny it is. The XL1 is incredibly small ... you look at photographs and automatically imagine it a lot bigger – since this is clearly a car, it has to be as big as a car, too ... right? Nope. It's not the length that strikes you most, it's how narrow and low a car this is. Apparently that's how you get economy.
There are a few interesting bits and bobs I learned by using the power of small talk.
The track at the front is much wider than at the back, so you create nifty tracks in the snow ... and you wiggle around, as it's light and RWD. To get the car cleared for road use in Germany, they had to create a set of bespoke nonskid chains that go on the driven wheels ... you can remove the rear wheel covers and put on a sort of clawed design that rocks some plastic spikes.
Hm. What else ... oh right, the 2-cylinder is not quite as silent as you could expect. With so much carbon fibre and CFK use, the wall separating engine room and passengers pretty much acts like a membrane and lets you hear ... a lot. Wind noise and running noise ("whoosh") render the engine noise inaudible at speeds higher than, say, 60-70 mph.
I got to take a seat, too, but I'd taken some pictures earlier and there's enough press shots to cover this, too. The interior is snug and simple ... once you've recovered from the fall (it is that low), it's comfortable, too. That said, it's not a car for tall people, with "tall" meaning everything above 6'3" – you wouldn't be able to close the door properly. Ooh, doors: just like the SLS AMG, the XL1 has explosive hinge-joints that are electronically triggered when the car detects that you managed to roll it and are now in an upside-down position. Cool stuff, also slightly discomforting.
When I asked about real-world performance and consumption, I was surprised to hear that you could actually average about 2.5 litres per 100 km* on a trip of over 400 km (~250 miles).
* Google says that's about 95mpg
I like the car. Most people don't understand it, that's why there are no cars like this in the real world. /sigh.