Volkswagen has confirmed its plans to raise the image and overall sales appeal of its entry-level Up through the addition of a new range-topping GTI model.
The new GTI model, which could be priced from around £15,000 in the UK, has been conceived to provide Volkswagen with a sporty rival to the popular Abarth 500 (now 595). It will use a powered-up version of the company’s newly introduced turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine in a brand-building exercise under the motto ‘affordable performance’.
In the facelifted Up, the new EA211- designated triple delivers 89bhp and 118lb ft of torque. In the Up GTI, it delivers 114bhp, although a torque figure hasn't yet been given by VW.
The new engine is due to be offered with the choice of either a five-speed manual or, although not confirmed, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Prototypes of the Up GTI are said to be capable of a top speed of more than 119mph and a 0-62mph time of around 8.8sec when fitted with the manual gearbox.
The recently revised Abarth 595 has a larger, turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 143bhp and 152lb ft in entry-level form and comes with either a standard five-speed manual or robotised automatic.
The Up GTI also receives a heavily retuned MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension with its own spring and damper rates, as well as a lowered ride height.
Autocar has already driven a prototype of the Up fitted with an early 104bhp version of the turbocharged 1.0-litre triple. The move to give it 114bhp is significant because it's not far off the power output of the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine used by the first generation of the Golf GTI, originally revealed at the 1975 Frankfurt motor show.
Together with the upgraded engine and revised chassis tune, the Up GTI is also due to receive a host of GTI-specific exterior styling revisions to reflect its added performance.
The Up GTI is expected to be sold in three-door and five-door body styles. VW insiders said that styling proposals give it different bumpers, 16in wheels with 205/40-profile tyres and wider sills.
Inside, VW provides the Up GTI with a number of traditional touches, including individual instrument graphics and tartan cloth upholstery.