What is it?
Every time you read about the new Volkswagen Up GTI, you’re going to read a lot about the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1, because Volkswagen has pitched the Up as some kind of homage to its original (albeit perhaps not the original) hot hatch.
The Up and that first Golf have a similar level of power, for example, and not dissimilar performance figures, while all of the original’s design cues have been replicated here; just like they’ve been replicated on every pretty much every GTI from every manufacturer since 1976.
Most notably, though, the Up is meant to have the sparkle, the entertainment, the breath of fresh air that came as standard with that first hot Golf. Talking of fresh air, the Up is among the first cars to have a ‘close-coupled petrol particulate filter’, which Volkswagen says reduces particulate emissions by up to 95%.
So it’s nice to know the company hasn’t lost its sense of humour.
Anyway, during all this homage business there’s one figure they don’t reference, which is that while the Up GTI weighs 1070kg, the first Golf GTI weighed 810kg, despite this city car being not just one but two entire classes lower than the Golf small family hatch.
But that’s okay, you know. I’m not going to get all prickly about that, because it’s just the way of things. Sure, an Up is heavier, but it would also be better than a Mk1 Golf at coping with a really cold morning, or a really warm afternoon, or letting you listen to Radio 4, or being driven into a tree. It’s just how it is.
Anyway, 1070kg is still sufficiently light that you can make this a warm hatch by giving it a 999cc triple engine, making a modest 114bhp at 5000rpm, and a more immodest 147lb ft, which is generated from just 2000rpm thanks to the fact the motor’s turbocharged. Driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, it’s enough to propel the Up GTI to 0-62mph in 8.8sec.
I rather like the mostly subtle look of it too, especially in the £13,750 3dr form you find here. That the suspension has been dropped by 15mm over a standard Up, and that it gets 17in alloy wheels with 195/40 tyres, probably does it no harm.
There are changes beyond the ride height. The electrically assisted steering rack and ventilated brakes are Polo-derived but modified, the torsion beams at the rear and MacPherson struts at the front have stiffer top mounts, with new shape lower arms on the front too. There are no adaptive dampers or such like – this is a sub-£14k car – but being a small, light car, it shouldn’t need them. Let’s see.