The Volkswagen Up GTI is as genial and charming a car as any pint-sized ‘pocket rocket’ there has ever been – and may be even more desirable than any. That it isn’t quite the driver’s car we’ve embraced in this performance niche over the years, however, is at once plain and slightly regrettable.

The car’s engine, while torquey and characterful, isn’t quite compelling enough for that sort of reverence. Its chassis, in turn, has moments of swivelling brilliance; but it doesn’t cover the dynamic basics quite well enough, or have the all-round polish needed, to wear a GTI badge entirely comfortably.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
It's no performance landmark, but the Up GTI delivers plenty of bang for your buck

Paint the story of that driving experience on a backdrop of a sub-£14,000 asking price, however, and complete the package with the Up GTI’s brilliantly judged perceived quality and visual allure, and it’s very hard to argue with what’s available here.

Compare how much driver appeal this car offers with what it needs to offer to compare favourably with a mid-spec supermini or indeed any direct rival, and you can only judge the Up GTI a very creditable success.

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