What is it?
So, here it is then. The hotter, go-faster version of Volkswagen’s cheap and cheerful Up, driven for the first time in the UK. As you’re probably well aware by now, VW has been drawing parallels between this new Up GTI and the original Golf GTI Mk1 from 1976 since it was first confirmed back in 2016. That’s because the new performance Up roughly matches that most iconic of hot hatchbacks on performance, size and power.
But we won’t get bogged down with drawing similarities between the two, namely because I haven’t driven the original (it is, after all, 17 years my senior). And although the two might be relatively similar so far as their on-paper credentials are concerned – the Up’s turbocharged 1.0-litre three-pot develops 113bhp versus the Golf’s 109bhp four-cylinder – the Up is a modern car, meaning it’ll always trump the original on equipment, reliability and safety grounds.
They’re different cars from different eras, and we’ll have to wait 40 years to find out if the Up GTI will enjoy the same hero status as its grandfather – or even is as well-regarded as the latest Golf GTI.
In turning a regular Up (one of the best city cars on the market) into a GTI version, Volkswagen has done more than drop a more powerful engine under the bonnet. Its suspension - MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear - has been heavily revised, while the car sits 15mm lower than its non-GTI sibling.
A six-speed manual (as opposed to the base Up’s five-speed) drives the front wheels, and new petrol particulate filter is said to reduce particulate emissions by up to 95 per cent.Then there are the obligatory GTI aesthetic tweaks from the original Up, such as larger 17-inch alloys, front sports seats with ‘Jacara Red’ upholstery and plenty of GTI badging. It’s a compelling little package, particularly when you note that you can have one on your driveway from £139 per month (at the time of writing) on PCP, or from £13,750 outright.