A little car worthy of the status?
The Up! is the newest member of the Volkswagen family to get a flash of Jacara tartan and dotted with chrome GTI badges but is this humble little city car worthy of such status?
Volkswagen practically invented the hot-hatch with the Golf GTI over 4 decades ago. Since then the GTI has become a house hold name. If you haven’t owned one at some point then there has probably been a time when you wished you had. There are around 75,000 Golf GTIs currently on the road, making it arguably the most popular performance car in the country.
However despite exceeding expectations of orders, the Up! GTI is sure to follow in the footsteps of its older brother the Lupo and become far more exclusive and just makes this little beauty all the more special. Take delivery of one of these babies and I am sure you’ll have ownership of a future classic.
Fun fact – the logo for the Up! Is a mixed up anagram of its predecessor the Lupo. The exclamation mark is the L, then the U and P and then the dot of the exclamation mark is the O.
This little pocket rocket has a 1.0 litre turbo charged engine that produces 115bhp, over double that of the entry level ‘take Up!’ It actually has an almost identical output to the MK2 Golf GTI however the Up! is backed by 147lb of torque compared to the Golf’s 104lb per ft. Meaning despite the slight increase in weight the Up! is the 1st to the finishing line. It goes to show how engines have advanced over the years considering the original golf was powered by 1.8 litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
Despite other trim levels of the Up coming in 8 different colour combinations they have kept it simple with the GTI and offer just 4 colours; pure white, deep black pearl, tungsten silver and Tornado red – which is the only cost free option. Which ever colour is chosen, it is also seemingly blends throughout the inside cabin. Personally the only colour I wouldn’t choose would be the Tungsten but then I’ve never been a silver fan. The sporty look is set off with the 17″ Osworld alloy wheels. These come standard with red brake callipers, they do stand as the only option available however they’re good enough to not need an upgrade.
From personal experience thanks to the sorry state of our UK roads when the little Up! GTI hits a pothole.. you’ll know about it. Those 17″ performance tyres are quite rare and do not come cheap either. A purchase of a dealer tyre insurance (usually around £250) is likely a good investment across a 3 year period is you’re planning on covering some miles.
The interior is a bag of mixed emotions for me, it screams GTI just as it should do but despite having to constantly remind myself that this car retails at a little over 14K some areas do feel a little cheap. The seats are upholstered in the classic red Jacara tartan however there has been no structural changes to the Up!’ so they do lack support which is pretty essential in a car that boasts as a ‘super mini’. On smaller journeys this doesn’t seem to pose a problem but as I found out of a 2+ hour trip, the combination of stiff suspension and hard unsupportive seats did result in a rather painful black. Although pay it it’s dues, the Up! Was never designed for the reason.
A quick search through Instagram and you’ll see a few people have replaced the original interior with Recaro part leather, part tartan sport seats and they look really impressive. Image take from @colinm.grant On Instagram.
The leather steering wheel is a real winner for for as it looks like it would happily belong to that of a much more expensive Volkswagen model. Red stitching frames the inner edge and a chrome GTI badge stands proud in the centre. One Gripe is that thanks to the positioning of the steering wheel, you have to have it quite high to fully see the dials which just feels wrong in a sporty car. They have attempted to play homage to the original Up!’s personality by adding a funky red pattered dash, though when you first get in the car it can seem a little garish you do grow accustom to it and when driving in the dark and it glows red underneath and does look rather ‘funky’ which was VW’s point.
The temperature dials are all clear and pretty straight forward to use, you can upgrade to digital climate control and though I don’t think it is of any benefit in a car this size, it does make the central console look a little more grown up. I would be inclined to choose that option for that reason alone. The Up! Does come standard with heated seats which is a great little luxury.
Aimed at being an extension of the cars smaller 5.0 inch colour screen the Up! GTI comes fitted with a cradle designed to hold your smartphone. By downloading VW’s free ‘Maps + More’ app onto iOS or Android devices you can then navigate the radio screen as well the navigation and performance stats all from your mobile phone. Unfortunately there are limitations with this and if you watch the full YouTube video I go into detail about what those are.
Now for speed. If you try and directly compare this pocket rocket to the current Golf GTI or even the smaller but recently more powerful Polo GTI with their 2.0 litre then it maybe disappoint. But in a league of its own as a turbo super Mini It’s light weight body, performance and simplicity is to be applauded.
At just 1,070kg, it’s almost 300kg lighter than the Golf GTI. Compared to the standard up!, it rides 15mm lower and has wider tracks both front and rear. There are no performance packs, no option of a DSG automatic and no selectable driving modes, either. But then again kitting this car out with the ASG gearbox that the standard Up! Gets would be nothing short of a travesty.
As your right foot hits the pedal of the Up! GTI that grin instantly builds on your face. The gear box is smooth and the response is quick! A sound synthesiser pipes an enhanced engine noise into the cabin via a speaker behind the dash. It adds a little extra drama without sounding naff, although it’s a shame from the outside it doesn’t sound half as interesting.
Though handling it’s great, it does take some getting used to the roll in this car and for a first drive it can be a little unnerving but as you begin to feel confident behind the wheel, this little go-kart only becomes more fun!
On Motor ways it certainly holds it’s own and there is still significant pull in 6th gear. The only problem then becomes the road noise, anything over 60MPH and it does become difficult to hear yourself think and conversations via Bluetooth near on impossible.
So all that gutsy power squeezed out such a little engine must mean it races through petrol? Not at all. Depending on how you’re driving your Up! GTI you can expect MPG figures of around the 50’s. Some proud GTI owners have no fear of showing off about the impressive figures well into the 60’s! After all for most people this is a exciting little A-B car whilst their gas guzzlers sit in the garage ready for the weekend.
In conclusion The up! GTI is a new VW product in a class of its own. A souped up little city car packed full of personality and almost Impossible not to fall in love with. It feels full of life, a genuinely characterful product in an increasing sea of boringness and bland design. It’s not perfect, but it’s the closest you’ll get to a driver’s car in this class. Consider it, and consider it hard, if you need a city car but want a hot hatch then I think it’s going to be hard to beat.
If you’re considering an Up! GTI and want to know about some fantastic savings from brand new savings and huge discounts on low mileage demonstrators then please contact my former team at Barnards Volkswagen. https://www.marriottmotorgroup.co.uk/find-us/barnards-volkswagen/595/dealershipdetails.aspx