Volkswagen up!

Volkswagen’s up! GTI

08 February 2018

VOLKSWAGEN’S super-small and oddly-named city car, the up! is on sale from this week in the sporty guise of a GTI.

This apparent contradiction in terms is less strange than it may appear, despite being saddled with a three-cylinder engine of less than a single litre.

It actually works surprisingly well in this case because the car is so light, and the engine is turbocharged.

What VW have created is virtually the only sporting city car, with rivals such as the Polo GTI being in a class size above.

The newcomer is officially priced at £13,750 but is already being promoted with a 12 per cent discount, taking the tag down to £12,175.

This makes it undoubtedly the sportiest little car for the money. An indication of just how dramatically cars have grown in size and efficiency over the years is a comparison between the up! GTI and the company’s original Golf GTI of more than 40 years ago.

Remarkably, the up! is roughly the same size as the 1970s’ Golf, and despite the latter being regarded as the ultimate hot hatch in its day, their performances are about the same.

In absolute terms the up! GTI is relatively lacklustre, taking 8.8 seconds to reach 60mph, and running out of puff at about 120mph. The latest Golf GTI takes under six and a half seconds to reach 60mph, with a 155mph top speed, albeit for twice the price.

However, in the case of the cute little up! GTI it is not all about the figures on paper, but rather the actual driving experience, which is brilliant.

Offered in three and five door body styles with a few design touches to justify the GTI badges, power comes courtesy of a three cylinder turbocharged engine of 999cc with a power output of 115bhp at engine speeds of 5,000 to 5,500rpm.

There is pulling power of 200Nm between 2,000rpm and 3,500rpm, with drive to the front wheels via a slick six-speed manual gearbox.

The result is a diminutive city car that is easy to drive and park in town, whilst offering all the joys of spring out on the open road.

The official Volkswagen CO2 rating is 110g/km and the company is claiming an average economy figure of about 55mpg.

The overall weight is just 1,070 kg, which makes it exceedingly agile, helped by tweaked suspension that is also lowered slightly.

In terms of appearance there is the GTI trademark honeycomb grille, darkened rear side windows, bright red brake callipers, and a tartan cloth interior. 

For buyers who are unable to cash-in on the advertised 12 per cent discount there is a finance plan available, albeit with an interest rate of nine times the bank base rate at 4.8 per cent.

This involves monthly payments of £140 over four years, giving a total price of £14,600 in comparison to the sticker price of £13,750 and the cash-discounted price of £12,175.

There is also a strict mileage restriction of 10,000 a year, with a penalty of 4.8 pence per mile above that.

Nonetheless, this is how the overwhelming majority of new car buyers are currently choosing to fund their vehicle purchases in the UK.