Is It A PROPER GTI? Volkswagen up! GTI First Drive


Towards the end of last month I was given the opportunity to have a quick spin in the Volkswagen up! GTI. This is a pint-sized performance car I’ve been keen to test for a long time, purely because I wasn’t convinced by its power output. Because of this I questioned if it was even worthy of wearing those famous three letters. Underneath its small, but perfectly formed bonnet is a 1.0 litre, three-cylinder petrol, which thanks to a turbo, is able to chuck out 113bhp.

Is that all?

I know, it’s not a lot is it? Couple that with a torque figure of 200Nm, and it all looks a tad dull on paper. However, let’s not forget this is a light car. In fact, it weighs about the same as a medium sized dog. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but you get my point. Because the dinky engine has just 1070kg to pull about, it’s rather nippy. 0-62 is dealt with in just under 9 seconds and it will break the 120mph barrier.

Recognise those stats? Well that’s because they are very similar to that of the original Golf GTI, the quintessential hot hatchback in many people’s eyes. Just take a look at the up GTI and you’ll soon see the heritage. The sporty alloys, the tasteful bodykit, and of course, those all important GTI badges. Inside is also a familiar story as there are seats inspired by Scotland as well as flat bottom steering wheel and a gearknob bearing the iconic GTI moniker.

Hmm, so it looks like a GTI

So it talks the talk, but can it walk the walk? Due to the car’s cheap asking price – £14,055 – there’s no fancy keyless start, so the job is taken up by an old-school turn-key ignition. Turn the engine over and the three-cylinder purs in to life. Start giving it a bit of welly and it sounds great, providing a nice meaty growl.

The car feels light, and nimble, so it’s very easy to chuck the car in to corners, although I did find there to be a bit of understeer when really pushed. The steering is responsive, although I would have wanted a little bit more weight – I often say that about modern cars though. Even though the conditions were damp and a bit greasy, there was plenty of grip to be had, but it was a pleasant surprise when I got the tail to wag through the application of a bit of trail-braking.

The car is a hoot in the corners, and you can use all of its power without fear of losing your license or indeed, your life. I did have a few niggles though. Whilst the 6-speed manual has a short enough throw to keep most satisfied, I did find it a touch notchy, and not as rewarding to use as that of a Golf GTI. Yes, yes, the Golf is double the price, but my point stands.

Volkswagen up! GTI First Drive
The pedal placement could be better if you ask me.

The other gripe I have with the up! GTI is the pedal placement. Thanks to a throttle that is set lower than the brake pedal, with quite a large gap in between, I found it tricky to heel and toe this little scamp. It didn’t completely ruin the experience, but it was definitely a fly in the ointment. Others may want more performance as well, but the stats of the car should be enough warning that this is a madras compared to a vindaloo.

Volkswagen up! GTI First Drive

However, here we have a car that is priced from £12,999, meaning it won’t break the bank to cost or to own. It looks smart, offers decent size for a city car, and is also available as a 5-door for even more practicality. So then, it may not be the fastest small car going, but it’s stylish, smart, practical and offers decent performance. Therefore the up! fully deserves to wear the coveted GTI badge.



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