There’s been much chat surrounding the VW Up GTi over the last year, finally getting our hands on one we could check if the hype was warranted or just a lot of gassing.
Starting at £14,055 the GTi is around £4k more than the entry-level Up!. One of the PR’s at VW said the Up GTi was ‘the most distilled version of the original Golf GTi’. Big claims.
There’s no arguing that the Up GTi looks incredible. Huge arch filling 17-inch wheels, low skirts and a cheeky rear spoiler make it the spitting image of the concept sketches. It’s wide, lower front grille gives it purpose, and side on it has an incredible silhouette that will remain timeless.
I’ve always loved cars that ‘look right’, and the VW Up GTi looks right.
Now we only drove this in lashing rain, so we can’t comment on how it drives or handles in blissful sunshine on dry tarmac. Sometimes inclement weather is good to test drive a car though; you’re not going to be in the parched conditions all the time…especially in this country.
Powered by a 1.0 litre three cylinder, this transverse mounted engine makes 115 PS and 200 Nm of torque. That makes for a 0-62 time of 8.8 seconds. That’s as quick as most warm hatches, and slightly more rapid than the original 9.2 seconds of the MK1 GTi.
But herein lies the problem, that second figure. 200 Nm of torque in such a small, front wheel drive car is probably fine during the summer. On this autumnal day however it just meant wheel spin, lots of wheel spin.
It turns what could be a perfectly balanced micro hatch into something of an annoyance, one that will eat through your tyres in no time.
Even though there’s only 115 PS going through the front wheels, it appears the suspension gets troubled easily in these conditions, especially over rougher, patched sections of B road.
It seems mad to say it, but a limited slip diff would probably be of a benefit, instead of the pseudo ‘XDS differential’ that uses the traction control to brake inside wheels during cornering.
Getting the power down in these wet conditions was also met with a lot of axle tramp, which is most likely the dampers not reacting quick enough.Using a ballerina’s right foot, we squelched our way through the countryside. Yes, you can play with the Up thanks to its dinky dimensions, however it doesn’t have any real lightweight characteristics.
There isn’t the chuckability you get with something like the last gen Swift Sport or the current MG3. Having never driven an original Golf GTi I can’t offer any comparisons, but from driving older hot hatches like the 205 GTi and even our very own 106 GTi, this VW just can’t come close to that precision and feel. Few modern cars can due to the amount of tech and safety devices packed into them these days.
So while it’s a quick steer and looks the part, ultimately there are more ‘fun’ cars to be had. Ones that don’t suffer from a terrible amount of wheel spin in wet conditions.
Jumping inside and everything is as smart as the outside. Apart from the standard fit bits of cheap plastic, the detailing is on point.
Naturally, you get the tartan GTi fabric, but there are red details to be found on the gear knob (with GTi logo) across the dash there’s a nice red and black ombre going on and the steering wheel stitching also matches.
Instead of the old style clip in sat nav that we had in the Skoda Citigo, you now get a smartphone dock that links with an app allowing you to play music and call your contacts with ease.
Sadly a lot of the gear on this Up GTi wasn’t standard. The list of extras includes cruise control and rear parking sensors at £300, climate control £265, the beats audio system with six speakers and a sub £370 and the city brake system that includes auto lights & wipers was another £380. That’s without the Vodafone vehicle tracker £485.
All those clip on’s made this teeny tiny car a whopping £16,105. £800 more would get you a Suzuki Swift Sport, which is quicker to 62, bigger, and more fun to drive.
Brand snobs need not apply.
Rave reviews across the rest of the motoring world aside, we didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
Now conditions arguably play a considerable part, but we can only base our review of the VW Up GTi on what we sampled during a couple of hours with the car. If you’re buying one of these, you’ll be driving it in the wet…especially if you’re from the UK. So take heed of our words. It’s not the most fun, nor the best steering quick hatch on the scene.