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VW Up GTI by Milltek review: tiny tuned terror tested

Published: 15 Jul 2019

Oh dear TG, someone’s vandalised your VW Up GTI.

Not vandalised – modified. This little tyke is the VW Up GTI by Milltek. Though, it’s brandishing parts from plenty more outfits than the British exhaust specialists. 

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Granted, this Up GTI has a Milltek exhaust. It’s running £500-worth of ‘Milltek Sport Road+ Cat-Back exhaust with Cerakote black trim’, actually. But instead of stopping there, it’s had a teenager’s wish-list thrown at it. Including the natty little black’n’red wrap you’ve spotted. Punchy, innit? They should have called it the Up Yours.

What else has been thrown at the Up GTI?

Power. A JBS remap for the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine raises power from an adequate 113bhp to a more serious 145bhp. The turbo dump valve noise sounds like a fire extinguisher going off in a filing cabinet and the exhaust parp is naughty. And always on, too.

It’s lower, thanks to KW V1 coilover suspension, and runs a grand’s worth of OZ Racing ‘rally’ wheels clad in serious-looking Nankang NS-2R tyres. They look pretty similar to the rubber you find sticking a Lotus Exige to the ground. Overall, the whole car’s stance is just superb. It’s so squat and square – Spongebob in a fireproof racing suit. 

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Hmm. I doubt it’s comfortable…

Well, let’s be polite and say the Up GTI’s natural forte has never been a sophisticated ride. Ridding it of some suspension travel and adding painted-on tyres hasn’t turned it into a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you’ll be unsurprised to learn. But neither has it become a bucking, bouncing, bump-steering mess either. The body control is less rattly, and more tied-down, than before.

It feels very different to drive, this Milltek GTI. There’s just so much grip, and so little body roll, that you have to tell your brain to forget the brakes exist. The cornering speeds this car can achieve are simply hilarious. It just sticks, stays flat, and clings onto hairpin bends like a Scalextric car with an industrial magnet in the chassis. This means that it confirms to chapter one, verse one of a good hot hatch: it encourages you to drive it like a bit of a tool.

Which is why they lent it to Top Gear.

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None taken. Anyway, if you got in a car covered in a black’n’red wrap and behaved sensibly, it’d be like going trick-or-treating in fancy dress and insisting on only receiving fruit. Let your hair down a bit. 

So, everyone should apply these upgrades to their Up GTI, then?

Perhaps not. The art of modifying a car successfully is to enhance a car’s attributes but all to the same level. Don’t leave something behind. The Up GTI by Milltek and co is a genuinely laugh-out-loud creation, but it’s so quick now, it kind of exposes the bits of the car we were less impressed with. Bits like the hallow, lightweight gearshift, which feels a bit flimsy when there’s so much power and noise on tap. And the steering – it’s still a little dead in your hands, so you have to trust the front-end grip is there. And it is there. Because this thing corners like a Tron bike.

Are the seats worth having? 

You mean the one-piece fixed-back Cobra Nagaro Circuit seats with bespoke tartan trim and branding? They’re the priciest upgrade fitted to this car, costing over £1,500, but they do give the Up GTI a mega sense of purpose. You sit so much lower in the car it feels like you’re in an MPV, sat right on the deck, like that F1-engined Renault Espace. They are very serious seats. And useful when you’re cornering like a cartoon. 

So, how much for all this teen spirit?

This demo car would set you back in the region of £19,500, but the great thing about a collection of mods like this is you can cherry-pick the bits you want. We’d have the exhaust and the deeply amusing power bump for sure, and perhaps the suspension and tyres if we were heading to track days this summer. And in that case, we might as well have the seats too. That’s Top Gear maths for you. 

But let’s draw the line at the decals. Even proper racing cars look cooler without the stickers…


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