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VW Up GTI review: baby hot hatch tested in the UK

Published: 15 Nov 2017

Yay! The Up GTI is finally on-sale…

Not quite. Even though the Up GTI doesn’t officially arrive in the UK until next year, VW sent a pre-production (but near-enough ready) one to Scotland for the epic that was Speed Week 2017, giving us the opportunity to see what it’s like on your typical British B-road long before anyone else. Happy days indeed.

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Scotland. Did it rain?

Hell yes it rained - we’d have been disappointed if it hadn’t. There was always a risk that in such company the Up would feel a bit slow, soft and…unserious. And sure enough, at times it did. But rain is the great equalizer, which is how once we left Knockhill, it managed to keep some of the super-serious stuff properly honest. Standing water, see.  


Indeed. As with all small cars, the key to driving the Up quickly is maintaining momentum, but don’t think that getting it up to speed in the first place is a chore. The 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder makes just 113bhp and 170lb ft, but because it weighs a little under a tonne you get 8.8 secs to 62mph and 126mph – not half bad. And because VW has borrowed the sound-symposer trick from the Golf R, it sounds meaty and purposeful. Like you’re going faster than you are, and that’s crucial in car that’s only a fraction of a second quicker to 62mph than a Mk1 Golf GTI. A car three decades its senior.

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That you can row through pretty much four gears before you’re at risk of attracting the attention of PC Whatever means the exit of every roundabout, corner or junction is a flat-out sprint to the speed-limit. Responsibly enjoying modern performance cars in Britain can be hard – not so in the Up. It’s spot on.

Sounds fun.

God yes, and civilised too. The six-speed manual transmission isn’t Civic Type R-serious, but it’s accurate and easy and entirely in-keeping with the Up’s playful, easy-going character. And while the ride is stiffer than a standard Up’s, there’s still a bit of float and roll. But that’s OK – a bit of wobble never hurt anybody. In all it’s a comfy thing and the tartan chairs are superb. We’d daily one without hesitation.

Now I really want one.

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Likewise. There will be a choice between three- and five-doors and prices are set to start from £14,000 or so. GTI gets faster, weightier steering, lower, stiffer suspension and 195-section tyres on 17-inch alloys. Aesthetic mods are for the most part pretty subtle – tartan seats, a stripe and some red lipstick. Tasteful and subtle – everyone thinks it’s a regular Up, and that’s fine by us.

I’d like to know more about the Up GTI.

Well you’re in luck. Click on these words, then these words and finally these words for more on one of our favourites from 2017.

Images: Barry Hayden

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