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Volkswagen Up GTI — long-term review
Up, Up and away
What we’ve got here is a ‘High Up’, which in VW land is the highest spec and therefore most expensive ‘regular’ Up you can buy. No fancy trim, no exhaust-note fakery, small wheels and a very sensible, grown-up way of going about its business. In some ways, it’s actually better than the GTI.
Its 90bhp engine doesn’t feel any less gutsy than the GTI’s 115bhp from 0–40mph, so there’s still punch enough to exploit gaps as and when they appear. Even with the longer gearing of the 5spd ’box versus the GTI’s sixer.
Meanwhile, the High Up’s softer springs and smaller alloys (with bigger sidewalls) make it better at speed bumps and less bouncy over pockmarked surfaces. And while the lack of a sound symposer means the fruity exhaust note is no more, the quiet refinement that replaces it is impressive.
You feel and appreciate the GTI’s extra power, the changes to the chassis, suspension and steering on a B-road, but it’s not a performance car. Never has been and, in fairness, wasn’t really intended to be.
Said changes are minor – the MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspension layout is the same, just with beefier mounting points. The springs and dampers are uprated and the body sits 15mm closer to the ground.
Still masses of fun wherever you drive it, but it’s the same kind of fun you have driving the regular Up – by driving a small car quickly, by maintaining momentum at all costs. The GTI sacrifices a bit of day-today usability, but arguably doesn’t give very much back dynamically
Most of your extra money goes on character. The firmer ride makes it feel more serious, while the fake noise, tartan seats, lovely alloys and proper steering wheel add up to make a proper little scamp of a thing.
Not the follow-up to the Lupo GTI we hoped it might be, but an even more loveable version of an already very good car.