We seem to have been teased for years about a possible hot version of VW’s city car. Finally, we’re almost there, with the announcement of this production-ready concept.
The ‘concept’ tag needs to be taken pretty lightly. From the details released, and the photos supplied by Volkswagen, this thing looks as close to being fit for human consumption as possible. Come 2018 you’ll be able to take home an Up GTI from your local VW dealership, and we’ll be very surprised if it looks different to this. We’re still mildly disappointed that Volkswagen didn’t take our suggestion of naming it the ‘Power Up’ though.
Power comes from a tuned version of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine used in the normal Up. However, it’s been boosted to deliver 113hp and 148lb-ft of torque. Granted in 2017 that doesn’t sound like a great deal for a hot hatch, when the latest Mk7.5 Golf GTI packs almost 227hp, and the Golf R is endowed with over 305hp. So why would we be getting excited about a city car with so little power, even if it does have a six-speed manual gearbox?
Volkswagen is keen to play up the similarities between the Up GTI and the original Mk1 Golf GTI. That 1976 car used a 1.6-litre engine, producing 110hp, and was able to do 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds, plus a top speed of 113mph. By contrast, the Up GTI is even quicker, doing 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, and topping out at a claimed 122mph. On paper at least, it therefore beats the most thumbed page in the Volkswagen GTI history book. A low weight of 997kg for the Up GTI compares favourably to a Golf from 40 years ago, which tipped the scales at just 810kg.
Yet the modern car is set to have far more technology and extra features than the original Golf from the 1970s. Air conditioning, multiple airbags, and a multi-function steering wheel, are all things that modern GTI drivers couldn’t live without, but come with an obvious weight penalty. The Up GTI also gains a number of retro-inspired styling features, such as the red stripe in the grille, larger rear spoiler, side stripes, and sports seats featuring ‘Clark’ tartan trim.
Combined with 17″ wheels, and suspension mildly lowered by 15mm, it gives the Up GTI quite a lot of presence for a tiny city car. Plus, when it comes to dimensions, the Up GTI is quite close in size to the first Golf. A Mk1 Golf GTI measured 3,700mm in length, whilst the current Up is even smaller at 3,570mm.
The Up GTI is actually closer to Volkswagen’s last baby hot hatch, the Lupo GTI sold between 2000 and 2005. The Lupo was actually 43mm shorter than the Up, but weighed around 25kg more. However, with 123hp from a 1.6-litre engine, it would be likely to out gun the Up GTI in a straight-out drag race. We can only hope that the new Up GTI channels the same sense of fun found in the Lupo GTI, along with the same strong residual values. Seriously – go check the prices of Lupo GTIs now.
Volkswagen is set to release more details about the Up GTI at the Wörthersee festival in Austria this week. After that, we’ll then have a potentially painful wait of almost a year until production cars finally land with customers. In the mean time, we can only keep hoping that VW manages to inject a healthy dose of fun into the Up GTI. Given the basic Up is already rather entertaining, our hopes are high. Don’t let us down, Wolfsburg!