Ned Jasper – Things are looking Up!

It took top honours in Ned’s top seven cars of 2017, and now the Volkswagen Up! GTI is proving to be one of the most important new cars launched this year. This is why.2018 Volkswagen up! GTI

In case you couldn’t tell I’m quite a fan of small sporty cars, especially those with a famous three letters behind the name. In fact, I happen to like them so much so, that I awarded the new Volkswagen Up! GTI the top spot on my annual ‘top seven cars of the year‘ list. I also awarded it to the Mk1 Golf GTI, but I make the rules, OK?

Why did I crown the Up! GTI the winner? No, not because it’s the only car in history to have two sentences in its name. Have a little think about that one…

2018 Volkswagen up! GTI

No, it’s because it has the recipe to make a properly fun little machine. Modern hot hatches are number obsessed. Be it horsepower, cornering G-force, transmission shift times, and not to mention the time it takes for them to cover a certain 13-mile race track in the heart of Germany.

This baby GTI bucks the trend, however, with a tiny 3-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre engine and lashings of retro-infused style. Just look at it, cute, but aggressive – kind of like a kickboxing kitten.

2018 Volkswagen up! GTI

Now those of you who regularly read ESM will know that we started talking about this car almost a year ago when it was merely a concept. Then when the top brass at VW gave it the go-ahead, I had the audacity to give it the top spot on my cars of the year list. Now, in the next stage of the Up! GTI story, UK prices have been released with orders already being taken. So many orders that dealers are now reporting potential waits of up to 12 months.

Prices for the Up! GTI starts at £13,750 for a bog standard 3-door car. That price gets you everything you could possibly need really, with chunky 17″ wheels, tartan interior and six-speed manual being standard across the range. (more…)

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

Back Catalogue | Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a new Volkswagen Polo GTI announced, we’ve taken a look back at the previous versions of Wolfsburg’s supermini that have worn the fabled hot hatch badge. And not just because ESM’s editor has owned two of them…

VW Polo GT

Ok, maybe the ownership history plays a small part in it, but there’s also the motivation to raise the profile of the Polo GTI and its ancestors. Having spent some 19 years living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, we think it’s only fair that the Polo gets some attention. There were fast Polos before the GTI, but here we’ve stuck with the six that were given the GTI badge.

1998 – 6N Polo GTI

Until 1998, the most powerful version of the third-generation 6N Polo was the 1.4-litre 16V model with 100hp. Things changed in 1998, with the introduction of a limited edition GTI, boasting a 1.6-litre engine producing 120hp. Suspension lowered by 15mm, a set of 15″ BBS RXII alloy wheels, uprated brakes, and a standard Electronic Differential Lock were the other mechanical changes.

Inside was a leather-wrapped steering wheel, with sports seats and red-edged floors mats also part of the package. Only 3,000 cars were produced, and all in left-hand drive, meaning the UK would have to wait slightly longer for a Polo GTI.


1999 to 2002 – 6N2 Polo GTI

1999 6N2 Polo GTI

ESM’s editor had one. He still talks about it now. A lot…

As part of a comprehensive mid-life facelift, Volkswagen made the Polo GTI a permanent fixture on the 6N2 price list. Much was carried over from the 6N GTI including the same 1.6-litre engine, but with power boosted to 125hp. This drove the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which gained a reputation for failure at high mileage. Something the 6N2 GTI owned by ESM’s editor fortunately managed to avoid. 0-62mph needed 8.7 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph, meaning performance was more warm than boiling.


2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

New Metal | 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

The all-new sixth generation Volkswagen Polo was revealed to the world last week, along with an enhanced GTI model. Yet certain things have left ESM feeling slightly bittersweet about it all.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

With a life spent living in the shadow of the bigger Golf GTI, it’s unprecedented for Volkswagen to announce a new Polo GTI at the same time as the regular supermini. In fact Polo GTI models have often felt like something on an afterthought, tacked on partway through a lifecycle. Not so with the new sixth-generation Polo, which will be available in cooking GTI specification from the outset.

The biggest news is under the bonnet, where the 1.8-litre TSI engine found in the current 6C Polo GTI is dispensed with, and in comes a new 2.0-litre unit. In world where everything seems to be about downsizing, there is something refreshing about a manufacturer upscaling an engine instead. Power raises slightly to 197hp, marking a minor increase of 8hp over the outgoing model, whilst gearbox choices remain as a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch. With an increase in size of the new car, we would imagine performance things to be pretty much on par with the existing Polo GTI.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

What has clearly changed are the dimensions, with the new Polo substantially bigger by almost every marker compared to the fifth-generation. The new model is so big that Volkswagen have actually chosen to compare it to the Mk4 Golf – a measure of the expansion in supermini scale over the past two decades. Greater interior and luggage space is the reasoning for this, and it does make you wonder just how people even managed to fit inside cars from the 1990s, let alone even be comfortable within them… (more…)

New Metal | Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

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.

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI 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.

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

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?

2017 Volkswagen Up GTI Concept

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. (more…)

Paris 2014 – Friday Photo – The Volkswagen Polo GTI (again)

Full disclosure; we only featured the new Polo GTI as a Friday photo two weeks ago. But, to coincide with the full launch of the car at the Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen revealed more details of the baby GTI. Including one that’s very important to EngageSportMode.

Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, (right) Volkswagen board member for ‘Development’ is possibly our new favourite person.

The XL Sport may have stolen the show in Paris, but Volkswagen also used the French event to release more details about the new Polo GTI. Unlike EngageSportMode’s prediction, the new GTI doesn’t feature a 750 bhp V12 engine, 4WD, or ten-speed automatic gearbox. Well, we guess you have to save some things for the ‘R’ version…

What it will have, is a 1.8 litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 189 bhp – 12 more than the previous 1.4 TSI – and 236 lb-ft of torque. That’s sufficient for 0-62 mph in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 147 mph; not bad for the smallest GTI in the Volkswagen family.  In fact, that’s only 0.2 of a second slower to 62 mph than the bigger Golf GTI. A six-speed manual gearbox now comes as standard, meaning buyers are no longer forced to endure a DSG transmission. The seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box does remain on the options list, however.

The biggest news, for ESM at least, is the optional ‘Sport Performance Kit’ that features a Sport button on the dashboard. Yes, the new Polo GTI will have a Sport Mode; we rejoice! Along with changing the stiffness of the optional ‘Sport Select’ suspension, the Sport button will also increase steering weight, sharpen the throttle response, and make the engine noise inside the car louder through the sound actuator. Quite frankly, Volkswagen has ticked every single box on the Sport Mode checklist when putting together the Sport Performance Kit, for which we’re truly happy.

They're not kidding!

They’re not kidding. Best VW switch since the Mk4 Golf ‘Funk’ button?


New – Volkswagen Golf R

The hot-hatch arms race ramped up another notch today, as photos and information about the latest Golf R were released. The headlines are the promise of 300 PS and a possible 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds.

2014 VW Golf R 001

Volkswagen seems to be putting all the attention grabbing emphasis on the mechanical, as the outside of the new R seems rather understated. To the untrained eye, possibly only the chunky five-spoke ‘Cadiz’ alloy wheels mark VW’s latest super hatch out as something special. At the rear, the four oval exhaust tailpipes differentiate it from the GTI, although they’re hardly huge in diameter. Compared to its class rivals of the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG, or BMW M135i, the Golf R is a paragon of modesty.

2014 VW Golf R 002

The new Golf R clearly intends to be Wolfsburg in sheep’s clothing, however, as it packs significant firepower beneath its subtle bodywork. (more…)

Volkswagen’s Crazy Power-Pickup Amorak Concept

If you hadn’t noticed, and it has been kept well hidden, EngageSportMode is a little bit of a fan of Volkswagens. ESM also happens to be a fan of pickup trucks, stemming from a lifelong aim to own a Dodge Ram or other huge American truck. So the unveiling of the Amarok by VW a few years ago went a long way to satisfying both desires. The only downside was that, compared to US offerings, it was a little bit underpowered. Until now that is.

Perhaps calling a 2.0-litre diesel engine with twin-turbochargers underpowered is slightly harsh. It develops 180bhp and 300 lb ft of torque, shoving the regular 2.1 ton Amarok to 60mph in 11 seconds. Not bad for such a huge vehicle. However, VW have seemingly decided that this is not enough, and last week unveiled the wonderfully titled Power-Pickup Concept.

Shown at the huge Volkswagen gathering at Woerthersee in Austria, the Power-Pickup Concept improves on the 2.0TDI’s performance considerably. Packing a 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine under the bonnet, the Power-Pickup boasts an impressive 272bhp and an even more impressive 440 lb ft. This substantial kick up the backside is enough to propel the, presumably lighter, single-cab Amarok to 60 in 7.9 seconds! It’s also fair to say the Power-Pickup has the looks to make the most of its new firepower:

Being lowered by 80 mm on to those 22 inch rims gives the Amorak a serious stance on the ground, all contained by the widened wheelarches. A carbon fibre diffuser and twin exhaust add some muscle to the rear also. Inside leather bucket seats, a 500w subwoofer and a black, white and red theme make the Power-Pickup much more racing driver than farmer.

Apparently the Power-Pickup Concept is envisaged to be used as a support vehicle for a karting team, hence the rather full load-bed. Will it make production in some form? As much as ESM would like to think it will, this current economic climate probably isn’t conducive to a road-racing VW pickup, which is a huge shame. Plus the thought of GTI owners being harassed by pickups wouldn’t be ideal for Volkswagen I suspect!

New Volkswagen up! Special Editions

EngageSportMode is a genuine fan of the Volkswagen up!. When we tested the base-model Take up! last year, we were hugely impressed with its value for money, perky performance and VW quality. We suggested that should you want a new city-car, you had no other viable option.

It’s also worth pointing out that we were a little bit amused by some of the names Volkswagen had come up with for the up!’s trim-levels. However, in a world where a major car manufacturer sees fit to call a car Adam, then clearly any sense when it comes to nomenclature has gone out the window.

Along with announcing that the fully electric, and Yorkshire accented, e-up! will hit the UK in 2014, Volkswagen have also announced two new special editions aimed at fans of “loud music, great-looking small cars and questionable puns”. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Groove up! and Rock up! editions!

This is the Rock up! edition. Looks good!

This is the Rock up! edition. Looks good!

The Rock up! features that distinctive anthracite body-stripe, full bodykit and rear spoiler and rolls on 16″ alloy wheels. I think the bigger “Upsilon” rims really give the up! some presence, and makes ESM very excited for a GT or GTI version.

Upping (sorry) the equipment count even higher, the Groove up! comes fitted with a 300w Fender sound system with 6-speakers, amplifier and subwoofer! Further kit includes a leather trimmed (with orange stitching) steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake to complement black seats with more orange stitching. The Groove up! also rolls on the same “Upsilon” wheels as the Rock up!, but the lacks the former’s bodykit.

Both feature the 1.0 litre 3-cylinder engine with 75bhp, with the Groove up! starting at £11,640 whilst the edgier Rock up! costs from £12,980. Buy now, collect in July.

In all seriousness, the up! continues to be ESM’s recommend city-car, and these two cunningly named special-editions just further the appeal. We’re still waiting on the proper sporty offering, hopefully with the beloved 1.2 litre turbo motor! Fingers crossed.

Bye Bye GTi – Saying Auf Wiedersehen to a Wolfsburg Legend

Tonight, ESM’s Mate Steve explains why he’s surrendered ownership of the iconic MkV Golf GTi, along with noting the highs and lows of owning a hot-hatch legend.

Last week I handed back the keys to a VW Golf GTi MkV, you might ask why, hopefully this will become clear.

Just over 3 years ago I cheerily told my girlfriend “Don’t worry, I’m just going to look, not buy” as she went off to do some shopping. An hour and a half later and I’m dragging her out of the supermarket to have one final test drive before sitting down to agree the deal. (more…)

Friday Photo From the Archives # 1

This week I’ve been having a bit of a Twitter chat with Richard from PoloDriver. In particular, about the 6N2 Polo GTi; one of which I used to own and like Richard does now own.

Along with developing the urge to go and buy one again, it also lead to me looking through the pictures I have of my beloved GTi. In particular, I came across this one:

Obviously, mine is the red one. It’s parked next to ESM’s Mate Dave’s TVR Cerbera Speed Six.This particular Cerbera proved, true to form, to have all the characteristic TVR reliability. It ended up on a recovery truck after the predictable cam-follower/valvegear disintegration episode.

The GTi proved a lot more reliable in the several years I owned it, and went through various subtle modifications to pretty much the spec pictured above: 16″ BBS RXII wheels, Eibach Sportline suspension (lowering by about 35-40mm) and a 280mm front-brake setup from a Golf G60. There was also OMP strutbrace and BMC carbon-fibre air intake under the bonnet. (more…)