I live in West London, an area plagued by speed bumps, traffic lights and drivers sometimes so incompetent, I’m surprised they remember to breathe. Driving around here can be quite stressful, then, which is why the Up GTi is usually my go-to car (I have Miles the High Mileage Hero and my girlfriend’s Hyundai Coupe at my disposal too). Here’s why…
Firstly, it’s one of the best cars I know for maintaining good momentum in town. Visibility is great and it’s short and narrow which means you can change lanes quickly. And thanks to its 1070kg weight coupled with 113bhp, it’s rapid off the lights. In fact, few cars can beat the little GTi to 30mph.
Secondly, the Up GTi is fun to drive at low speeds; it turns in with triple-fried crispness, accelerates strongly, sounds sporty-ish (more to come on that later) and is one of the best cars on sale right now for legal kicks.
To create the GTi version of the Up, Volkswagen made a few big changes, including cranking up the power by 25 ponies and fitting new dampers, lower, stiffer springs, a beefed up rear axle and 17-inch alloys.
On a smooth, tight and twisty mountain road, these upgrades will make the Up GTi a fun little car, but in its natural habitat (town), the suspension and wheel combo are too firm for my liking - harsh speed bumps feel more like kerbs, bad pot holes shake your brain and there’s a fair bit of road noise from the tyres.
When it comes to car ownership, exclusivity is king. And that’s another reason to like the Up GTi, because in just over two months, I haven’t seen a single one! This could be down to the fact that potential owners are being quoted 12-14 months for delivery, but for me, it’s nice driving a car that’s more rare than a BMW M140i by what feels like 1000/1.
I also enjoy chatting to people about the car. Only last week, I spoke to a young guy who was surprised when I told him that ‘yes, VW makes a GTi version of the Up.’ Despite the media hype about the car, then, it’s clearly still a bit of an unknown with the general public.
Inside the GTi, a few styling cues let you know that this is no ordinary Up. There’s the flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel with contrasting red stitching, a GTi gearknob and ‘Jakara Red’ checked cloth trim on the, according to Volkswagen, sports seats. The reason I’ve italicised the word sports seats is because they are not in any way sporty. And this is the Up GTi’s biggest let down.
I mean, this is a car that VW has worked hard on to make fast and fun through corners, so why they didn’t fit the GTi with appropriate seats I’ll never know. What’s more, I walked past a mk3 Golf GTi last night and guess what…even that - one of the most anodyne ‘hot’ hatches of the 90s - had proper seats with body-hugging bolsters.
Forgetting the seats for a second, the rest of the sparse interior is solid but bland, and the mobile phone holder, while functional, is ugly. What I am a big fan of, however, is the 300-Watt Beats sound system which is £370 well spent, especially if you appreciate good bass.
I posted a picture of the Up GTi on my Instagram page earlier this week, and am glad to see that you guys - on the whole - appreciate this car’s ethos of being a cool, back-to-basics city car that’s fun and frugal. That’s why I thought it’d be useful not only to share my opinion on the GTi, but also a few of yours…
I was disappointed by the interior. I know it’s only a small thing but how much harder would it have been to build some seats with proper bolstering? The standard seats wrapped in gti tartan does not make it a better seat. The rest is brilliant though. An affordable, cheap to run, warm hatch that looks great - shlomping
Agree totally about the seats. It’s the equivalent of buying a really nice quiche and then eating it cold.
From the two weeks I’ve owned mine it’s been awesome - super efficient on long journeys, goes far quicker than you think it would and super fun in the corners. The seats are s%^t however and I will be changing them :) - haggis5664
Congrats on the purchase! It is fun in the corners and pretty efficient, but on the motorway it does like to smash through fuel - at 75mph for example, I was getting around 250 miles out of the (tiny) 35 litre tank, which is a bit of a frustration. But this is not intended as a motorway cruiser, so who am I to complain?
P.S - let me know what seats you go for!
It’s old school I love it, reminds me of the old Lupo GTI, long overdue this car and is much needed in the world - that_guy_with_the_yellow_skoda
The Lupo GTi is a car I need to get this Up GTi together with. I’ve already been offered a car from a friend (this is his car) so it’ll be interesting to see how similar they are!
Not a true GTI for me, a sport version of the Up maybe, but definitely shouldn’t be called a gti. The fake engine sound in the speakers is ridiculous as well, sounds like a V6. Otherwise it’s a good looking car, looks sporty and smart - theobriat
I agree about the engine noise sounding fake. It’s like a synthesised V6 roar under load and sounds a little ‘space-shippy’ at times. Would rather do without it.
Overall, I am pleased with life with the Up GTi, which is why I’d score it 7.5/10. However, like I said above, there are a few things that I’m not sold on; the seats and ride quality being the most obvious flaws in my eyes.
Despite these things, the GTi is a car I’d still recommend. It looks great, is almost the perfect city car and is enjoyable to drive. It’s also a really great car to zip through traffic, which again ticks that ‘fun’ box. And, with prices starting from £14,055, it’s very good value for money too.
This week, I’ll be taking the Up GTi on track to find out what it’s like in an environment it should be pretty happy in. I’ll report back soon, but in the meantime if you have any questions, let me know below!