VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

With the Up GTI confirmed, we spent a week with its 89bhp little brother to see what we can expect from the incoming baby hot hatch
VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

At a time when they’re needed most, warmed-up city cars aren’t much of a thing these days. Ever more bombastic and arguably pointless power outputs are appearing in the world’s performance cars, making me yearn for tiny pocket rockets more than ever.

The sad thing is there used to be so many: we had the Peugeot 106 GTI and related Citroen Saxo, the Fiat Panda 100HP, the Ford SportKa and the VW Lupo GTI, to name but a few. They’ve all long since died out and haven’t been replaced, except for one: the Lupo.

It’s at last getting the successor the world deserves in the form of the new Up GTI, but we’re going to have to be patient. The concept version has only just been revealed, and the production car won’t be going on sale until 2018. So in the meantime, we thought we’d prepare ourselves by spending time with the current range-topping Up.

VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

It shares the same basic turbocharged, 1.0-litre inline-three with the incoming GTI, but with 89bhp and 118lb ft of torque rather than 113bhp and 147lb ft. Modest figures certainly, but with just 999kg to its name the Up will just scrape a 10 second 0-62mph time with a 9.9 second official figure.

To achieve that though, you need to thrash it. Hard. It has a meatier mid-range compared to the naturally-aspirated 74bhp version of this engine, but you still have to wind that adorably tiny rev counter around to top end in order to make the most of the little three pot.

The Up wins the award for 'World's Most Adorable Rev Counter' that I've just made up
The Up wins the award for 'World's Most Adorable Rev Counter' that I've…

Being a three-cylinder engine it’s not the most free-revving thing, but it does let out a lovely fizzy - if a little muted - exhaust note. Best of all, you can hack through the five speeds of the manual gearbox to your heart’s content, not worrying once about hitting anti-social speeds.

With that surprisingly punchy engine and fast, light steering, the Up is adept at quickly carving across town. It’s not quite so good out on country roads: the Up’s body roll is amusing around town but doesn’t exactly make for a back-road weapon, and those skinny little tyres don’t exactly have big grip reserves.

VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

But that’s fine, as the lower, stiffer GTI will solve that. The 89bhp Up already offers up lashings of refreshing fun, so a slightly more powerful, slightly tauter version should be a riot. It’s so clear that it only needs a modest bump in power, so VW’s restraint in blessing the incoming GTI with a mere 113bhp is looking like a master stroke.

VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

When you’re being a little more sensible, you can appreciate what a brilliantly packaged little thing the Up is. Because of its box-like design and low window lines, it feels bright, airy and roomy inside, and is stupidly easy to see out of when you’re parking. Which is extra easy since it’s so small.

As a bonus, our test car was the £11,490 ‘Beats’ version, which means you get a 300-watt Beats Audio sound system. It sadly doesn’t come pre-loaded with gangster rap, but - unlike every other Beats product I’ve tried - it actually sounds pretty damn good.

VW Up 90 Review: Proof That The GTI Will Be Awesome

Most importantly, this is a car that makes you feel happy. There’s something innocent and joyful about it, from the way it drives to its cheerily inoffensive styling. A slightly more powerful version of this thing is going to be awesome.



Hopefully when the GTI is reviewed the overall rating will go Up!

06/11/2017 - 11:33 |
50 | 4

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Leave. LEAVE

06/11/2017 - 11:58 |
5 | 1
Roadster / Tail Red


06/11/2017 - 11:34 |
1 | 1

Really nice, but there are way better cars for that money

06/11/2017 - 11:36 |
1 | 1
TurboToddler (Straight-five)

Am I the only one who feels like the Up! is a like the modern reincarnation of the mk1 Twingo?

06/11/2017 - 11:36 |
6 | 3

It kind of looks like a modern version actually

06/11/2017 - 12:10 |
3 | 3
Citigo/vw up!

Really excited to see some new Up’s! on the road :) .Eventually i’d like to get a VW GTI myself.

(it’s like my dream car at the minute)

06/11/2017 - 11:44 |
1 | 1

Agreed. Call it cheating but im tempted to buy facelift bumpers and lights for mine, they look so much better than pre facelift

06/12/2017 - 01:22 |
0 | 0
Ali Mahfooz

So is Car Throttle going to have ‘The World’s Most Adorable Rev Counter Award’ as an official thing? :P

06/11/2017 - 11:48 |
28 | 1

Wouldn’t be much of a contest. Nothing could possibly get close to the cuteness of the Up’s rev counter…

06/11/2017 - 22:04 |
3 | 0
Ben Ireland

Just read the Topgear review of the Up GTI, it was rated very highly, all seems good!

06/11/2017 - 11:55 |
1 | 1

I don’t know if a lot of people know but the Brazilian version of the Up! Makes 103 bhp which makes it almost a second faster to 60

06/11/2017 - 13:03 |
8 | 1

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

It’s also pretty safe compared to the death traps most South American cars are.

06/11/2017 - 21:11 |
3 | 0

This actually seems like a very good first car. Unfortunately I’m unable to buy one cause I’m on minimum wage

06/11/2017 - 13:07 |
2 | 1

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Quick advice: buying - let alone leasing - a brand new car for a first car is a terrible idea.

06/11/2017 - 17:33 |
9 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Do what i did and lease an older one, works out much easier. Only downside (if you can call it that) being is that youre basically stuck with it for 3 or 4 years.

06/13/2017 - 16:44 |
0 | 0
Craig Martin

Wife had one for three years with the, then, most powerful 75bhp engine. Great fun to thrash about town and surprizingly spacious for such a small wee car. Trips to ikea were had successfully believe it or not. Replaced it earlier in the year with the slightly quicker Ibiza Cupra however…

06/11/2017 - 15:19 |
2 | 0
Can Elmen

I’m really surprised that this car doesn’t even have a small screen (like 5-6 inches), even though it’s a range-topping model (I’m not sure about that since VW didn’t consider to import and sell this thing here, except the Skoda Citigo)

06/11/2017 - 15:56 |
0 | 0

Its weird because the last gen ones like mine have a screen but the new ones only have a phone mount and an app for the navigation.

06/13/2017 - 16:46 |
0 | 0


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