2018 Volkswagen up! GTI Review

Driven: 2018 Volkswagen up! GTI Review

We had the opportunity to test out the latest hot creation from VW – The Volkswagen up! GTI.

What is the Volkswagen up! GTI All About?

We are seeing the new Volkswagen up! GTi revolution 42 years after the release of the original Golf GTI. Like it or not, there are lots of similarities between the two cars. The up! is coming to town fulfilling a  similar need to the original Golf. Back in 1976, the Golf GTI had 110PS and now the VW up! GTI arrives with 115PS and a smaller body. It looks to be set for delivering as much fun as the original GTI, only built for the modern world. Let’s find out.

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Glancing at the exterior of the Volkswagen up! GTI, the car certainly looks the part. You can get the car as either a 3 or 5 door configuration. On the outside, you’ll notice it comes in GTI insignia, even including a double side stripe. It also has a nice set of 17″ Oswald GTI alloy wheels which fill the arches very nicely.

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This is the first GTI car that we’ve ever seen with a 1.0-litre petrol engine. The car comes with a 3-cylinder engine that creates 115ps and 200Nm of torque. The power goes to the front wheels and uses a 6-speed manual gearbox – this will get the car from 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds on to a top speed of 122mph. However, don’t let the GTI badge make you think the car isn’t efficient – it still returns around 50mpg and 129g/km Co2.

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 How Does it Drive?

Where do we even start? This is a super small engine car with a tiny footprint, boosting GTI credentials. Jumping into the car for the first time and setting myself up to drive, the car does feel like it has GTI DNA without moving. These are all thoughts collected from the bits I touched – that chunky steering wheel, classic GTI style gearstick and well-placed pedals.

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You start the car with a turn key ignition: the 3-cylinder begins with a good amount of fizz, and you can hear a nice audible exhaust note at idle. From the first time knocking the car into gear, you can tell that VW have put some effort into the notchy feel of this gearbox – it feels great to shift.

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Moving off in the up! GTI at low speeds, it’s just as easy to drive as any other city car that we’ve come across. However, once you find your first bit of straight road, you can open up the car and see how well that 115PS pulls. The 3-cylinder engine works really well, allowing you to rip through the gears in no time. For sure, you’re not going anywhere near as fast as in the Golf R; however, the sensation from behind the steering wheel is certainly enjoyable.

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An Insanely Fun Drive

Introducing the car to corners and starting to drive it with confidence is where you get the maximum reward. You can feel GTI dynamics in the up!, providing lots of useable grip, good steering feedback, and enough power to have fun while staying out of trouble. You don’t have to be going fast to get enjoyment out of the up! GTI.

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I got the opportunity to test the up! GTI on part of the Ascari circuit and I was impressed with how capable the car was. You can see below the handling circuit I tested the car on meant I could give the car a good going over for many laps. Despite the car not being the fastest, it certainly allowed me to explore my capabilities as a driver. I really enjoyed both the track and the car without things getting too complex. It is a really fun car to drive, whether you’re just starting or already a professional.

When you feel like taking things a bit easier, the up! GTI is a very efficient car. It is the first Volkswagen to be launched with a close-coupled petrol particulate filter, to minimise the emissions from the exhaust gasses. On paper, you should be able to achieve around 50mpg whilst creating around 129g/km of co2.

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What’s it like Inside?

Inside the car is very GTI. It offers the classic ‘Jacara’ Tartan seat fabric, GTI door sill panels, a special GTI gear knob and finally a very nicely dressed sporty steering wheel with red stitching and GTI logo. Any GTI fan would spot this car a mile off.

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Being an up!, there are only 4 seats – for the front two passengers, there is plenty of room, however in the back you’d probably be looking at only a short journey for adults. Boot space in this category of car is as expected, good for a few shopping bags and not a lot more – a compromise of a city car.

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Being a GTI, the car comes with additional features over the standard car. You can expect a composition colour radio, six-speaker sound system, USB inputs, air-conditioning and heated seats. This is all quite highly specified for a car in this category.

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Looking back on the driving experience of the up! GTI, it is a very playful car that will reward drivers across the scale. You get a feeling that it does have true GTI DNA, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously at the same time. I love this about the car – I think if it was brutally quick, people would be put off. But it has a bubbly essence that encourages you to get some joy out of the up!

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Starting at £13,555 for the 3-door model, the car provides exceptional value for money, especially when you consider the fun you’ll be having everywhere you drive.  The up! doesn’t come with a built-in sat nav, but does have a clever phone mount on the dash, helping to keep the price down. In true GTI nature, the cash has been spent where you want it – on the things that make the car enjoyable to drive. You get the  engine performance, steering feel and grip that all shows where your money is going. I think VW have done a great job giving us this super affordable GTI.

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2018 Volkswagen up! GTI Specs

  • Price: From £13,555
  • Engine: 1.0-litre TSI three cylinder Petrol
  • Power: 115 PS 
  • Torque: 200 Nm
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 122 mph
  • Weight: 1,070 kg
  • Economy combined: 50 mpg
  • CO2: 129 g/km