First drive: VW Up GTI prototype

First drive: VW Up GTI prototype
First drive: VW Up GTI prototype

Think of it as an original Golf GTI

VW is going to launch an Up GTI in 2018. That sounds quite fun, but can a VW really have a GTI badge when it only has 114bhp on offer? And that from a measly three-cylinder one-litre engine?

But here’s a weird thought. In many ways this upcoming VW is very similar to a Mk 1 Golf GTI. It will be 3600mm long whereas the Golf was 3705mm. The wheelbase will be 2415mm instead of the Golf’s 2400mm. Other dimensions are similarly close.

Yes, but you say, that Golf had a decent-sized and powerful engine. Well, that original 1.6-litre actually made 109bhp. This new little Up GTI will have more horsepower than the original, revered Golf GTI. It’ll be quicker to 62mph.

VW Up GTI

2018 VW Up GTi

VW Up GTI
On sale: Early 2018
Price: £15,000 (est)
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 114bhp
Torque: tbc
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerbweight 1020kg
0-62mph: 8.8sec
Top speed: 119mph
Economy: tbc
CO2 emissions: tbc

The car we drove was a prototype, and so not a finished car. Even so, it was impressively refined and sorted. The engine pulls really strongly, although economy figures mean second gear is hugely long. It’s actually a bit refined perhaps for a GTI, but maybe they’ll make it a bit rortier, who knows.

The handling feels very sorted, helped by sitting 15mm lower than on a standard Up. VW says it will be possible to induce oversteer, but our test car tended to understeer when really pushed – manufacturers are erring on the side of caution these days. It’s a long way from the original Golf GTI – just one glance at all the safety and economy kit will convince you of that.

But the interior will remind petrolheads of the Golf. There are tartan seats, red stitching, and an eye-catching red and black treatment to the dashboard. The steering wheel feels chunky and tactile. You’d want to drive this thing.

How much you’ll have to pay for the experience has yet to be announced, but rumours reckon around £15,000. That’s quite a bit, but this looks like it could be a very modern VW GTI for the next generation. It may well be worth it.

VW Up GTI

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