How fun is this 113bhp baby hot hatch?
Baby hot hatch kicks out 113bhp and weighs less than a tonne, so it promises plenty of fun On sale Now Price from £13,750
WHY IS WHAT Car? the best place to go for straightforward buying advice? Well, here’s a perfect illustration: the new Volkswagen Up GTI. If you read about it elsewhere, you’ll find industry bods crowing about the car being the “spiritual successor to the Mk1 Golf GTI”. But (a) it isn’t, and (b) who cares?
For a start, the Up is a city car, whereas the Golf, of course, isn’t. This might sound like pedantry, but is an Up with a teeny turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine really comparable to a Golf with a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder one?
“Ah, but it’s light,” they’ll holler. Yes, at 997kg, the Up GTI is a featherweight by modern standards. And that is a noteworthy point, because it bodes well for it being a hoot to drive. But at 810kg, the original Golf GTI seems lighter than a helium balloon on the moon in comparison.
So, let’s forget about validating the Up GTI against a car from 1976 and instead ask this: is it a better pint-sized hot hatch than the Abarth 595 or Renault Twingo GT?
Let’s begin with its little beating heart: that 113bhp engine. It’s unusually pokey from low revs, so you can pull away easily from a standstill in second gear or, once on the move, pop your foot down and be hauled up a hill from little more than 1000rpm in third.
Work it harder and the rev counter zings around to its redline, in the process producing performance that would banish any goading Twingo from your rear-view mirror. And all of this is accompanied by a cheeky (albeit digitally enhanced) three-cylinder chirp.
Yet the car is never rowdy. Wind and road noise aren’t overbearing at speed, while a slick six-speed manual gearbox, positive clutch action and progressive brakes make the Up GTI feel more refined than any city car has the right to be.
And while the ride is lumpier than the regular Up’s over scruffy roads, it’s nowhere near as exasperating as rivals’.
That extra bustle comes from the Up GTI’S bigger 17in alloys and sports suspension, which is stiffer and 15mm lower than the regular Up’s, but these also administer great grip and poise respectively – enough to make the Up GTI so much more entertaining than the wayward 595 and Twingo along twisting, challenging roads.
But while the Up GTI is a laugh to bomb around in, its steering and chassis lack the sophistication and fluidity of the great hot hatches, including, yes, that old Golf GTI. Still, for a car that’s less than half the price of the Honda Civic Type R, that’s no disgrace.
Inside, the Up’s ability to seat four adults in relative comfort and take a sensible amount of luggage (its boot is bigger than the Twingo’s)
is undiminished. The only real difference is that the no-frills interior has become slightly more frilly with Gti-spec accoutrements, such as a red-stitched leather steering wheel and tartan fabric for the supportive seats.
The Up GTI is available as a three or five-door, both of which undercut the 595 and Twingo. It comes with plenty of niceties, too, including air conditioning, ambient interior lighting, heated front seats and automatic emergency braking.
And the running costs aren’t bank-breaking, either, with average fuel economy of 50.4mpg and a CO2 output of 127g/km. If those figures appear worse than rivals’, bear in mind that the Up GTI was tested under the new WLTP rules, which are more realistic than the old NEDC test.
So, while it’s not really the spiritual successor to the beloved Mk1 Golf GTI, the Up GTI is absolutely the most spirited and enjoyable hot hatch at this price point.
Handling is much better resolved than that of rivals A 5.0in infotainment screen is paired with a phone cradle GTI gets a larger spoiler to increase downforce at rear