Volkswagen’s Up has been the leading name in the city car segment since its introduction in 2011, setting the benchmark for models such as the Toyota Aygo, Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam.
Such is its brilliance that the dinky VW edged out powerhouses like the BMW 3 Series, Porsche 911 and Range Rover Evoque to the title of World Car of the Year in 2012.
While the Up has constantly delivered in terms of handling, style, practicality and economy, it has always fallen short on one metric: performance. But all that is about to change with the introduction of the Up GTI.
Yep, that’s right, VW will finally give its most compact car the GTI treatment, going on sale in the UK early 2018, priced from around £15,000.
It shouldn’t seem such a ludicrous concept though; the Fiat 500 Abarth and Vauxhall Adam S have been available for some time now and have managed to find buyers, albeit in a very niche market.
Under the bonnet
The VW Up GTI will be driven by a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder direct injection petrol engine, with a power output of 113bhp and 230Nm of torque that gets it to 62mph in 8.8 seconds with a top speed of 113mph.
That might not sound rapid and on paper, the 1.4-litre Abarth 595 – which has a 30bhp advantage – whips it, getting to 62mph in 7.3 seconds.
However, VW is marketing the Up GTI as a tribute to the original Golf GTI from 1976, breathing life into the concept of the lightweight, compact, no-frills sports car.
Aside from having similar dimensions and power to the mk1 GTI, the Up GTI also comes in the same colours: tornado red, pure white, dark silver and black pearl, as well as a new GTI colour – costa azul (or plain old ‘blue’ to you and I).
The Up GTI tells itself apart from the standard Up with the red stripe across the radiator grille, double stripes across the wide side sill panels and GTI logos on the front side quarter.
The exterior mirror caps are in high-gloss black, while the 17-inch alloy wheels have been completely redesigned and the entire car has been lowered by 15mm for a more lurching stance.
At the rear, there’s a larger roof edge spoiler providing greater downforce on the rear axle for optimised handling performance at higher speeds. Inside, there’s a leather-trimmed sport steering wheel, a GTI gear knob and the legendary tartan seat pattern.
VW reckons that “this GTI does not just look like one – it also drives like one”. We’ll find out for ourselves when it arrives here next year.