In-depth reviews

Volkswagen up! GTI review

The VW up! GTI is the smallest car to wear the fabled badge, but it produces the biggest grin

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Huge fun to drive
  • Low running costs
  • Interior quality
  • ESP can’t be turned off
  • Steering lacks feel
  • Standard up! is nearly as much fun

The Volkswagen up! GTI is the antithesis of the bloated and overpowered performance cars that are almost unusable on UK roads. It provides proof that it’s possible to have fun while sticking to the speed limits, with a vibe that puts us in mind of the original Golf GTI.

Having been removed from sale to help it comply with the latest emissions standards, it’s back with the same eagerness to entertain, albeit with a slightly higher price. It remains a thoroughly compelling package.

About the Volkswagen up! GTI

The performance version of the up! sits below the Polo and Golf as the smallest new GTI you can buy. Power is sourced from a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 113bhp, which might not seem like a lot, but it’s plenty in a car weighing a little over a tonne.

The low kerbweight and sports suspension lowered by 15mm combine to create a car that’s entertaining in the city and huge fun to drive on a B-road. Extracting the best from the three-cylinder engine via the six-speed manual gearbox is a rewarding experience, especially because it’s accompanied by a raucous soundtrack, albeit one that’s digitally enhanced via the stereo.

Thanks to 17-inch alloy wheels, GTI styling upgrades and an interior overhaul, the sporty up! also looks the part, while a price tag of £16,000 gives it broader appeal. It’s not quite the bargain it once was, but it still represents tremendous value for money.

Following a subtle facelift, the up! GTI is better than ever, with a long list of standard equipment and fuel economy of 53.3mpg. This is a pocket rocket you can buy with your head and your heart.

Rivals are few and far between. The larger Suzuki Swift Sport costs £22,000, while the Ford Fiesta ST-Line Edition costs £20,000. In fact, its biggest rival is the standard up!, which is cheaper and nearly as much fun to drive.

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