Volkswagen Up GTI Review logo

Volkswagen Up GTI Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2017
      Body type
      Hot hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Fun way to stay small

Best bits

  • Great fun to drive without intimidating
  • Add ons increase the visual appeal inside and out
  • Still good on fuel as long as you drive with some restraint

Not so great

  • Quite a lot of money for a car this size
  • 90PS version gets quite close for less money
  • Ride is compromised by stiffer suspension

Read by

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

Overall verdict

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Interior

On the inside

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

Driving

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Car Seats

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The Volkswagen Up GTI is catering to a pretty small audience, but it does it very well. It’s even better to look at than the regular Up, drives with a great deal of enthusiasm and doesn’t use a great deal more fuel in the process. It’s quite a bit more expensive than a 90PS regular Up, but it is a very appealing package if you can afford it."

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

Volkswagen decided to have a serious crack at the city car market back in 2012 by creating the Volkswagen Up. The Up was the centrepiece in a trio that included the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo and shared a body structure, almost all the mechanicals and the basic layout of the interior, with only some engine choices, specification and visual elements to distinguish them. As is usually the way, the Volkswagen was the smartest of the three, and you paid a premium for it too.


To give some separation between the Up and its ‘lesser’ siblings, Volkswagen gave the Up some things that the Mii and Citigo had to do without. The first of those was the e-Up, a pure-electric version, and then latterly a 90PS turbocharged version of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine used across the range. In 2017 Volkswagen took that model one step further and created the Up GTI.


The basics of the Up GTI are exactly what you’ll find on the regular version. You get the same choice of three- or five-door body shells, both of which are as boxy as they come to offer as much interior space as possible for the given tiny footprint. It works too, as the Up GTI provides a decent amount of interior space, particularly for front seat occupants, while boot space is up there with its key rivals.


It’s a similar story on the inside of the Up GTI, although given that this is the range-topper and a performance model, you do get a few tasty extras. It’s still a pretty simple layout inside, with a slim dashboard and all the main controls grouped together in the centre of the cabin, but it feels a bit more special in here than in the regular Up. 


You get smart sports seats for starters, with the check cloth that harks back to Golf GTIs, a red pixellated dash panel that looks smart and a tasty three-spoke steering wheel pinched from the Golf. You still have to make do with the regular Up’s integrated smartphone system rather than a full-house infotainment setup however.


The big news is under the bonnet however, where the Up GTI gets an enhanced version of the turbocharged 1.0-litre 90PS unit already seen in some regular Up models. By fiddling with the engine internals including the turbocharger, the Up GTI’s engine kicks out a useful 115PS and 200Nm of torque - that’s double the torque output of the non-turbocharged Up. 


The Up GTI also gets a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, the only Up that gets this feature, and there’s no automatic gearbox option either. The Up GTI also rides on bigger 17-inch alloy wheels with fatter tyres, and also has mildly tweaked suspension to improve the handling.


The Up GTI is something of a curio. It’s too expensive to be just a city car, but it is one of the cheapest small hot hatchbacks. If the money is right and you want something a bit more fun than just a regular small car, the Up GTI is a strong contender.

Is the Volkswagen Up GTI right for you?

The Up GTI delivers a good deal of fun for not very much money, and it offers useful rather than searing performance, so it is an ideal choice if you’re moving up from ‘ordinary’ cars into sportier offerings. It’s quick enough to be fun but not so fast you’re likely to scare yourself, which is exactly what you want if you’re new to the idea.


It would also make a good second car if you were looking for something that didn’t cost the earth to buy and run, but was a fun alternative when you don’t want to drive the regular family wagon and you’re driving solo or with a friend.


Where the Up GTI is less successful is as a city car. It’s no bigger so it’s just as adept at zapping through traffic - arguably more so with the extra power - and just as easy to park, but the changes mean the ride quality is now not what it was, and it’s less comfortable on poor roads.

What’s the best Up GTI model to choose?

There’s not much to consider here. The Up GTI is in effect a trim level too, so you just get to pick between three or five doors. We’d always suggest five as it makes life a little easier when you use the rear seats and is more appealing when you’re selling it on, but if you don’t care about that then the three-door does look cooler.


With a high standard specification there’s not a great deal on the options list for you either. You can upgrade to the better Beats audio system - we think it’s worthwhile at £410 - and add climate control, but you get air conditioning as standard anyway. You can also add the Light and Sight pack or the Cruise and Park pack - of the two we’d say the latter is more useful, adding cruise control, rear parking sensors and a parking camera.

What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen Up GTI?

The main rivals for the regular Up, like its siblings from SEAT and Skoda, the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Skoda Citigo, don’t come in heated-up form like the Up GTI does, so they aren’t valid competition.


You need to look a but further afield to find rivals for the Up GTI, and there aren’t that many of them. The closest in size and cost is the Abarth 595, which actually has less interior space than the Up but has a fizzy turbocharged engine and a little more power, but is a bit more compromised as a result and is less appealing in normal driving. Another rival is the Suzuki Swift Sport, which is a little larger and about the same price, but offers a good blend of fun, comfort and practicality.

Learn more

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Interior

On the inside

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

Driving

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Up GTI Front Car Seats

Prices, versions and specification

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