RE: VW Up GTI: PH Fleet

Friday 14th September

VW Up GTI: PH Fleet

So is this really a downsized GTI, or merely a quicker Up? To be honest, nobody really knows...



The Up GTI has been on fleet for a little over a month now, during which time it has mainly seen action on the daily commute to and fro across south west London. This, though, is a task which a standard Up could also readily complete, so does the GTI offer a sufficiently improved experience to justify not only its higher price, but also its very existence? Pondering that has raised more questions than answers.

Initial comparisons to the Mk1 Golf GTI, perhaps unsurprisingly, do the Up no favours. Yes, on paper there are undeniably similarities, but in reality it's just nowhere near as focused a car. The gear change is somewhat loose and frequently notchy, not half as tactile you might hope for a GTI. The three-cylinder engine has a strong mid range, but with little on offer at the top end you soon give up on chasing the revs, while the sound it emits is just rorty and loud rather than purposeful or aggressive.

On excursions outside the M25 the Up GTI is entertaining nonetheless. The ride is composed and it feels a more mature experience than its price tag or position in VW's lineup suggest. There is certainly fun to be had in tearing down routes which larger, more powerful cars would be simply too much for. On larger B-roads it can start to seem a little out of its depth, however, with the steering feeling a somewhat vague at higher speeds and poor surfaces catching out the suspension. There is fun to be had in a countryside drive, but not enough to make the trip especially for the purpose. Not often, at least. If you're looking for a practical runabout which can also fulfill weekend warrior duties, then the class above - Fiesta ST, Mini Cooper S et al - remains the starting point.


As a sporty city car, though, the Up excels. The engine delivers its 148lb ft between 2,000 and 3,500rpm providing nippy acceleration which, partnered with the nimble steering, makes getting out of junctions, zipping around cyclists, and negotiating gridlocked roads not only a breeze, but in fact rather fun. Its diminutive size, meanwhile, makes navigating the daily onslaught of double-parked delivery lorries, yellow box-blocking bozos and moped-mounted maniacs considerably less stressful. The brakes proved themselves effective too, when a man in Richmond decided to stroll out into the road - whilst reading a book.

Which brings us to the debate that has consumed PH Towers this week (for about 10 minutes one lunchtime). Does the GTI badge simply identify the sportiest iteration of a particular model - in the absence of an R, of course - or is it a title that needs to be earned in its own right, one that represents an ascendance to a higher echelon of automotive purity and driver engagement?

The Up GTI is undoubtedly the most able model in the range - whether that extra ability justifies its additional cost will have to wait for another time - and when viewed through the lens of the city car, this iteration ticks all the right performance boxes. When judged against other great GTIs past and present, though, it just doesn't possess the same driving credentials to be remembered alongside them. Not on the past month's impressions, at any rate.


I personally don't think that matters, so good is the Up at fulfilling its design brief. If you want a car that's great to drive outside an urban settling, don't buy a city car. Others will disagree, and I can see the logic behind expecting a GTI badged car to deliver a certain experience. All in all, though, our time in the Up GTI has been very positive so far, mainly thanks to the fact that it has largely operated in its comfort zone, perhaps, but isn't that why people choose these cars in the first place? The next few months are bound to reveal even more about the Up's character, as well as just how much of a step up over the rest of the range it really is. The answer to that question may well be the most important one of all.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Volkswagen Up GTI
On fleet since: August 2018
Run by: Dafydd Wood
Mileage: 1,887
List price new: £14,055 (As tested £16,005 comprising Deep Black paint (£520), Vodafone Protect and Connect 6 (£485), City Emergency Braking Pack (£380), Cruise and Park Pack (£300), Climate Control (£265)
Last month at a glance: Moving Up in the world as the GTI shines in the city

Previous reports:
PH gets All Fired Up about the latest Fleet arrival




Images: Dafydd Wood

 

Author
Discussion

Riverside Red

Original Poster:

681 posts

70 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
Mine might arrive before the end of the year if I'm lucky......

I'd planned on using it as a nippy city car, and a car for the odd trip to the tip, and where parking spaces are tiny too.

Looking forward to a manual too, even if it has its weaknesses.

RR

WCZ

5,902 posts

129 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
looks great in black, lowered and a remap/exhaust and it'd be lovely!

mrbarnett

202 posts

28 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
This review tells me that this car isn't a Golf GTi, but it doesn't tell me if it's a credible match for the similar diminutive sub hot hatches that were so plentiful a decade ago, but which have all but disappeared.

I'm talking about the 2004 Suzuki Swift Sport, the 2006 Fiat Panda 100 HP, the 2008 Renault Sport Twingo 133 etcetera. As a B road blast, how does it compare with those three?

Adrian E

2,553 posts

111 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
The GTI badge should at least deliver a certain amount of focus, otherwise we get back to the bad old days of the Mk4 Golf GTI 2.0

Surely it shouldn't be beyond VW to come up with something suitably 'S-Line'-ey to mark it out as a vaguely sporty looking but not entirely rapid sub-model?

The Polo GTI I think makes a much better starting point for the GTI moniker. I can't see the Up GTI gathering the same devout following as the old Lupo GTI.

I find it difficult to look beyond the Abarth 595 for a pure city car with a bit of fun mixed in

mrbarnett

202 posts

28 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
Adrian E said:
I find it difficult to look beyond the Abarth 595 for a pure city car with a bit of fun mixed in
But, unless the Abarth has improved significantly since it first appeared (and I don't just mean more power and noise), it was found to be pretty underwhelming when compared to the competition mentioned above (Panda, Swift, Twingo).

https://www.evo.co.uk/renault/twingo/14152/fiat-pa...

I'd like to see an old vs new group test; Abarth 595 against Panda 100HP, Swift Sport (Turbo) against Swift Sport (N/A), and Up! GTi against Lupo GTi. Take them to North Wales and ring their necks. Would be a good read.

Edited by mrbarnett on Friday 14th September 15:27

Advertisement

Adrian E

2,553 posts

111 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
mrbarnett said:
But, unless the Abarth has improved significantly since it first appeared (and I don't just mean more power and noise), it was found to be pretty underwhelming when compared to the competition mentioned above (Panda, Swift, Twingo).

https://www.evo.co.uk/renault/twingo/14152/fiat-pa...

I'd like to see an old vs new group test; Abarth 595 against Panda 100HP, Swift Sport (Turbo) against Swift Sport (N/A), and Up! GTi against Lupo GTi. Take them to North Wales and ring their necks. Would be a good read.

Edited by mrbarnett on Friday 14th September 15:27
That sounds like a fun group test in the mould of recent efforts around these parts!

My view is based on urban usage where something with plenty of pep to get away from the lights and an amusing soundtrack fits the bill, rather than having necessarily the last word in dynamics. Something that satisfies the inner child when I hear a 595 Competizione with the sports exhaust popping and banging at 15mph with no offence created.

I looked at buying one but needed it to be capable on the motorway occasionally. Test drive showed even on fast roads the short wheelbase and comical bump absorption weren’t up to the task. Bought a Golf GTI PP instead - a ‘better’ car for us but at least a class size bigger

Morry10

129 posts

120 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
Right at the beginning when the order books just opened, and with scrappage, you could have a billy basic one for £12,800 otr.

I think at that kind of money it is pretty hard to beat.

tomv1to

143 posts

102 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
mrbarnett said:
Adrian E said:
I find it difficult to look beyond the Abarth 595 for a pure city car with a bit of fun mixed in
But, unless the Abarth has improved significantly since it first appeared (and I don't just mean more power and noise), it was found to be pretty underwhelming when compared to the competition mentioned above (Panda, Swift, Twingo).

https://www.evo.co.uk/renault/twingo/14152/fiat-pa...

I'd like to see an old vs new group test; Abarth 595 against Panda 100HP, Swift Sport (Turbo) against Swift Sport (N/A), and Up! GTi against Lupo GTi. Take them to North Wales and ring their necks. Would be a good read.

Edited by mrbarnett on Friday 14th September 15:27
That would be a great group test.

To be honest after owning an Abarth 500 SS and now having a Swift Sport 1.6 if I were just doing a small commute or using it as a second car I think the Abarth would be hands down my choice in the current small city sector. The sheer joy of driving one of those things outweighs the negatives and if I was barely using the motorway I could overlook the crap 5 speed gearbox.

As it stands there isn't really a "do it all" city car new on the market that appeals to me anymore.

ash73

15,019 posts

156 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
5 speed gearbox in the Abarth is unforgivable, imo.

As are the stty drum brakes on this VW.

mooseracer

380 posts

105 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
What is wrong with drum rear brakes on a c1000kg hatch?

Toyoda

929 posts

35 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
mrbarnett said:
I'd like to see an old vs new group test; Abarth 595 against Panda 100HP, Swift Sport (Turbo) against Swift Sport (N/A), and Up! GTi against Lupo GTi. Take them to North Wales and ring their necks. Would be a good read.
I agree this would be a great group test but you'd have to remove the Lupo GTi as it was a proper GTi, unlike the Up. We were spoilt for choice in the mid noughties with these 100 bhp beauties, so would be great to see the Up go against the Ignis Sport, Yaris T-Sport, C2 VTR, Twingo GT, SportKa etc. Set a cap of say 115 bhp when new and away you go.Mind that would see the 595 removed too, but it would count in the Up GTi, Picanto GT Line (99bhp) and Twingo GT. Who needs big bhp on the daily commute anyway?!

WCZ

5,902 posts

129 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
Toyoda said:
I agree this would be a great group test but you'd have to remove the Lupo GTi as it was a proper GTi, unlike the Up. We were spoilt for choice in the mid noughties with these 100 bhp beauties, so would be great to see the Up go against the Ignis Sport, Yaris T-Sport, C2 VTR, Twingo GT, SportKa etc. Set a cap of say 115 bhp when new and away you go.Mind that would see the 595 removed too, but it would count in the Up GTi, Picanto GT Line (99bhp) and Twingo GT. Who needs big bhp on the daily commute anyway?!
I've had some stupidly fast cars, ferraris,amg,aston etc but the lupo gti was probably the funnest car I've ever had

eldar

11,701 posts

131 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
ash73 said:
5 speed gearbox in the Abarth is unforgivable, imo.

As are the stty drum brakes on this VW.
And the advantages of rear disks over rear drums ion this relatively light and slow FWD car would be what, exactly?

xu5

138 posts

92 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
As a concept the Up gti sounds great to me so I took a test drive but came away dissatisfied. It wasn't bad just not particularly fun handling, the base spec fiesta courtesy car I had at the time handled in a more entertaining way. The gearbox mechanism felt kinda weak as said in the review and the throttle / turbo lag annoyed. The wheels are also way too big and I am sure did the car no favours from a dynamic point of view. Having said all that it will remain on my radar, I think with 15" wheels, miltek ehaust and maybe eibach springs it could be more fun.

FN2TypeR

5,725 posts

28 months

Friday 14th September
quotequote all
That looks great and I look forward to reading more about it in the future!

£14,500ish with the black paint seems alright, that other £1500 of options sounds like a right waste though.

horsemeatscandal

354 posts

39 months

Saturday 15th September
quotequote all
This car looks brill to me, although shame to hear about the gear change. Most of my miles are done on a bike nowadays so little nippy hatchbacks are attractive to me (hence my current car).

Is there anything in the Up! GTi class except itself?

Will add, the car looks brilliant.

suffolk009

3,883 posts

100 months

Saturday 15th September
quotequote all
mooseracer said:
What is wrong with drum rear brakes on a c1000kg hatch?
Drum brakes are only on the back. Same as my old Caterham.

andrewparker

3,272 posts

122 months

Saturday 15th September
quotequote all
Morry10 said:
Right at the beginning when the order books just opened, and with scrappage, you could have a billy basic one for £12,800 otr.

I think at that kind of money it is pretty hard to beat.
Indeed. Mine came to just over £14k with every option ticked. Unfortunately the order was placed over 7 months ago and I still don’t have a build date.

davea18h

58 posts

59 months

Saturday 15th September
quotequote all
What about an RS version? Stick the 1.2 TSI or even better the 1.4 TSI under the bonnet. Called the Ultimate RS or URS, you would then have the Volkswagen UP URS! A great name as you go flying past everyone else on the B roads

Curv3hunter

1,941 posts

144 months

Saturday 15th September
quotequote all
Loving ours. 3k miles so far, plenty quick enough, well built. Cheap to buy and run. Puts a smile on your face. We have a Mk7 Golf GTI Clubsport as well and jumping between the two you don't feel short changed in the little Up.