Torque figures remain something of a secret - this is a prototype drive and the car won't go on sale for a year - but this manual Up GTI will do 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, compared to the Golf's 9.2. If it's offered with DSG - a big if - the Up GTI's would come down further, too.
Back in the day
And, of course, VW has dug deep into the GTI handbook to ensure an authentic experience. Black stripe down the bottom edge? Tick. Tartan seats? Naturlich. Red-stitching on the steering wheel? Present and correct. Six-speed gearbox with reverse up and off to the left? But of course. Chunky steering wheel to grip. Get comfortable, make yourself at home. Entry-level GTI or not, the styling department hasn't been messing with the heritage.
Nor have the team behind it, putting a modern twist on the Mk1 GTI's sense of extra curricular fettling by enthusiastic engineers. And the engine is by far the most impressive feat. Running 1.5bar of turbo pressure (the same as a 911 Turbo, and about half as much again as more everyday turbo engines) and a 10.5:1 compression ratio, there's also a water-cooled intercooler. The engineers believe they could have pushed closer to 125hp, but they've erred towards the best balance of power, torque and response.
The result - even with 12 months to launch - is really rather engaging. You won't get a G-induced nosebleed, but that little motor is eager as anything, bar for a short period in second gear where economy concerns seem to have overridden performance ones. It'd be a shame if they didn't bite the bullet on that one. The manual 'box shift is slick and, even in sixth, it keeps on pulling up towards the 119mph top speed.
Now, of course you want to know how the Up GTI handles. And while I'll do my best to tell you, I should caveat it by saying that the test route roads were very straight, to the extent planners appear to have preferred going through hills rather than around them. The few opportunities there were to actually steer the car suggested it is set up with decent weight through the wheel and a balance that leans towards neutral, before dipping into safety first understeer. Boo, I hear you say. Welcome to the modern world, I reply.
Pushed on the subject, engineers concede you can make it oversteer if you really try but, you must suspect from the look on their faces, you'd have to be driving like a complete hoodlum to manage it. PH likes a challenge...
But if you've finished choking at the idea of a three-cylinder GTI (and rumours abound that the next Fiesta ST may well be powered by a boosted triple too) then the reality is well worth considering. The price is expected to somewhere around £15,000, which is pretty sticky for the young market it's aimed at even before you factor in running costs and insurance. But, compared to the Twingo GT/SmartForFour Brabus or Abarth 595, it looks like a reasonable price for a car that fizzes with intent. The GTI family is having a new baby, and on this evidence it's going to fit in just fine.
VW UP GTI PROTOTYPE
Engine: 999cc, 3cyl, turbocharged petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 116@N/A rpm
Torque (lb ft): TBC
Top speed: 119mph
Price: £15,000 (est)