There's been a lot of love for the Up GTI since its launch almost a year ago. On paper, the parallels between the Up and Mk.1 Golf GTI have proven irresistible to some, while on the road its cheap and cheerful character has won over many others. Despite the plaudits, however, one subject repeatedly crops up among the comments whenever Volkswagen's diminutive hot hatch is mentioned.
"Shame it's not a tad quicker. Needs to be in the mid sevens 0-60... I think with 15-inch wheels, Milltek exhaust and maybe Eibach springs it could be more fun... 145-150hp, coilovers, fruitier exhaust etc. It'll be a cracker... In 18-24 months time, I'll maybe pick up a Up GTI and have it straight into a tuners." You get the idea.
Having now spent over four months with the GTI, I've found it to be perfectly adept at fulfilling its sporty city car remit right out of the box - but untapped potential definitely remains. German tuners B&B Automobiltechnik clearly agreed, and created their own two-stage upgrade programme to put things right.
At Stage 1, boost pressure is increased by 0.2 bar, resulting in an extra 21hp from the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Stage 2 adds an uprated air intake and even more boost, plus the prerequisite engine map, for a total output of 145hp and 192lb ft of torque. A sports suspension package, which lowers the car by 30mm, helps to keep that extra power in check.
The outcome is 0-62 mph in 7.9 seconds and a top speed of over 130mph - versus 8.8 seconds and 122mph as standard - and a bill for around €1,000 for Stage 1 or €1,500 for Stage 2. Sounds quite a lot like the suggestions made in the comments, doesn't it? But at that point, is it really worth buying the GTI at all? After all, it uses essentially the same motor - plus intercooler and remap - as the 90hp, 118lb ft Up TSI. That car costs £12,445 - £1,610 less than a standard GTI and nearly £3,500 less than 'our' Up as tested.
PHer 'wigit' brought his very own modded Up GTI along to our recent Silverstone Sunday Service, a car I've been admiring on Instagram for a while and one that's just as tasteful in person at it appears on screen. Lowered on Eibach Pro Street S springs, the OEM wheels fill the arches even more pleasingly at its new height. As do the Rota Grid rims wrapped in Michelin Sport Pilot 3s he uses for track time, and the set of 16-inch Sparco Assetto Garas for winter. He's got all his bases covered, basically.
Explaining his choices he said, "For me it was not perfect, there again which car is these days, so I thought it needed some fettling, it has a few minor interior tweaks including some pedals from the mk1 TT and an ITG panel filter. The area I felt it was lacking was in the suspension department, for daily grind it is fine but when pressing on I found it had too much roll and pitched under acceleration and braking."
"I had been in discussions with Eibach and decided to change the dampers and springs and go for their Pro Street S Coilover kit which meant I could adjust the ride height, this was put to the test with a 2,000 mile trip around the Scottish Highlands and has ventured to the Curborough Sprint Course. The result has been a complete success as ride whilst slightly firmer is not crashy in general daily life but the big difference is in high speed corners where it feels composed and balanced and given this car is all about momentum comes in handy. Others have gone down the Eibach B12 Pro Kit which is springs and dampers and given positive feedback as well."
"I am a fan of the stock wheels and tyres in terms of looks but they are heavy and the Goodyear's are there for a reason - emissions - and not fun. I have a couple of sets of 16x7 lighter wheels I run on it and have increased tyre width to 205mm with it being sat on Sparco Asseto Garas for winter; I think the added sidewall does also improve things from a driver's perspective."
I think that, for now, that level of fettling is about as far as it makes sense to go in the case of the GTI. A little more body control, a little more grip. Those with anything more serious in mind would surely be better served buying the TSI at current prices and putting the difference into creating their own fast Up from scratch. Though I recognise, of course, that logic isn't always of primary significance when it comes to spending money on a car...
In the GTI, though, buyers looking for a little more of a thrill - and a sharper image - than the rest of the range provides, without having to turn to the Demon Tweeks catalogue to get it, will likely find as much extra performance as they need already waiting for them.
Car: Volkswagen Up GTI
On fleet since: August 2018
Run by: Dafydd Wood
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: The Up has us pondering its room for improvement