Volkswagen Up GTI review 2018

The VW Up GTI won't go on sale until next year, but we've already driven a prototype to see if this baby hot hatch is worth waiting for...

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Jim Holder
24 Nov 2017 09:52 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

VW’s GTI badge has become iconic, adorning some of the finest hot hatches in automotive history.

Some may bristle, then, to discover that it will soon be attached to a humble city car – and one powered by a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine at that.

But before anyone complains, they'd do well to investigate further, because the key figures of this Volkswagen Up GTI are remarkably similar to those of the original and much-heralded (MK1) Golf GTI. The two cars are a similar size, a similar weight and have similarly powerful engines, while the Up is actually fractionally quicker at sprinting from 0-60mph.

The Up GTI is one of 12 cars shortlisted for What Car?'s 2018 Reader Award. To see all of this year's contenders and vote for your favourites, click here.

Volkswagen Up GTI review 2018

What's the 2018 Volkswagen Up GTI like to drive?

Small in size it might be, but the 1.0-litre engine is responsive and flexible. It pulls remarkably keenly from low revs and keeps accelerating strongly all the way to the red line. Only a slightly lanky second gear, which is there to boost fuel economy, interrupts the flow.

That performance – surprising, if not mind-blowing – sits well with the Up GTI’s other qualities, too: a slick manual gearbox and nicely weighted pedals to make you feel really involved in the driving experience. It’s even pretty refined, with the engine remaining hushed even at high revs, and the ride remarkably supple by hot hatch standards.

Our test route didn’t give us too much opportunity to explore the Up GTI’s handling, but what chances we got revealed a surefooted and alert car that changes direction eagerly and grips well. It seems to have all the dynamic qualities you could reasonable hope for considering the expected £15k starting price.

What's the 2018 Volkswagen Up GTI like inside?

All the GTI hallmarks are present and correct, including tartan seats and red stitching on the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Volkswagen Up GTI review 2018

The neat red and black colour scheme on the dashboard also help this car stand out from lesser Ups, and give it a more youthful feel than Polo GTI and Golf GTI.

However, beyond that, this is essentially the VW Up as we know it: reasonably spacious for this type of car, poky boot aside, with a solid feel.

Next: Volkswagen Up GTI verdict >