Volkswagen Up GTI (2018 – 2023) Review

Volkswagen Up GTI (2018 – 2023) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Volkswagen Up GTI is the cheapest route into a hot hatch and provides genuine laugh out loud fun, thanks to its miniscule weight, playful handling and zesty turbocharged 1.0-litre engine.

+Great fun to drive, 1.0 TSI engine is packed with character, high quality interior, still great in the city.

-Handling isn’t really GTI-worthy, quite expensive for a car this size, 90PS Up runs it close.

New prices start from £16,140

The Up GTI is the hot(ish) version of Volkswagen’s beloved Up city car, designed to compete with city car rivals like the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 but also small hot hatches like the Suzuki Swift and Abarth 500 too. The Up GTI follows the same route as other GTI Volkswagen’s by adding a sparky turbocharged engine to an existing model, as well as sharpening the handling and adding a dose of visual drama. The result is a car that is fun to drive, if not as sporty as you might hope, but it is still capable in town and has a great deal of kerb appeal.

The Volkswagen Up GTI doesn't win any sports car power offs, with its turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine mustering just 115PS and covering 0-62mph in a leisurely 8.8 seconds. However, with a kerb weight of 1070kg, the 1.0-litre unit's 200Nm of torque provides a powerful bump through all of the gears to give the impression you're travelling a lot faster than the speedo suggests.

Indeed, point this mico machine at a twisty road and it’ll scamper round with the eagerness of a demented Bloodhound, with its burbling soundtrack emitting a deep growl as you drop a gear and accelerate hard out of a tight bend. There are some drawbacks, with the overly light steering and stumpy chassis making it quite hard to pinpoint the Up’s handling limits.

Drivers expecting a razor sharp drive will undoubtedly be disappointed with the lack of feedback through the wheel and pedals. The front-wheel drive set-up has a tendency to get restless when presented with less than perfect road or weather conditions too, which places a nagging doubt about the Up’s suitability as a hot hatch.

Most will not be bothered by the lack of F1-type precession and simply enjoy the fact that you can go pedal-to-the-metal without fear of clocking up triple digits on the speedo and a difficult conversation with members of the local constabulary. And for this end the Up GTI comes into its own, because it is fast car fun without the frivolous fast car figures.

As with the standard car, the cabin is among the best of any city car on sale. The build quality is top notch and there is plenty of space for four adults to fit in comfort. The ride quality is on the firm side of comfortable and potholes provide an unwelcome wallop as the suspension crashes down heavily. The engine and wheels also generate quite a lot of noise on the motorway too, which some might find grating after an hour or two.

The Up GTI is a worthy addition to the long line of Volkswagen hot hatches, even if it doesn't do quite enough to justify its premium price tag (and insurance rating) over the standard 90PS car; however, even with this criticism in mind, it's difficult to deny that the Up GTI is anything but fantastic fun.

It might struggle to justify its price premium over the 90PS car, but the GTI is an entertaining throwback to the old school pocket rocket.

Ask Honest John

What are the implications if I change the aspect ratio of my tyres?

"The standard tyres on a VW UP GTI are 195/40 R17’s. The choice of tyre options in this size is limited and the tyres themselves do not help the ride. What are the options and implications of moving to a higher profile tyre and what would be the recommendation? "
You can comfortably increase the profile in your tyres to 195/45, and possibly 195/50, but we would advise checking with a local tyre fitter before proceeding with a change. A larger aspect ratio should give you more options to choose from and should contribute to increased ride comfort, although the downside of this may be a reduction in handling response.
Answered by David Ross

Should I replace my 2015 Renault Twingo with a newer car?

"I currently own a 2015 Renault Twingo Dynamique S with 35,000 miles on the clock. I have owned the car from new and it has always been serviced by a Renault dealer. I am more than happy with the car but want to avoid any big bills as the car is now seven years old and I'm aware that things might need replacing despite the low mileage. I'd also like to take advantage of the high second-hand car prices at the moment. I am quite taken with either a Volkswagen Up GTI or a Suzuki Swift Sport as I want something smallish, fun and sporty. I'm not ready for an electric car just yet. I'd happily consider something else to the Up or Swift but not a Ford or a MINI. I'd appreciate some advice as to whether you think I should sell my Twingo now and replace it with a new car or hang onto it? If I do sell the Twingo, what would you recommend that I get instead?"
Used car prices are starting to drop so now might be the time to sell your Twingo: We rate both the Suzuki Swift Sport and Volkswagen Up GTI highly – they're two brilliant little cars. We'd recommend shopping around, test driving both and seeing if you can get a deal you're happy with. Don't be afraid to bide your time if you can't... the cost to change from your Twingo will probably remain the same (as your Twingo's value drops, so will the cars you're looking at replacing it with).
Answered by Andrew Brady

Volkswagen Up GTI spec issue - can I make a claim?

"I recently purchased a new Volkswagen Up GTI based on the spec shown on the VW UK website. One of the 'key features', above the other Up models, is 'interior ambient lighting and surround lighting' which we have had on previous VW's, the last one being a Polo GTI. However, the only lighting feature present is a thin strip of red light that runs along the dashboard, there is no surround or ambient lighting. Also on the website it shows, in the Infotainment screen shot, that 'auto' is available on the headlight selection switch when, certainly on the car I received, it is not. The auto option could be considered as a safety feature and it's difficult to understand why it is not present. I find it less than satisfactory that a major car manufacturer can advertise features which do not, in truth, exist. I also wonder if these features are built into the price. Is there any redress that can be sought from VW or is it again a case of buyer beware?"
When you bought the car you should have been given a spec sheet or brochure that listed all of the standard equipment for your car. If the dealer promised additional features then you may have redress against the seller. But this will not be the case if you're arguing that your car should mirror the spec of a car image you have seen on the VW website. Ambient lighting for small VW Group cars is usually a single LED light strip on the dashboard, although some models do get coloured lighting on the doors. To my knowledge, automatic headlights are only fitted as standard to the electric e-Up.
Answered by Dan Powell
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