Has Volkswagen’s smallest car finally earned its exclamation point? The tiny Up! will get an Up! GTI sibling at this month’s Lake Worthesee GTI festival. Although it might be two classes below the current Golf GTI Mark 7.5 in regards to power and size, the Up! GTI is surprisingly close in specification to the original 1976 Golf GTI.
The Up! GTI uses a modified version of a normal Up!’s 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. The changes increase output from 89 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque to 114 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. That’s also more power and torque than the original Golf GTI. The Up! GTI promises to be more flexible than the classic Mark I GTI, too, with its peak torque arriving between 2,000 rpm and 3,500 rpm, rather than the old Golf GTI’s torque peak of 103 pound-feet at 5,000 rpm. Power for the Up! GTI only goes through a six-speed manual transmission, and, like the Golf and Polo GTI models, power only goes to the front wheels.
While the Up! GTI’s engine outperforms the Mark I Golf GTI, it is heavier than the classic hatch. The three-door Up! GTI will be 302 pounds heavier than the original Golf GTI, largely taken up with safety and emissions equipment, according to Volkswagen, including a new particulate filter. Still, the peppy engine will shove the little hatch to 62 miles per hour in 8.8 seconds and on to a 122-mph top speed.
When the Up! GTI appears on dealer lots next year, it will be readily identifiable as a GTI, too. It has a red stripe across its honeycomb radiator grille, a front splitter, rear wing, 17-inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers, and a body that rides 15 mm lower than the standard Up!. To maintain the GTI sound and feel inside, it has been fitted with an actuator to make it sound raucous in the cabin while remaining civilized to those outside the car. There are signature plaid seats, like on the two bigger GTI models, plus air conditioning, a USB connector, a six-speaker sound system, a leather-covered handbrake lever and ambient lighting.