Before you get too excited, this is just the concept – though it looks production ready, and all the outputs are confirmed so it’s really just a formality – but this is the Volkswagen UP GTI. Yip, the littlest Volkswagen is being ‘GTI-ified‘ in the same vein as the original Volkswagen Golf Mk1 GTI – the iconic hot hatch.
It’s not just a marketing gimmick to liken the 2 models – the UP GTI apes the 41 year old Mk1 Golf GTI incredibly closely in dimensions, power outputs, and even in interior trim.
Not only does the UP GTI share a similar wheelbase (1420mm) to the original GTI (1400), but power outputs are remarkably close. The UP GTI boasts 85kW and 200Nm from a 1.0-litre TSI 3-cylinder engine, compared to the 81kW of the original Mk1 GTI. Performance is similar too, with the UP GTI claiming a 0-100km/h time of 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 197km/h, compared to the Mk1 GTI’s 9.0s sprint time and 182km/h top speed.
It’s largely down to the low kerb weight of 997kg, which although heavier than the original’s 810kg is still in the same vein of giving a lightweight body enough power to have fun with.
The resemblance of the UP GTI continues visually in addition to the fundamental engineering principals – with the UP GTI boasting similar colours to the original, red, silver, white, and black, along with traditional GTI styling elements such as the red stripe across the grille, GTI insignia and the honeycomb patterned grille.
Inside, the UP GTI features the traditional golf-ball manual gear shifter, as well as the original Clark-design tartan seat upholstery.
In addition to the improved outputs, the Volkswagen UP GTI gets several additions to set it apart from the regular UP!. It boasts 17-inch alloy wheels, highlighted by a 15mm lower body thanks to new sports suspension to help make it handle like a real GTI should.
There are those, us included, who had hoped for a little more power to at least retain the original GTI’s 100kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio, that would’ve placed the UP GTI in the company of the benchmark Suzuki Swift Sport. But, a small hatch with great handling and exploitable power outputs is never something to be scoffed at, and the UP GTI is a welcome addition to the world.
Sadly, Volkswagen SA suggests we won’t be receiving the model locally, citing the price as being too excessive to warrant its sale locally. However, with enough demand, they may revisit the decision, and knowing South Africa’s allegiance to the Volkswagen GTI nameplate, there is still hope.