When the original Golf GTI hit the scene back in 1976, it proved that you didn’t need a big and powerful engine or flashy sports car components to create a car that was fun to drive.
Since then the GTI has evolved into a far bigger, more sophisticated and consequently expensive machine and although it’s still an incredibly accomplished package, it’s a far cry from its affordable, back-to-basics origins.
Now there’s a newcomer that wants to be the original GTI’s spiritual successor and as logic would dictate, it’s based around Volkswagen’s smallest current car, the Up hatchback.
Although the Up GTI that we see here ahead of its world debut at the Lake Wörthersee GTI Meet on 24 May is technically a concept car, VW describes it as a near-production prototype and promises to launch the showroom version by early next year. Unfortunately there are no plans at this stage to bring the Up GTI to South Africa.
But how fast is it?
Volkswagen says that it’s powered by a TSI turbopetrol engine, rated at 85kW and 230Nm and good for an 8.8-second 0-100km/h sprint and 197km/h top speed. The engine size hasn’t been mentioned but it’s fairly safe to assume that it’s a version of VW’s latest 1-litre TSI three-cylinder unit.
For comparison’s sake, the original Golf GTI was powered by an 81kW/140Nm 1.6-litre normally aspirated four and could get to 100km/h in nine seconds flat. The vehicle weighed only 810kg and while the Up might seem portly by comparision at 997kg, you’d much rather have an accident in the newer car with its high-strength steels and airbags.
The hottest Up’s styling package pays its GTI dues with red stripes in the grille (now finished in a honeycomb pattern) as well as double stripes across the sill panels and tartan seat cloth. There’s no golf ball gear lever, but then this isn’t a Golf! Other show-off bits include 17-inch alloy wheels and gloss-black mirror caps.
VW also promises sportier running gear, without going into detail on this aspect, but at the very least we'd expect lower and stiffer suspension and perhaps even sharper steering and beefed up brakes.