VW Up GTI review – VW’s smallest GTI tested on UK roads - Engine and gearbox

It might be the entry-level car in VW’s GTI range, but the Up GTI has masses of charm

Evo rating
  • An entertaining car to drive, even if it isn’t in the conventional hot hatch manner; high quality interior
  • Some of the interior’s quality should have gone into the chassis

Engine and gearbox

At the front, powering the front wheels, is a turbocharged three-cylinder engine that displaces 999cc. It’s essentially the same engine found in the TSI-powered Up, but boost has been upped and an intercooler added. The changes take power from 87bhp to 113bhp, and torque from 118lb ft to 147lb ft.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

As well as better performance, VW has improved the sound of the engine in the cabin with a physical resonator that amplifies the noise from the engine bay. As you accelerate, a deep warble emanates from the engine bay that’s occasionally reminiscent of Porsche’s current turbocharged flat-six in the Carrera. OK, it’s not as cultured or as sonorous as the 911’s engine, and it can seem a little boomy when cruising, but the Up’s soundtrack is pleasant when you’re making progress. Lift off the throttle and a delicate sneeze is emitted from the turbo, too.

> Click here for our review of the Smart Forfour Brabus

It’s the engine’s mid-range that’s most effective. It will rev to 6500rpm, but like many of VW’s other turbocharged motors, it’s happiest when worked between 3000 and 5000rpm. The motor propels the Up along at a brisk rate, giving it that gloriously elastic feel that's reminiscent of cars that combine a big engine in a small body - classic hot hatch in other words.

Any lift of the throttle when you’re climbing has a significant effect on your progress, so you resort to keeping your right foot pinned to the floor while gently brushing the brake with your left foot to trim your speed. Left-foot-braking may sound a bit over-the-top when driving on the road, but you’re never travelling at a spectacular rate in the Up and this helps sustain most of your precious pace. However, if you’re too eager with the brakes or linger on the pedal with your left foot for too long, the car cuts the engine’s power, negating all of your efforts.

There’s no option of a dual-clutch or automatic gearbox in the Up GTI, a simple manual is all you need. For the first time in an Up, the GTI gets a six-speed transmission and it’s a good one. The change is direct, close and slack-free, and you can change up as fast as your hand will move, helping you keep the engine in its mid-range perfectly.

The pedals are spaced in an awkward manner for heel-and-toe downshifts; it is possible but it isn’t helped by the engine responding slowly when you hit the throttle. Get the knack though, and you'll be whipping up and down the slick 'box just for the hell of it.

Most Popular

Visit/ferrari/203127/ferrari-omologata-revealed-latest-bespoke-commission-a-v12-super-coupe
Ferrari

Ferrari Omologata revealed – latest bespoke commission a V12 super coupe

One-off Ferrari Omologata revealed with bespoke body 789bhp V12 engine
25 Sep 2020
Visit/porsche/panamera/203126/porsche-panamera-turbo-s-2020-review
Porsche Panamera

Porsche Panamera Turbo S 2020 review 

Monster straight-line pace and impressive handling, but the Panamera sweet spot is found elsewhere
26 Sep 2020
Visit/bmw/m3-saloon/20529/all-new-bmw-m3-competition-revealed-an-icon-reborn
BMW M3 saloon

All-new BMW M3 Competition revealed – an icon reborn

This is the all-new BMW M3 Competition saloon which will join the M4 Competition coupe in BMW M’s new M3/4 family
23 Sep 2020
Visit/lamborghini/203125/lamborghini-boss-stefano-domenicali-named-new-f1-ceo
Lamborghini

Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicali named new F1 CEO

Lamborghini’s CEO to take charge of F1 from 2021.
25 Sep 2020