Back in 1975, Volkswagen unveiled the original Golf GTI at the Frankfurt motor show. At the time, it was a rare combination of both sportiness and practicality, and today it’s still one of the most revered vehicles on the market for that exact reason. Now, Volkswagen is trying to recapture some of that first GTI’s magic and apply it to another small car, with the planned-for-production Up! GTI Concept.
While the Golf has grown in size throughout the years, VW has introduced numerous attempts at compact entry-level vehicles with production cars such as the Polo and the Lupo, and concepts like the Student and the Chico. The Up! is the most recent VW subcompact to hit the market, as it stepped into the spotlight in 2011 as a successor to the Lupo, which had its own GTI version. All that is to say that Volkswagen knows a thing or two about tiny sport hatchbacks.
The Up! GTI, which will debut at the GTI Meet at Lake Wörthersee next week, uses a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder gas engine that Volkswagen has tuned to 113 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 23 horsepower from 89 in the current Up!’s most powerful engine, and it’s four horsepower more than the original Mark 1 GTI’s 109. Weighing in at only 2198 pounds, VW says the Up! GTI can scoot from zero to 62 mph in 8.8 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 122 mph. The car has been lowered by 0.6 inch for better driving dynamics, but there is no further mention of any other suspension or chassis revisions.
The concept, of course, gets all the GTI visuals, with the red stripe in the honeycomb grille setting off the package. It also has the classic double stripe across the side sill, gloss-black mirror caps, redesigned 17-inch wheels, a bigger roof spoiler, and another red stripe across the rear hatch. Inside, there’s a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, a GTI shift knob, and clark plaid seat upholstery.
VW says the show car is already close to production spec, and the final version of the Up! GTI will enter the European market at the beginning of 2018.