In the early Seventies when a team of enthusiasts hot-rodded a little Golf behind the Volkswagen executives’ backs, working after hours and during weekends to create their fuel-injected ‘GTI’ sports concept, the board wasn’t all too enthused about the car, and reluctantly allowed the men to go ahead and put 5,000 of the things into production. Just to get rid of them, sort of thing. The suits were convinced there was no demand for a sporty people’s car, how preposterous…
Well, more than four decades after the 1976 Golf GTI made history, Volkswagen has already crossed the two-million-sold mark with the famous hot hatch nameplate.
Now the Wolfsburg company fully realises what that car meant for hot-hatch-dom, and kind of admits that its GTI in seventh-generation form doesn’t exactly live up to the original.
That little ’76 was a pint-sized rocket, much smaller and lighter than even today’s Polo, and featured a naturally aspirated engine, tiny 13in wheels and humble equipment like tartan seats and a golf ball gear knob that was added as a joke. Today the Golf GTI has internet connectivity and gesture control, and with mature turbocharged power it behaves like a grown-up, most of the time.
So to find its inner child once again and remember what made the GTI badge so special in the first place, Volkswagen decided to have some fun by reviving the spirit of the original. The company did it not with a Golf, but with the little Euro-spec up! supermini that’s received the appropriate GTI treatment. There are red stripes, body graphics, and tartan and everything…
Making its world premiere last week, the new up! GTI is a proper tribute to the original Golf GTI and will hit roads in Europe from early next year. We in the GCC market will be missing out on a ton of pint-sized fun, with the up! GTI coming powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder one-litre engine making 113bhp and 199Nm of torque. With a low kerb weight of 997kg (still portly compared to the king of low-weight superminis, Suzuki, and its new three-pot Ignis weighing 885kg…) the up! GTI hits 100kph from rest in under nine seconds and goes on to a top speed of 197kph.
European buyers will be able to choose from classic GTI colours including red and pure white, and the car comes finished off with 17in wheels in high-gloss black paint, which look particularly filling in those arches considering the up! GTI is further lowered by 15mm.
The new car will start from about $19,500 overseas when it goes on sale in 2018, which is incidentally precisely as much as what a mint original car would cost you these days.