2018 Volkswagen Up GTI first drive: Fizzy, affordable fun

Cars can be fun in loads of different ways. Flooring it in something powerful is fun. Pottering about with the roof down in a roadster is fun. Wrestling with a fly-weight track car, in any circumstances, is fun. Having a massage from the driver’s seat of your luxo-cruiser is fun. Beating a sports car off the red light in your Mum’s old Astra is fun. There’s no end to it.

But there is a convincing argument that the simplest, most honest interpretation of a fun car, is this: The Volkswagen Up GTI. It won’t leave you with hypothermic cheeks and bleeding ears, and it won’t bust your bank balance, your driving licence or your insurance premium. It also has four seats and a boot so you can most likely live with it quite easily.

It is, shockingly, a car that’s realistically attainable for the masses (a very keen £13,750 for the 3dr, or a smidge over £14k for the 5dr) and yet promises to be flipping brilliant on the public road. A simple, yet oddly quite rare breed of car. A Renault Twingo GT, Smart Brabus, Abarth 595 or perhaps the forthcoming Suzuki Swift Sport, are about its only direct rivals. But is it everything that we all want it to be?

2018 VW Up GTI
2018 VW Up GTI

First impressions

Well, it certainly looks the part – inside and out. The Up GTI gets the full tartan cloth treatment inside, plus a pair of smart, supportive and heated sports seats, some glossy GTI badging, and a 5.0in colour screen with a USB port and all the connectivity stuff that you’d want (although you’ll have to use your phone for...