The Golf GTI is a legend of the motoring world, and the current model is a class-leader. But it's also a long way removed from the compact, light original. In fact, the closest thing to the Mk1 GTI in the current Volkswagen range is the up! VW has tried to evoke the spirit of that original car with the new up! GTI Concept, to be launched at the annual GTI Meet in Worthersee.
Over 40 years separates the Mk1 Golf GTI and the launch of the up! GTI, but their power outputs are almost identical. The turbocharged engine in the up! makes 85 kW (114 hp) of power, compared to 81 kW (109 hp) in the original. By way of comparison, the current Golf GTI makes 169 kW (227 hp).
Both cars weigh less than 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) but, thanks to its stronger body and greater consideration for modern safety standards, the 997 kg (2,198 lb) up! is a bit heavier than the 810 kg (1,786 lb) Mk1. Where the modern car blows its grandpa away is in the torque stakes. It makes 230 Nm and hits 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.8 seconds, compared to 140 Nm and 9.0 seconds for old Golf. The new car also has a 15 km/h (9 mph) higher top speed, topping out at 197 km/h (122 mph).
The similarities between old and new don't stop in the performance stakes. The Mk5 Golf GTI debuted a retro-inspired set of design cues like tartan seats and red trim on the grille, and the up! sticks to the theme. Along with the red lipstick treatment up front, there are black stripes on the flanks and tartan seats inside. A 15 mm (0.6 in) drop in ride height helps the 17-inch wheels better fill the wheel arches, and a bigger exhaust pipe has been fitted down back.
It looks good to our eyes, like a Golf GTI that has been hit with a shrink ray. It will go head-to-head with the Renault Twingo GT when it launches. Their power outputs are within 3 kW (4 hp) of each other, although the VW does make an extra 60 Nm of torque than the rear-engined Renault. They also look similarly tough. In other words, choosing between the two is likely to be a matter of personal preference. On that note, we're big fans of tartan seats, something you only get in a GTI.
The new GTI Concept will be on show at the GTI Meet in Worthersee, which kicks off on May 24. Production is set to begin early next year, but pricing hasn't been announced. In the meantime, you can check the car out in the video below.