So we know that it has limitations. What about the positive standout points of the UP ? You'll be pleased to know that there are quite a few.
First of all VW have done a superb job on the motor. There's a sonic box of tricks somewhere under the dash but I don't really care because the 3 cylinder lump sounds genuinely fruity and engaging tone from the driver's seat. Not only that but it's a torquey little thing and whilst it revs happily and pulls nicely to the soft limit, a lot of the time low down power can be used to make good progress. 6th is an overdrive but even still, it's pretty effective for overtaking on the motorway and one needn't shift into 5th.
Although the UP is actually more capable and can be driven harder than it perhaps first appears, it is also a car that never really feels particularly slow. Some of this is the lack of inertia, the tiny size and the colour inherent in the chassis but some of it is probably down to the generous amount of torque on offer.
The gearchange is another plus. It's no Honda S2000 box but it's better than the Golf change and is genuinely pleasurable i'd say. It also falls to hand in the perfect place and on my test drive I found that I couldn't stop flicking between cogs. You will likely be doing a lot of the same in UP, it has a little of that intimate touch and feely ergonomics of an elise where your constant physical mumurrings on the pedals, gearlever and wheel are a complete delight. The compactness and spatial immediacy of all the controls makes the car feel engaging and driver centric.
Thirdly, this is a VW and that means teutonic quality and design, and sensible logical ergonomics. Although at the cheapest end of the catalogue there is still a feel of quality to the car as whole, from the physical interior to the general way it moves down the road. The dash is well built, the dials and infotainment superb, the wheel a delight and the iphone cradle / App setup works pretty well too (although I only ever display Waze). In motion the car's damping for the most part exudes the sophistication we have come to expect from a VAG product and the UP GTi has a robsutness and a basic rightness about it when moving along.
The brakes also seem rather decent. I've done a few really hard emergency stops and the car will come to a standstill in just a few metres; there really isn't a lot of mass to halt here. I will know more once she's been on circuit and down a few descending Alpine passes but for the moment, the brakes seem very good for a car of this type. There is also a fair bit of wiggle and squirm if you do brake hard and this is yet another source of enjoyment.
Despite what's been said in the press I would say that there is some adjustability in the car's attitude. As you would expect it will understeer if you go in too hot and an abrupt lift will rotate the car back round. It can be kind of fun but certainly more fun in the wet. You don't tend to induce much understeer mid corner or on exit however simply because there's either not enough power to provoke it or the traction control kicks in and you remain in a steady state.
The final strength of the UP I'd like to mention is its high speed stability. You'd think that a high sided, stubby wheelbase, lightweight car with a lot of bounce and a chattery chassis would not be so great at higher speeds but the first time I ever got the UP onto a Motorway and showed it's nose the horizon I was genuinely laughing out loud. Even flicking from one lane to the next and immersing yourself in the way the car moves around is a joy all by itself. At triple figures plus this car is very surefooted but also exhilirating !
The stability of the UP is impressive and bang up to date but as you'd expect with the bouncy spring rates there is a slight waywardness to the UP at high speed, like you're riding a hot hatch of old. It's an awful lot of fun and a real sense of not much physical car being there (just like a 205 GTi), but then take it through the M40-M25 sliproad, a very very fast downhill combination of 2 very high speed right handers and you will be suprised at the sheer speed you can carry in those fast sweepers and the amazing stability on offer from entry right the way through to exit. Although the little UP likes to jiggle and bounce and wiggle around a fair bit, the truth is it can actually be leant on very very hard and has incredible composure in the faster stuff.