Com­pact, feisty and well-built, the hottest Lu po has a cult fol­low­ing for a good rea­son. And you could find out why for as lit­tle as £2500 by Peter To­ma­lin

Evo - - MARKET -

WHEN THE LU P O GT I WA S launched at the end of 2000, a num­ber of road testers – in­clud­ing our very own Mr Meaden – likened it to the Mk1 Golf GTI. And you could see their point. As with the clas­sic Golf, the Lupo was small, light and bags of fun. With cars grow­ing in­ex­orably big­ger and heav­ier, that was some­thing to cel­e­brate. And now, like those early Golfs, the Lupo GTI is emerg­ing as a mod­ern clas­sic with a strong fol­low­ing all of its own.

In fact, looking at the stats, lit­tle wolfie (Lupo mean­ing wolf, a nod to VW’S Wolfs­burg HQ) had quite a bit more bite than its great-grandad. Whereas both (ini­tially at least, in the case of the Golf) had 1.6-litre fuel-in­jected four-pots driv­ing the front wheels, the Lupo’s 123bhp eas­ily out­gunned the Golf’s 108bhp, and the per­for­mance fig­ures bore that out: 0-60mph in 8.2sec and a 127mph max­i­mum were a whole chunk quicker than the Golf’s 9sec and 113mph. That’s progress for you.

The Lupo GTI was cer­tainly a se­ri­ous lit­tle hatch. It used the same engine as the Polo GTI but weighed in at just 1038kg, thanks in part to its alu­minium bon­net, front wings and doors. Vis­ually, it had a deep, jut­ting chin, gap­ing air vents, flared whee­larches over a wider track, chunky 15in al­loys, a sub­tle tail­gate spoiler and – best of all – twin cen­tral tailpipes. Un­der­neath, there were up­rated springs and dampers, a 20mm re­duc­tion in ride height, and disc brakes all-round. In­side was plain but busi­nesslike: the only slight dis­ap­point­ment was the seats, which weren’t the most sup­port­ive. Oth­er­wise it was a lit­tle corker, though on the pricey side at £13k be­fore op­tions, which in­cluded air con, leather, a CD player and an elec­tric sun­roof.

It got even bet­ter, too, when a six-speed gear­box re­placed the orig­i­nal five-speeder in late 2001. With tightly stacked ra­tios, the new ’box re­ally in­vig­o­rated the Lupo and, though it meant you were busier as the driver, that just added to the fun.

De­spite all this, only around 950 Lupo GTIS were sold in the UK and a cou­ple of hun­dred of those have been lost in the in­ter­ven­ing years, so it’s a rare wee beast to­day. Own­ers also tend to hang on to them – and you can see why. If you’d like to join them, here’s what else you need to know.

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