VOLKSWAGEN LUPO GTI
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
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.