ENGINE We’re indebted to the experts at the excellent Clublupo.co.uk, in particular Pete Russell, Jon Nixon and Martin Wright, for their input here. All agree the Lupo GTI is fundamentally wellbuilt and generally reliable, but it’s not without issues. The main thing to check for is whether the engine is burning oil. Higher mileage cars (usually 110,000-plus) have seen piston ring failures leading to scratched bores; others have blown valve-stem seals, so beware oil specks on the tailgate and any blue smoke on the overrun.
The engine should warm up to 90deg C and stay there; if it doesn’t, it almost certainly needs a thermostat and/or temperature sender: a common fault, though not an expensive one to fix. Ditto any misfiring or fluffy idling, which usually points to coil packs and HT leads needing replacement.
Both five- and six-speeder are stronger than the notoriously weak ’box in the Polo GTI, though some five-speeders do suffer shaft and synchro failures, which will eventually lead to jumping out of gear, so if you’re looking at an early car pay special attention to the ’ box. If the shift itself is difficult, it’s probably the turret on top of the box that needs lubrication. The general view is the sixspeed is the one to have.
SUSPENSION, STEERING, BR AKES
Being a light car, the Lupo is quite easy on its suspension and brakes. Any knocking is almost certainly the anti-roll bar bushes. Aftermarket coilovers are a common mod and shouldn’t give any issues provided the car hasn’t been drastically lowered. Just check they’re good quality ones. For future value, though, original is best.
BODY, INTERIOR, ELECTRICS
Originality is key here. Use a magnet wrapped in thin cloth to check the car still has the aluminium doors, front wings and bonnet. If it’s been crashed, these may have been replaced with steel items (the original bonnet is no longer available; the other aluminium panels are expensive).
Some cars rust on the roof, around the gutter rails. Also check the front wings for bubbling at the bottom and edges. The wheelarch liners should be removed regularly and the inner wing and sill cleaned out – it’s a water and dirt trap that leads to corrosion in the sills.
Check the third brake-light works and look for bubbling on the spoiler around it (both common issues). In the boot, lift the trim and examine the battery tray for corrosion. And while you’re round the back, check the condition of the exhaust if original – a new backbox from VW is nearly £600.
At the front, get someone to turn the headlights on and check the bi-xenons come on together and have matching intensity – they’re pricey to replace. Also check the car still has the thinner (i.e lighter) Sekurit-branded glass (apart from the heated rear screen, which is the same as on a normal Lupo).
Ensure that the central locking works on all the locks, and that the electric windows both work.