Lupo a city car pioneer

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivet time - Ian John­son

THE city car is big busi­ness today but in the late 1990s the genre was re­ally in its in­fancy.

Even so there were some bright stars emerg­ing that proved with­out doubt that small re­ally was beau­ti­ful.

One such, and in my view one of the most un­der-rated cars of its era, was the Volk­swa­gen Lupo.

With a name that trans­lated into Wolf you might think that the Lupo was an un­friendly ag­gres­sive car, but it in truth it was a cute cud­dly teddy bear of a car that was, as was nor­mal with Volk­swa­gen, very well built.

The name em­anated from that spir­i­tual home of Volk­swa­gen, the town of Wolfs­burg where the Lupo was made.

Lupo, which lasted un­til 2005 filled a gap at the bot­tom of the Volk­swa­gen model range caused by the in­creas­ing size and weight of the Polo.

It was es­sen­tially a badgeengi­neered SEAT Arosa and used a short­ened ver­sion of the Polo/ Ibiza plat­form.

Ini­tially the Lupo was only avail­able in two trim vari­ants, the bud­get E trim and the up­graded S trim.

How­ever, the range ex­panded to in­clude a Sport and GTI vari­ant. Petrol en­gines ranged from 1.0 to 1.4 (1.6 for the GTI) with diesels from 1.2 to 1.7. The dif­fer­ences be­tween the E and S trim in­cluded painted door mir­rors, door han­dles and strip, cen­tral lock­ing, electric win­dows, dou­ble fold­ing seats and open­ing rear win­dows.

An in­ter­est­ing ver­sion was the The Lupo 3L was a spe­cialedi­tion made with the in­tent of be­ing the world’s first car in se­ries pro­duc­tion con­sum­ing as lit­tle as 94mpg.

It was pow­ered by a 1.2 three­cylin­der diesel en­gine with tur­bocharger and di­rect in­jec­tion and made use of low- weight alu­minium and mag­ne­sium al­loys for many com­po­nents. Other fuel sav­ing ideas were low-rolling re­sis­tance tyres and stop/start tech­nol­ogy.

In­deed, some of the fea­tures we find on city cars today.

The 3L had an au­to­mated elec­tro- hy­draulic man­ual trans­mis­sion with a Tip­tronic mode. But as with a num­ber of VW mod­els it was not long be­fore a GTI badge was at­tached and this move made the Lupo re­ally spe­cial. It was even sug­gested that this car was a nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor to the Golf GTI Mk1, with it high fully body-coloured bumpers and twin cen­tral ex­hausts. In 2002, a six-speed gear­box was added, to­gether with im­proved throt­tle re­sponse.

It was re­ally out to net sales from the MINI Cooper and had the wow! fac­tor to do it with a top speed of 127mph and 0-62mph ac­cel­er­a­tion in 7.8 sec­onds.

The Lupo did have its de­trac­tors, some of whom hated the tiny boot and the price hike over its equiv­a­lent SEAT sta­ble­mate.

But there is no deny­ing that the Lupo, which was suc­ceeded by the Fox, was a sure in­di­ca­tion of the way ahead for the city car we know today.

LIT­TLE GEM The Lupo was eco­nom­i­cal, easy to park, re­fined and well built.

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