Volkswagen Lupo

There's no secret that Volkswagen Lupo is a retrimmed Seat Arosa, but it doesn't mean the VW is manufactured in Spain. In fact, both the Arosa and the Lupo are produced in VW's headquarters, Wolfsburg of Germany.  

What separates them apart is the trimming - the Seat is always bread and butter while the supposed-to-be-superior Volkswagen gains higher level of packaging. For instance, the interior side of the doors is trimmed with textile material of the same colour as the car body. The facia is designed to be more stylish and is also built with better material, although quite hardly matching the Golf. Twin-dial dashboard injects sporty image. Outside, the Lupo gets a pair of circular headlamps thus make it looks smarter.  

They are based on the Polo platform, with wheelbase and rear overhang shortened. As a result, rear passenger's leg room and the boot volume are sacrificed. The purpose is clear : Polo is designed for family men or women, Lupo is for unmarried young people who rarely travel with rear seat passengers.  

Lupo is a safe but boring car to handle. If understeers most of the time, rolls more than keen drivers would expect. Steering lack of sharp response than Ford Ka and Fiat Seicento Sporting. Nevertheless, it rides fine and has a healthy range of engines - bottom of the range is the familiar 50hp 1.0-litre from Polo. Next up is a new 16-valve 1.4 capable of 75hp (up 15hp from the previous 8-valver). This isn't really sporty but keeping it below 5,000rpm (where it maximum power generates at this suprisingly low rev) and it provides useful torque and good refinement. Above 5,000rpm, it because noisy and harsh.  

The range topping GTi is powered by the 100hp 1.4 dohc 16V, also comes from Polo. In contrast to the sohc version, it is too peaky indeed. 

The above report was last updated in 1998. All Rights Reserved.

Lupo 1.2 TDi - the first "3-litre" car

Lupo 1.2 TDi is the first so-called "3-litre car" in the world - consumes just 3 litres of fuel to run 100km. How does it achieve this ? 

Firstly, a turbo diesel engine using VW's pump injection technology is a must. The 1.2 litres unit has 3 cylinders only, thus reduced frictional energy loss. Although being extremely frugal, it generates a useful 61hp, enable 102mph top speed and 0-60mph in 13.8sec. 

Then, a sequential manual gearbox with "economy" auto mode is employed. Just like a Tiptronic, it enables the driver to shift manually by push and pull the shifter. However, to achieve the claimed 100 km per 3 litres fuel, you must keep the gearbox in the "economy" auto mode and let the computer to choose the right gear. 

As seen in a Golf several years ago, an electronic engine cutoff system has been equipped. When the Lupo is running into traffic jam and stopped, if the brake pedal has been pressed for 3 seconds, the engine management system will cutoff the fuel supply and stop the engine. Once the throttle pedal is pressed, the engine starts and pull again. 

Of course, weight and aerodynamic drag reduction would benefit the fuel consumption too. The Lupo gets an aluminium bonnet, magnessium wheels and light weight suspensions components, thus weighs only 800kg, some 200kg lighter than other models. Then there is a set of  low rolling resistance tyres which sacrifice a little bit grip. Refinement to the aerodynamic design of the nose, skirts and undertray helps reducing Cd to 0.29. 

VW tested the car in a route combining city and motorway and resulted in 94.4mpg, a record for any mass production conventional-engined car in today. However, some people said Lupo 1.2 TDi is more an advertisement than a real benefit to the environment, as its higher price prevent it from being sold at a meaningful scale. 

The above report was last updated on 16 Feb 99. All Rights Reserved.

Lupo GTI

This is Volkswagen’s best attempt for years to revive the spirit of the original Golf GTI. What made the Golf Mk1 classics is lightweight, quick and fun to drive - sadly, 2 of these elements no longer exist in the current line-up. To make a new GTI light, the company decided that it should be based on the smallest car, Lupo, and then replaced the steel bonnet, doors and front fenders with aluminium ones. It is probably not as expensive as you thought because the former 2 comes from the 3-litre Lupo. As a result, the car weighs an official 978 kg or 960 kg according to Autocar’s scale. This compares favourably with Peugeot 206 GTI (1028 kg) and ties with the long-serving 106 GTI (961 kg). 

A 125 horsepower 1.6-litre 16-valver comes straightly from Polo GTI. Although it is not eager at top end, there is sufficient mid-range punch to achieve 0-60 in merely 7.7 sec and at least 120 mph flat out. This reminds me the first generation Toyota MR2. Of course, in terms of performance and drivability, the 2-litre 206 GTI is by all means a league higher.  

Light and quick it is, is it fun to drive ? let’s look at the detail first. The flared wheelarches house wider tyres and enable wider tracks to improve roadholding. The suspension is tuned sportier. Even more so is the restyled body with mesh grilles, additional cooling intakes at the new front bumper, stylish alloy wheels, a centrally-mounted twin-pipe exhaust and a little tailgate spoiler. These changes effectively hide the bulky profile of the body. The interior is not very special compare with lesser Lupos, but as always, the design and quality of packaging are first rate. 

Ask this question again: is it fun to drive ? compare with Golf and Polo GTI, this one is definitely better. Being so light, so small and so quick, it feels really nimble and tends to persuade you to drive quick. But compare with Golf and Polo proof little. At the end it has to face the best French hot hatches - at its price range, they are 106 GTi and 206 GTi. Then you’ll discover the Lupo’s biggest fault is the lack of a communicative steering. While the French duo have steering that feedback the state of front-end grip, the Lupo tells you nothing until it breaks off the road. This mean you feel less involving and less confident to exploit its limit in twisty roads. Another fault is the rubbery gearshift. Unluckily, these two faults are exactly the most crucial areas for judging hot hatches.  

Besides, you can also criticise the Lupo’s tiny boot and severe lack of rear room - it is actually a 2+2. This make comparison with Ford Puma not non-sense. The Lupo GTI is obviously too expensive because it is just a bit cheaper than the bigger and faster 206 GTi and equals to Puma 1.7, therefore both cars will be better choices, while 106 GTi remains to be the last real GTi. 

The above report was last updated on 19 Apr 2001. All Rights Reserved.


Lupo 1.0E
Lupo 1.4
Lupo GTI
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
 3527 / 1639 / 1460 / 2323
Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl.
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl.
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl.
999 c.c.
1390 c.c.
1598 c.c.
50 hp
75 hp
125 hp
64 lbft
93 lbft
112 lbft
F: strut / R: torsion beam
175/65 R13
912 kg
1023 kg
960 kg
Top speed
93 mph*
107 mph (estimated)
120 mph*
0-60 mph
16.1 sec*
11.8 sec (estimated)
7.7 sec*
0-100 mph
23.8 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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