Spotted: VW Lupo GTI

I'm not about to go off on some Philip Larkin-esque missive but I've never quite been able to forgive my mum for almost buying a Lupo GTI. The 'almost' is the critical word here, her commendably impulsive car buying habits usually working to my favour. Like the time she took her Tipo to the Fiat dealership for a new clutch and came back with a brand new Cinquecento Sporting. "The salesman was VERY FRIENDLY," she said, somewhat defensively. As good a car as the Tipo was there were no complaints from me.

Dan still sore about missing out on a Lupo
Dan still sore about missing out on a Lupo
I wasn't living at home at the time but I knew from the tone of her voice on the phone that something had become of the Cinquecento. Then the admission that its place had been taken by an Alfa 145 Cloverleaf which, mysteriously, came and went before my next visit home and was never mentioned again. "I did almost buy one of those nice little Lupo GTIs though," she said in passing.

She should have done. And she should have kept it too, looking at the prices these things are now going for in the PH classifieds.

Launched in December 2000 and updated with a six-speed gearbox for the 2002 model-year halfway through 2001, the little Lupo hails from a period in VW group history in which premium car engineering and quality surfaced in ostensibly junior models. With cars like the A2, the seemingly never-ending Veyron project, the Bentley Conti and others, this was Piech encouraging a culture of engineering indulgence, not always in the most obvious places.

Interior in a different league, red belts 'fast'
Interior in a different league, red belts 'fast'
Which is how the little Lupo ended up with a large number of bespoke aluminium panels - wings, doors and bonnet - and a sub-1,000kg kerbweight. Enough to give the Polo GTI-donated 125hp 1.6-litre engine something to be going on with (the Lupo's 8.3-second 0-62 and 127mph top speed were comparable to the later 1.8-litre turbo Polo GTI) and matched with an all-pervading sense of quality and solidity that recent, more ruthlessly price-oriented engineering has all-but wiped out. £12,980 was not cheap given it'd also get you in the much more potent Clio 172 at the time but including xenon lights and cabin quality Clio owners could only dream of the Lupo was a proper premium proposition wrapped in compact dimensions. Red seat belts, like the Cinquecento, were also cool.

Only 125hp but less than a tonne to lug around
Only 125hp but less than a tonne to lug around
Going by HowManyLeft a good proportion of the near-1,000 cars sold in the UK survive, with 822 showing as registered last year. Not a bad survival rate for a hot hatch but it's a little car with quite a following and you'll need around £4,000 to get in one now. Are there many other cars retaining over a third of their value after 10 years on the road? Probably not, and especially not little runabouts like the Lupo.

This one, up for £4,650, looks to have been well-loved and is one of the MY2002 cars with the six-speeder, too. Black looks classy, and those subtly-boosted lines have aged very well indeed. Sorry Mum, but you should've bought this one back in the day. And what the hell did happen with that Alfa?

1,598cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual (6-speed post-MY2002)
Power (hp): 125@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 112@3,000rpm
MPG: 38.7 (official combined)
CO2: N/A
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 70,000
Price new: £12,980
Yours for: £4,650

See the original advert here.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (146) Join the discussion on the forum

  • MagicalTrevor 04 Aug 2013

    What a waste of time this article has been! And who's idea was the Aventador POTW when it clearly should have been the EP3 CTR? rolleyes

    I decree that all future articles on Pistonheads should only be about the EP3 CTR, it's the only car we should be interested in.

  • collateral 03 Aug 2013


  • Mr. Potato Head 03 Aug 2013

    Buy a CTR then. It's a much "better" car

  • collateral 02 Aug 2013

    3 grand can get you into a EP3 CTR

  • rogerhudson 02 Aug 2013

    pthelazyjourno said:
    Thing is, it needed all those changes, as the standard Lupo was hardly a class benchmark when it came to handling.

    Add in all the lightweight panels, wider track, different suspension and a similar era 106 GTi still has it licked for handling and fun.

    I'd still like one as a run around as the quality is something else, but you're getting a bit carried away about how special it is. Take your Focus ST - RS example, for instance, and the former is already an absolute corker of a car.

    That's why VW needed to make so many changes.
    In 2020 go onto 'howmanyleft' and compare the % of VW GTi compared with Ford, Renault equivalents, I bet the VW is highest.
    If only I could shoehorn two Phaeton seats into one.

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