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2004 VW Lupo GTi review. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2004 VW Lupo GTi review
Would you believe that the VW Lupo has been on the market, practically unchanged, since 1999? The Lupo takes its name from the Latin word for wolf. The wolf may be a wilder animal than most of the Lupo range, but perhaps not the GTi version reviewed here, which looks as fresh now as the day it was born in December 2000.

   



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Would you believe that the VW Lupo has been on the market, practically unchanged, since 1999? The Lupo takes its name from the Latin word for wolf. The wolf may be a wilder animal than most of the Lupo range, but perhaps not the GTi version reviewed here, which looks as fresh now as the day it was born in December 2000.

An extensive transformation from small and cute runabout to hard-edged GTi has been carried out on the Lupo. Most hot hatches receive rudimentary changes such as a set of alloys and a spoiler, both of which adorn the Lupo GTi. Volkswagen has given this hot hatch so much more. For a start, wrapped around the tasty 'Bathurst' alloy wheels are bespoke flared wheelarches. These are joined by sills and truncated with unique new bumpers. The pert rear end features a wonderful twin-exit exhaust, situated in the middle of the car. Other Lupo Sport models feature a central exhaust, but nowhere near as extrovert as the GTi's.

There is no mistaking the face of the GTi either: it has been suitably altered, with a sleek one-piece bumper and mesh grille. The Xenon lights complete the appearance that is cute-aggressive, in the way that perhaps Disney would animate a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex. I was astonished to learn that VW went to the expense of replacing the bonnet, doors and wheelarches with lightweight aluminium items. The result is a featherweight figure of only 1015kg for the GTi, ensuring that performance should be sprightly without extortionate fuel bills.

The sporting theme continues inside the Lupo, though perhaps not as successfully as the superb exterior. Certain details are great, such as the supportive seats, bespoke seatbelts and natty black door handles. An effort has been made with the instruments too: the cluster gains a clock and a bespoke cowling. I personally prefer the sportier double-hood design found in the rest of the Lupo range. We felt the same about the chromed plastic finish edging the dials. Real matt aluminium would be the only acceptable alternative, though admittedly expensive. Thankfully the GTi retains the distinctive blue glow from the instruments at night, which somehow lends an image of quality to the car.

Quality is apparent throughout the car, which we were not too startled by, but there is much more space in a Lupo than we expected: front and rear. The front seats feature a clever lift and tilt mechanism to allow access to the rear, which in itself feels more spacious than you would have though possible in such a short car. Boot space is laughable of course, but I would expect most Lupo owners to only really need seat space for one passenger most of the time, freeing up the others for items of luggage.

The leather bound steering wheel is a tactile joy, though perhaps not as small in diameter as would be ideal. Saying that, VW resisted the temptation to fit it with a thick rim, and it is all the better for it. As you might expect, the switchgear all moves in a slick and well-weighted manner, and the important driver interfaces are sporty, yet light. Start the Lupo GTi up for the first time and you may be a little taken aback by the noise from the engine department. This car means business, and it lets you know that. Within a few hundred metres you will realise that VW has attempted to deliver an engaging drive, and it begins with the engine.

Putting your foot down results in the needle whipping around the rev counter eagerly. This willingness to rev is accompanied by outrageous induction roar and a sporty blare from those twin exhausts. The Lupo doesn't hang about either: aided by the low kerb weight, acceleration is brisk. The claimed 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds feels quite pessimistic, and in-gear acceleration is quite impressive, helped by a set of closely spaced gear ratios.

Maintaining speed through a set of corners is the Lupo's party trick. The large 205/45 tyres offer plenty of grip, but not at the expense of driver involvement. Throttle adjustability is present, though smooth driving is rewarded rather than playing about with grip levels. Pushing that little bit harder results in the Lupo understeering, though neutrality is available if you are aggressive with the throttle mid-corner. Unfortunately, left-foot braking (which would soon help eradicate understeer) is not possible in the Lupo GTi, as the safety systems deem it necessary to shut off the fuel supply to the engine. Pity.

Despite that, the keen driver will find plenty to keep them entertained. The steering and chassis encourage you to stay away from dull motorways. The brakes are wonderfully powerful, and faded not once in our hands, but the car squirms and moves around under heavy braking, though the stability control system keeps it pointing in the right direction just as quickly as you do. As a driver's car, a comparison can be made with the modern Mini. The Lupo GTi sits between the Cooper and Cooper S in terms of price and performance. As a driver's car, the Lupo is more focused than either Mini, though the Cooper S is perhaps a better value car. Saying that, a well-driven Mini Cooper would keep up with the Lupo on a twisty B-road. Outright speed is not what the Lupo is all about; its driver will feel that they are working harder for the same result, which is perhaps no bad thing on today's speed camera clogged roads.

In essence, the Lupo GTi is a hot hatch from the old school. It is loud, and a little raw; it has an undeniable buzz, backed up with buckets of character. However, despite advancing years, the Lupo has a place in the market. It will need all its good looks and German build quality to stand up to new low-priced rivals such as the Citroen C2 VTS. VW has realised this, and the price has been dropped until the end of September to just 12,455.

Shane O' Donoghue - 1 Sep 2004



  www.volkswagen.co.uk    - Volkswagen road tests
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2004 Volkswagen Lupo specifications:
Price: 13,455 on-the-road (test car fitted with extras worth approx. 1,450).
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Top speed: 127mph
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Emissions: 178g/km
Kerb weight: 1015kg

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2004 VW Lupo GTi. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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