Product Type: Volkswagen cars
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A safe small-car choice
VW Lupo 1.0 E 50bhp 3 door
Member Name: r_welfare
VW Lupo 1.0 E 50bhp 3 door
Date: 21/05/03, updated on 21/05/03 (4432 review reads)
Advantages: Good build quality, small size, good reputation/resale
Disadvantages: Slightly underpowered for out-of-town driving, tiny boot, poor motorway fuel consumption
As a mid-twenties red-blooded male the Lupo isn’t really my cup of tea car-wise (although I wouldn’t kick a GTI model out of my driveway if I was given one). No, small cars generally aren’t my bag and I can see the Lupo appealing most strongly to young women. That’s not to say I didn’t like it though.
What probably wins most people over is the styling – this car is (apparently) “cute”. It’s one of the smallest four-seat cars on sale today. I prefer the looks of its twin, the Seat Arosa, but only because I’m not a fan of the weird and wavy front end, which reminds me of the Mercedes E-Class. The rear is exceptionally truncated, and this has both advantages and disadvantages – it’s very easy to place when reversing, but there is very little boot space. The boot is only about nine inches deep, so you’re not going to get a lot in there if you keep the rear seat up (it struggled with my rucksack and sports bag). However, if you do need more space for your shopping, your friendly local VW dealer will be happy to steer you towards a Polo.
Anyhow, inside it’s relatively roomy, especially in the front, where there were no problems with space in the footwell for my size 11s (a perennial problem on the small Peugeots and Citroens). You even get a small footrest next to the clutch. It’s also easy to get comfortable thanks to height adjustments for both the driver’s seat and the steering wheel. The das
hboard features a mock carbon-fibre finish – very nice – and it’s all very well screwed-together, although the column stalks have a very heavy action. The instruments are very legible and you get a tachometer, which is nice for a basic “town car”. The stereo has simple controls, but is a pain to seek stations with. It’s mounted high up for safety, but unfortunately this means the heating controls are low-down near the gearlever and you need to take your eyes off the road to use them. Praise for the other safety features however – twin airbags and headrests on both front and rear seats. Otherwise it’s very basic, with painted metal on the doors, wind-up windows, manual locking, and not even a glovebox (although you do get a shelf under the passenger airbag, and door pockets).
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the driving experience, but my initial prejudice over the tiny engine size was diminished, if not totally removed, over the course of the 550 miles I drove the car for. The 1-litre engine only dishes up 50bhp, so it’s never going to be a ball of fire. However, it’s perfectly nippy for town work, and has one of the nicest gearboxes I’ve ever used. It’s very manoeuvrable due to its small size and power steering, and the engine itself is reasonably quiet and refined. VW have recently been introducing three-cylinder engines on their small cars, but I believe this car (a 52-registration model with 8,000 miles on the clock) had four cylinders. Certainly I couldn’t tell from either under the bonnet or VW’s website.
Out on the motorway it’s OK as long as you don’t try and dice with the photocopier salesmen in their BMW 316is in the outside lane. The gearing is very short, so 70mph in 5th comes up at 4000rpm. This means it will pick up reasonably well at that speed should you need to accelerate, but any sort of gradient will wipe out the moment
um you have built up. It is (theoretically) possible to bring up the magic (and very irresponsible, Officer) 100mph on the speedo, but it’s not really fair on the poor little thing. Incidentally, if you open a window at cruising speed, air pressure makes it impossible to wind it all the way back up, so you get an annoying whistling noise. Another problem of running at high (80-ish) speeds on the motorway is quite high fuel consumption – over 550 miles I put in just under 15 gallons, which I make about 37mpg. Not bad (miles better than the 25mpg I'd be lucky to get from my old BMW 528i under the same circumstances), but worse than the larger Peugeot 206 1.1 I hired previously (and a lot worse than the 206 1.4 HDI diesel I had before that). It’s not as much fun as the French opposition on back roads either, although it hangs on well in corners and the ride isn’t uncomfortable. The brakes are also pretty good, and it has power steering to make it manoeuvrable around town.
Having said all that, if I had £7,445 (or thereabouts) down the back of my sofa and I absolutely had to buy a brand-new car, I might consider a Lupo. Why? Because it’s a Volkswagen. It appears very well built, it’s cheap to insure (Group 2), it’s economical around town, easy to park, and should be easy to sell (and retain it’s value reasonably well). But I’d probably try and stretch to a Polo (or a Skoda Fabia) for more luggage space.
PS I apologise for the loss of capital letters in the first few paragraphs - I'm not sure why this has happened!