Generations Timeline, Specs and Pictures
Developed to be the smallest runner in the family, the Lupo GTI was not a slow car with an aggressive look.
It was a go-kart with a roof and air-conditioning.
The name Lupo came from Latin and means wolf. While the smallest car in Volkswagen’s lineup was named after a ferocious wild animal, the car itself was rather bland than aggressive. It was the perfect shopping-cart with an engine in the front and a trunk that opened wide and high in the back But the GTI was something more.
The design was slightly different than on a regular puppy-wolf. It featured a new front bumper with a wide and low grille, plus a pair of air-scoops to cool the brakes or to look better. Whatever works. The 15” light-alloy wheels were fitted as standard and looked even better due to the slightly flared wheel arches. It was available as a three-door only. In the back, a roof-spoiler was added to the top of the tailgate. Not necessarily efficient, but looked cool in the parking lot.
Inside, the Lupo GTI featured the most important things for a (small) hot-hatch: chromed rings around the dials. It was not fitted with racy bucket-seats or 6-point harnesses, but with regular seats and some side bolsters. It was fitted with power-windows and climate control. The center stack featured a CD-radio as well.
The Lupo GTI was available with an inline-four that developed 125 hp from a 1.6-liter engine. That was in 2002 and some thought it was a very high power for the small and light vehicle. The rear trailing-arms suspension was the only weak point of the car. The McPherson struts in the front were good for the size of the small Lupo.
It might have been the most illogical car in its lineup, but the Lupo 3L was more than just a fuel-efficient city car; it was a statement.
The Lupo was the smallest car in Volkswagen’s lineup back in 1999. While other carmakers tried convincing customers that hybrids are the future, the German carmaker supported the diesel idea. It worked very hard to develop the most fuel-efficient production vehicle in the world, and it succeeded. It didn’t even matter that it was too expensive to justify its fuel-efficiency. Yet, the car was sold in important numbers and certainly not for its low fuel consumption but for its very small CO2 emissions.
For starters, the Lupo 3L took its name for its fuel-efficiency. It proved an average fuel consumption of just 3 l/100 km (78.4 mph-US), and that was an outstanding result by any standards. While the exterior looked very similar to the standard Lupo, some body parts were made from aluminum and magnesium to save weight. As a result, it was about 100 kg (220 lbs) lighter than the rest of the range.
Inside, there were a different set of seats with magnesium frames and slim padding to save weight. Volkswagen used the sound-deadening materials only for the firewall. It didn’t feature air-conditioning or any sound system in standard trim level, but the Tiptronic automatic gearbox was as standard.
Under the hood, Volkswagen installed a three-cylinder 1.2-liter turbo-diesel engine. It was lighter and tuned for maximum efficiency. But, at the end of the day, it offered 50% less fuel consumption than its 1.4-liter TDI sibling.
Volkswagen tried to make a highly fuel-efficient vehicle and introduced the Lupo as a direct competitor in the small-vehicle segment.
When Volkswagen introduced the Polo, it made it small to be driven in the cities. Over time, the little Polo has grown and soon was longer than it was supposed to be. On the other side, the Italians had the Seicento, the French had the Twingo, and Ford had the Ka. They were all competing for the same segment, and Volkswagen had nothing there. So, it invented the Lupo to fill the blind spot.
Its front fascia resembled the Polo, with round headlamps and smaller stationary lights next to them. Its short and steep hood was wider than its length. In the back, there was no room left for a sloped or shaped tailgate. It was just a vertical drop.
Inside, the carmaker provided plenty of room for the front passengers. The Lupo’s dashboard was mounted low and slim, so it didn’t take space from the front occupants. In the back, Volkswagen installed a bench for two, but it offered almost no legroom. As for the trunk, it was big enough for an envelope. But that was the price paid for a city car, good for four occupants and small enough to fit in most parking spaces where a compact-sized vehicle couldn’t fit in.
Under the hood, Volkswagen installed a choice of gasoline engines and a diesel. Later on, it added the Lupo 3L version that offered a record fuel efficiency.