Long before the Up, Volkswagen had a city car called, equally bizarrely, the Lupo. Launched in 1998, it was a well-built, practical and inoffensive thing that sat below the larger and more expensive Polo.
Small it may have been, but the Lupo had big ambitions. For example, the 3L version could, thanks to special lightweight body panels, a three-cylinder 1.2-litre diesel engine and an automated manual gearbox, do up to 94mpg. In fact, one was driven around Britain in 2001 and achieved almost 120mpg.
Coincidentally, that same year, the little Lupo once again demonstrated its appetite for world domination with the addition of a GTI version.
This pocket rocket was powered by a 1.6-litre 16-valve engine producing 123bhp. That output may not look so impressive today, but the Lupo made every horse count by going on a weight-reduction programme. Off came the steel bonnet, front wings and doors to be replaced by lightweight aluminium items, cutting the kerb weight to 978kg.
Yet it was no spartan model: all the GTI appurtenances were there, including bi-xenon headlights, 15in Bathurst alloy wheels, a twin-exit central exhaust, colour-coded fittings, chrome-ringed dials and figure-hugging sports seats. It was also fitted with uprated suspension, lowered by 20mm and disc brakes all round.
Build quality was impressive. Viewed today, the shutlines are millimetre-perfect and everything remains tough and well anchored.
That said, 20 years have passed since the first Lupo GTIs rolled off the production line, so you can expect the running gear to feel a little tired. One thing that most owners can agree on is the tendency for the rear spoiler to suffer water ingress and its paint to bubble; another is the door check straps to be noisy and not so secure. Not much, is it?
The first cars had a five-speed manual gearbox, but a year later, in 2002, a sixth gear was added. This improved cruising refinement, but enthusiasts reckon fivers are quicker. On that point, the little Lupo GTI could do 0-62mph in just 7.7sec. That was quick, but the car felt quicker still in corners, as thanks to its agility, steering feel and grip, there was little need to back off. So encouraged, many have modified their cars, but an original one is what you want.