At the end of 2005, the world lost one of its finest and most affordable drivers’s cars. The Fox city car is all very well for VW, but when it was introduced back then, it meant the end of the Lupo and consequently no more Lupo GTi. And the Lupo GTi was the first new car I ever really wanted.
I was a year into my degree when the Lupo GTi tore onto the pages of Autocar. Then, on a budget that just about extended to rent, tuition fees, pencils and the occasional medicinal pint of lager, it was the affordable fun-to-drive featherweight I day dreamed about. The group 11 insurance looked affordable, 40 miles to the gallon likewise, and the £13k asking price looked reasonably realistic too. The finance would have been £250 a month after a £3k deposit, and I reckoned I’d be able to afford that once I got a graduate job.
But for all its affordability, this little firecracker also appealed because it was a proper GTi. Yes, it was a Lupo, but a Lupo with sports seats, a leather steering wheel, chrome-rimmed dials and polished steel pedals. It also had the 125bhp 1.6-litre engine from the Polo GTi and weight-saving aluminium panels than contributed to a kerbweight of 960kg – almost 200kg less than the fast Polo. This car could hit 60mph in just 7.7sec and go on to 120mph. And the GTi badge, worn on both bootlid and grille, was a warning to Saxo VTS drivers that they had some serious traffic-light competition to deal with.
A Lupo GTi will scrabble along your favourite road at a rate that seems so ridiculous it’ll make you check that your seatbelt is securely fastened. Even more entertaining is the way it corners – with a little body roll, but no shortage of grip and plenty of steering feel to go with it. The first time you really stretch its legs, you won’t believe that a little, upright supermini could be made so entertaining, and you could drive one for years without getting bored of such an improbable source of fun.
These days they don’t cost so much, either. You can now buy a very tidy, 47,000-mile Y-reg GTi privately for under £5000; they’re increasingly rare, but tend to have been well maintained.
For those of us who were sorely tempted at the £12,995 list price level, the prospect of such a great car, for such a bargain price, is next to irresistible. And the acid test is this: I’ve driven more expensive, faster, more powerful and much more exotic metal since my university days, and part of me still hankers after the Lupo.