Volkswagen Lupo Hatchback 1999 - 2005

Volkswagen Lupo Hatchback 1999 - 2005

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • A funny-looking jolly little car
  • Very economical, especially the diesels
  • Inexpensive to run and maintain
  • High quality


  • Expensive even in the used car market
  • The limited space at the rear create worries about safety


The Lupo is a Latin term which translates into 'wolf cub' and, was designed to provide an entry level for the Volkswagen range. The Polo had grown both in size and price and couldn't compete with mini cars offered by Ford and Fiat. The Lupo is a high-quality car, but it comes at a premium.

Exterior and Interior

Although the Lupo leaves an impression of a tiny and fragile car, it's a proper vehicle that is suitable for performing any task that a bigger car can deal with. It's a typical Volkswagen design product and one can unmistakably recognize its origins. The quirky front end with bulging "eyes" and the high glass surfaces makes it a visually pleasing car. The impression is enhanced with the wide range of bright colour options. The interior is deceptively spacious. It has got four full-size seats and rear access is relatively convenient. Although the car was built on the platform of Volkswagen Polo, the wheelbase has been shortened by 4 inches and there's also very little in the terms of body overhangs. As a result, the main compromise the German engineers have had to make is the boot space… or the lack of it. The rear seats are almost touching the tailgate. It's not great from the safety perspective and leaves only 130litres for luggage. Folded the seats increase the space to more than 800litres if and when it is needed. The driver's seat is very comfortable and you are surprised by all the adjustment options that are provided to the seats and steering column. Another nice surprise is the quality of materials and the soundproofing of the interior panels. Once you shut the door, you're in your own small world and no alien sounds seem to be coming in. Quality-wise, its main competitors the Ford Ka and the Fiat Seicento, are no match for the Lupo, but this German quality comes at a price which many might find rather steep for a car like this.

Performance and Economy

Despite the Lupo being so small, it's not a light car. The body is made of steel (it's galvanised, so not susceptible to rust) and the car almost weighs a ton. Nevertheless, it's one of the most fuel-efficient cars in its class; and if equipped with the 1.2-litre diesel it is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car in production. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine does its job very well. It may lack excitement and it may take ages to reach 0-60mph, but the advantage is obvious when you keep driving by the petrol stations. The 1.0-litre engine offers 48mpg. Drivers who prefer petrol engines will appreciate the 1.4-litre engine. It is perfect for a car this size and still manages 44mpg. It's really the diesel engines that make the little Lupo excel. The 1.2-litre 3-cylinder turbo diesel enables the car to reach a crazy 94 miles per gallon! The 1.2-litre Lupo or, as it's called, the 3-litre, is the most expensive car in the range. You have to pay for the technology but the savings make it pay off quickly. If the 3L is too expensive, the 1.7-litre non-turbo basic diesel provides a very competitive fuel-efficiency too at 64mpg.

Like to Drive

It's a pleasant little car. Although it looks rather tall, there is minimal body roll in high speed corners. Not to say that the car wasn't designed to negotiate anything at high speeds. However, it's a good feeling to know that it could, if required to. Just like any other micro car, the Lupo may lack the excitement that a bigger car offers, but overall it leaves a very good impression and is easy to drive. Visibility is excellent. The narrow A-pillars and large square footage of glazed surface makes navigating and parking an easy task even for an inexperienced driver. The Lupo makes a lot of sense as a city car or as a first car for a hassle-free experience.

Faults and Repairs

Electric faults are common problems that have troubled many Lupo owners. Although Volkswagen often reuse and reapply assemblies that have proven reliable on other cars, the Lupo being so small, they had to design it pretty much from the scratch. That's why the first two years of production saw a relatively high number of issues. Choosing a post-2001 Lupo might be a good idea for a used car buyer.