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25 years Lupo

Small car, great values

The VW Lupo celebrated its première late in the summer of 1998. The microcar was a new addition to the Volkswagen range right from the start. There had never been a model below the Polo before, but the Lupo ended up being a pioneer even more often in its career – for example, as the first 3-litre/100km car in the world. We will show you why the little one is still a big one in everyday life in our anniversary special.

Small & clever our everyday hero the VW Lupo turns 25. Discover now suitable spare parts in original quality from Volkswagen Classic Parts.

Lupo: a new size of VW

The idea of the smallest VW began to take concrete shape in the mid-1990s. The Polo 6N had just been launched successfully, which had grown almost to Mk 1 Golf size inside and out. From that point on, the group only had the dusty old Seat Marbella to offer in the classic small car size of around 3.50 metres. Two more modern competitors were selling well: the Renault Twingo (since 1993) and the Ford Ka (since 1996). But the right answer from Wolfsburg was already in the works.

Development order 420 was a small (smallest) car that should be completely suitable for everyday use: space for four to five people and at least two crates of drinks. The technical basis was the shortened floor group of the Polo 6N, the engines from which were also going to be used under the bonnet. At first, there was even speculation about an electric drive train – and about a cost price of only 15,000 marks for the smallest petrol engine model. When Auto Bild magazine published the first prototype photos in June 1995, the design of the later Lupo was already clearly recognisable: round headlights, steeply sloped rear, short overhangs.

The Lupo: "A new benchmark for small cars"

At the première of the series-produced model in 1998, Volkswagen made its claim about its youngest offspring clear: "You don't have to be large to be great." – this was the self-confident advertising slogan for the smallest VW since the Mk 1 Polo (1975-1981). In fact, the Lupo scored with typical Volkswagen qualities: solidity (a fully galvanised body with a 12-year warranty against rust), safety (two airbags as standard, optional side airbags and ABS), comfort (through to extras, such as leather trim, air conditioning or a navigation system) and attention to detail. This is reflected, for example, in the design of the instruments: underlaid in silver, illuminated with blue transmitted light technology and the shiny metallic bezels were fastened with small screws.

Initially, there were three engines to choose from: either the petrol engines known from the Polo with 37 kW (50 hp) or 55 kW (75 hp) or a suction diesel (SDI) with 44 kW (60 hp). As an SDI, the Lupo had a remarkably low average fuel consumption of 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres. But especially when it comes to fuel consumption, less is more – and just a few weeks after the official presentation of the Lupo, Volkswagen was really making its mark in this area.

Our spare part highlights of 25 years Lupo:

Lupo: new record values as 3L TDI, GTI and FSI

In October 1998 Volkswagen presented a production-ready three litre/100km car at the Paris Motor Show. It was – of course – a Lupo. With this (almost series-production-ready) study, Group CEO Piëch delivered on his promise to put the thrift-mobile on the road before the year 2000. The series model was able to be ordered in mid-1999. At the time, this was a sensation, because experts had been speculating for years about a fully-fledged car with a fuel consumption of less than three litres per 100 kilometres. With the Lupo 3L TDI, this dream was now able to become reality. Or as the brochure put it with the typical Volkswagen wink: "Today is tomorrow".

It almost went unnoticed that another study was in the spotlight at the Volkswagen stand in Paris in 1998: the Lupo GTI. The bright red powerhouse had a 1.6 litre four-valve under the hood, which delivered a whopping 92 kW (125 hp) and accelerated the Lupo to over 200 km/h. Thanks to its lightweight construction, the curb weight dropped to around 1,000 kilograms, so that the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h was able to be completed in just 8.2 seconds. This means that the smallest GTI to date was also the fastest – even a Golf 2 GTI G60 couldn't beat it in terms of acceleration! However, it took until the year 2000, before the Lupo GTI was available as a production model at the dealership.

In the same year, another technical delicacy came onto the market with the FSI – and, once again, it was available first in the Lupo. This made it the first European production vehicle with direct petrol injection. With a displacement of 1.4 litres, its engine produced 77 kW (105 hp) and consumed only 4.9 litres of Super Plus petrol per 100 kilometres in ECO mode.

Our spare part highlights for the 3L Lupo and Lupo GTI:

Lupo: new size, old problems

Although each is a proud innovator, the Lupo 3L TDI, GTI and FSI remained exotic throughout their lives. The masses chose the petrol engines with 50 and (from model year 2001) 60 hp. The 16-valve (75 or 100 hp) and the diesel – from 1999 a three-cylinder TDI with 75 hp was also available – were ordered much less often. Instead of ordering the Lupo with a more powerful engine, many customers seemed to prefer the larger Polo. This is because it was only just under 2,500 marks more expensive than the basic Lupo model, which was on the price list at 17,990 marks when it was launched. Despite the sympathetic design, clever colour combinations and attractive special models, the Lupo was never able to reach the originally planned number of 120,000 vehicles per year. By the end of production in the summer of 2005, 487,856 Lupos ran off the production line – an average of just under 70,000 per year.

At least on paper, the Lupo is, therefore, rarer than an established classic car, such as the Mk 1 Scirocco, of which at least 504,153 were produced. And another numbers game: according to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, 813 Lupo GTIs were still registered in Germany on 1 January 2022. There were more than three times as many Mk 1 Golf GTIs at the same time. Does this speak for or against a great future as a classic?

Lupo: a new classic?

We think the Lupo has definitely aged well. Like other Volkswagen models from this era, it impresses with a timeless design and a quality that can be considered above average, even after 25 years. The Lupo was certainly never cheap, but it was worth its price – which is why it's still ubiquitous on our streets. There, in fantasia green, jazz blue or yellow, it brings colour into play that today's cars often lack. The matching seat covers were and may be a matter of taste. But that also applies to the hits of 1998 – whether on the radio ("Flugzeuge im Bauch (Planes in the Belly)" by Oli P.) or in the cinema ("Titanic") ...

As a beginner car, city car or second car, the Lupo will certainly be with us for a few more years. A real everyday hero, who runs and runs and runs, even after 25 years. Or saves and saves and saves, because the great interest in the 3L TDI is no coincidence: the former replacement price of almost 27,000 marks – there was already a Golf available for that price in 1999 – no longer matters. Its fuel consumption is still convincing and specimens with more than 500,000 kilometres of mileage prove that the long-term quality is also right.

To make sure that the Lupo is also not a thing of the past tomorrow, there are Volkswagen Classic Parts. We have compiled some highlights from our extensive range of Original VW spare parts for the Lupo for the anniversary.

Discover now: Our product range for the Lupo.

The Lupo has inspired generations as an everyday hero. And it has been doing so for 25 years. We are celebrating the anniversary: with our spare parts in original quality. So that the Lupo remains an original.