THE very best city cars might be small, but they are also practical, with room for four adults in reasonable comfort, and five doors for practicality.
But although from the front, the VW Lupo (it means Wolf) looks great, with a perky, strong face, from the side or the rear, it looks as though the designer ran out of ideas and just cut it off short.
This makes the interior very small with virtually no legroom in the back if there are normal sized people in the front.
It’s no match for the Daewoo Matiz or the Daihatsu Cuore, which will both hold four adults in reasonable comfort, and they are also both much cheaper.
The Lupo is built on the same production line as the SEAT Arosa, and shares its body size, all its running gear and most engines.
Like the Arosa, it is based on the old Polo platform, but is shorter and narrower.
Its fine for two, with good SEAT adjustment and a decent driving position. But that rear legroom, and a miniscule boot only big enough for a couple of bags from Tesco, are a joke.
The entry level one litre model is very slow and even in such a small car, its 50bhp is simply not enough to give half decent performance.
Other models available are a 1.4 with 75bhp, a 1.7 direct injection diesel with 60, and a 1.4TDI turbo diesel with 75.
A 1.4 Sport with no less than 100bhp was added to the range later, followed by a 1.6 with 125bhp from the Polo GTi.
Standard equipment in the E trim level is good, including height adjustable driver’s SEAT, split-folding rear SEAT, two airbags and a stereo system.
Next up the scale is the S, which adds opening rear windows, tilt and slide front SEATs, electric front windows, central locking and body coloured trim.
The Lupo has a comfortable ride yet the suspension is taut and the chassis excellent, giving great roadholding and handling.
Interior styling, with metal bezels around the instruments and other similar touches, give an air of something different and unusual.
And of course, it comes with the same attention to detail and good build quality as every other car from the VW range.
The problem is that it’s simply too small to suit many owners, with that tiny boot and small rear legroom.
It is very easy to drive, park and manoeuvre, but I think others are more practical and much cheaper new or secondhand.
A ’99T-reg Lupo 1 litre is down to £3,200, when it originally cost £7,840. A ’99T Daewoo Matiz is better value at £2,000 and is also more fun to drive and much more practical, despite its smaller engine.
Insurance starts at group 3, servicing is every 10,000 miles and economy should be about 50mpg for the 1 litre or 65mpg for the diesel.
Pay around £3,350 for a ’99 V-reg 1.0E, £6,400 for a 1.4S from the same year, or £6,700 for a ’01 Y-reg TDi 1.4.
Model: Volkswagen Lupo
Driving: Excellent ride quality and plenty of feedback from the steering. Limited space not good for passengers.
Performance: 1.4, GTi and turbodiesel models all offer nippy performance, diesel feels sluggish and 1.0 is best suited to town travel
Economy: Fuel consumption good from all engines. 1.7 SDi averages 64mpg
Safety: Twin airbags, ABS on some models
Recommended buy: 1.4 Sport or 1.7 diesel
Alternatives: Ford Ka, SEAT Arosa, Toyota Yaris, Daewoo Matiz
Handling and ride.
Small rear legroom.
Gutless 1.0 and SDi diesel.