Motoring: The City car to be seen in

For a small car, the VW Lupo is stylish, spacious, practical - and even betrays a sense of humour

Like a rash, City cars are just about everywhere at the moment. Well, that's the idea of course. They are meant to be cheap, small, easy to park and yet practical, with good manners on the open road.

Ideally, City cars ought to be all the vehicle that most of us will ever need. That doesn't mean they have to be boring, quite the opposite. Cheeky, cute and even radical, is in.

Take a look at the Ford Ka. It was the last thing you would expect of such a conservative company. So when it was announced that Volkswagen was joining the small car set, it did not settle for a shrunken Polo. Nope, VW has radicalised the SEAT Arosa.

Apparently Volkswagen had developed the car two years ago, but decided that its Spanish subsidiary needed a small car in its model range more urgently. It also gave the production facility in Germany time to get the build quality spot on. What they have come up with is a familiar enough shape, which means the Lupo has the wide body, short tail and big doors of the Arosa, but also a much more radical front end and interior.

In come round headlamps and circular indicators for that now crucial dose of cheeky styling. Inside though, the revamp has been even more ambitious with a total and rather radical makeover. So is the Lupo as loopy as it looks, or just a clever repackage? Well it is a bit of both really.

Starting on the inside, the Lupo is certainly spacious. Driver and passenger have as much room as they would in the bigger Polo. Indeed, the Arosa has the Polo's dashboard, but Volkswagen let its interior designers off the leash. The result is more Alfa Romeo than staid old VW. There are two hooded dials, speedometer and rev counter finished in alloy-look silver with fake allen bolts ringing the edge for a surprisingly sporty look.

The driver grips a thick, nicely finished air bagged steering wheel with a confident VW badge in the middle. Build quality and instrument/control layout is faultless and there is a simple centre console for the radio and that must-have feature, the cup holder. In fact VW has included lots of its larger car touches by having chrome door locks, damped action on the cupholder and grab handle, plus a blue backlight to the instruments. Small touches, but important ones.

VW haven't forgotten that the Lupo is meant to be practical so there are plenty of shelves and bins for odds and ends. There is a narrow tray below the radio and another below the ventilation controls, plus a shelf which runs the length of the dashboard. Access to the rear is easy thanks to an optional facility which slides the entire front seat forward when the backrest is folded. Once there, most adults have adequate legroom thanks to the sculpted front seat backs.

Although VW claims the Lupo is a five-seater, really it's a two-seater, with an occasional facility for two more, or permanent children who have the upholstery to keep them amused. Yes really. The European seat trim option even includes a cartoon cat called Tim on doors and Tom the mouse on the seat fabric. Such conclusive proof that Germans have a sense of humour is unlikely to make it onto UK spec vehicles. Pity.

On the road, the Lupo is pretty much as the Arosa, although the choice of engines is set to be considerably greater. Whereas the SEAT is available with a 1.0 litre petrol and 1.7 litre diesel, the Lupo adds a 1.4 litre 16 valve. There is also a more powerful 100bhp version, possibly badged a GTI, on the way and also a turbo diesel next year.

For the moment though, when the Lupo goes on sale next January we could choose the 1.0 litre which is perfectly adequate around town, but feels underpowered if you stray onto a dual carriageway. That's why the more flexible 1.4 16 valve makes the better all-round option, feeling quite eager when pushed and very refined too so that it is not too wearing at speed. Lots of sound proofing material also helps.

Another engine ideal for the long haul is the 1.7 diesel which returns ridiculously low consumption figures, well into the 50mpgs without undue effort. However, it does not have the overtaking punch of the petrol 1.4 which easily keeps up with traffic, however fast it is moving.

The bottom line is the price, expected to start at just under pounds 8,000 for the 1.0 litre. The specification will probably include twin airbags and ABS brakes, but wouldn't you be better off with the cheaper SEAT? Well you would not be any worse off. Build quality is very high and handling is safe in both models, although the VW offers the more versatile 1.4 engine.

It also has the more prestigious badge and even has extra design touches which should convince younger drivers that the hip interior and front end is the City car to be seen in. Not only that, the styling won't frighten off more mature drivers who will like the solid construction and chrome door handle touches, reassuring them that this is yet another quality, if slightly smaller VW product.

The Lupo can't lose.

Specification box


Price: from pounds 8,000.

Engine: 1390cc four cylinder, 16 valve, 75bhp at 5,000 rpm. Five speed manual. Performance: 0-62mph in 12 seconds. Combined fuel consumption 45mpg.


Fiat Seicento: pounds 6,495-pounds 7,495. Good value package, not any more roomy than model it replaced. Harsh out of town.

Ford Ka: pounds 8020-pounds 9820. Brilliant to drive, still amazing to look at, engine getting old though. Still City car class leader.

Seat Arosa: pounds 6,995-pounds 8,230 Lupo with conventional styling and lower prices. Limited engine choice. Competent, but not chic.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Marketing Executive - B2B - OTE £25,000

    £17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity to join this new...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £21000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Control Manager

    £36000 - £44000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Encouraging more businesses to ...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower