Curious by the success of the outgoing Toyota Aygo of the time, VW took the decision to compete, and compete boldly. Released for the 2012 model year, the Up exclamation mark was a fresh and innovative machine from Wolfsburg, which brought unseen levels of comfort, quality and refinement for the sector. Although released in 2012, the Up's roots can actually be traced back to 2007 through a series of concepts.
In 2017 VW pushed the tempo one notch higher by releasing the Up GTI. With a peppy little 1.0L turbocharged 3-cylinder with 113bhp, and weighing barely anything over a tonne, the GTI received praise across the board of motoring outlets. With such figures, it would be easy to compare it to the original Golf GTI of the 70s, but that would be missing out on a far more direct blood relative to the Up GTI.
With the Polo GTI north of 200bhp these days (not to mention it isn't actually a small car anymore), it would be easy to think that the Up GTI is the first peppy small city car VW has done for ages. However, that would be neglecting one piece of VW history: the Lupo GTI.
In many ways, the Lupo is the true daddy to the Up. It, too, was a tiny 1000kg city dweller that sat below the Polo. Engines were a bit more varied than today's Up; you could have your cheeky Lupo with a 1.0l, a 1.4l, or even a 1.7l diesel. Most notably though, you had the option to slot in a 1.6l N/A unit with 125bhp - and thus the Lupo GTI was born.
Before the Up was hailed as the 'true successor' to the MKI Golf GTI, you probably won't be surprised to read that the Lupo GTI had its fair share of successor worship as well, when it was new. Personally I find it a tricky comparison; yes, they may share similar weight and power stats, but the reality is one's a city car and one's a standard hatchback. If VW decided to strip out a Golf to the bare minimum and give it a hearty 120bhp or so, now that would be a true successor.
But I digress. The Lupo GTI had 125bhp, dealt with 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, and topped out at 127mph, making it somewhat quicker than today's Up GTI, but still within the same kind of B-road blast performance category. It also came with a cheeky central raspy exhaust, bucket seats, and GTI logos stamped everywhere. It's lightweight nippy philosophy made it a hit with enthusiastic drivers who didn't want to be penalised at the pumps - hence why it's not surprising to see the Up GTI being worshipped all the same. VW have done it all before.
Lupo GTI's are destined to be future classics. Prices are on the rise sharply on classifieds - you can expect to pay upwards of £5,000 for a clean example now, bearing in mind they are fifteen-year-old city cars. Time will tell whether the Up GTI will achieve similar appreciation later on in its life, but its safe to say now that some of that Lupo magic has been passed down, fifteen years later.