Shed of the week: Seat Arosa 1.4 Sport

No, it wasn’t quite as fast or as good as the Lupo GTI. But then it is an eighth of the price…

This week we will start off by talking about golf. Not Golf as in VW, as that is boring, but golf as in whacking tiny balls with a bent stick, which is something Mrs Shed likes to do of an evening.

Please don’t run away if you hate golf with a small g. This won’t take long.

Back in the day, you would buy a golf club because it looked nice. Now, technology means that you’ve got all manner of stats to help you choose the right one. And quite a few of these stats – like launch angles, ball speeds and backspin and sidespin rates that tell you how quickly a ball stops and how well it goes round corners – are in some ways not all that different to the ones we see in car tests.

There’s one measurement in golf equipment reviews that isn’t in car reviews, and it’s called the Smash Factor. This is defined as ball speed divided by club speed and it tells you how much energy gets transferred from the club to the ball. As you might expect, the higher the Smash Factor the better.

Right. So why isn’t there an automotive Smash Factor to tell you how much energy makes it from the engine to the road?

Shed’s only asking because he’d love to see the Smash Factor for today’s Shed of the Week, a tantalising example of the now quite rare Seat Arosa 1.4 Sport. This 100hp 1.4 supermini with a 0-60 time in the mid-to-high nines and a 117mph top end was the most powerful iteration of the Lupo granted to the Spanish firm by the cruel overlords at Volkswagen, who of course selfishly gave themselves a much brawnier 1.6 Lupo GTI on top of the regular 1.4 Lupo Sport. The moustache-twirling, cape-swirling GTI had 123hp, a 0-62 time of 8.2sec and a top whack of 127mph. Boo!

As everyone knows, Lupo GTIs are highly sought after now and, as a result, expensive to buy. You’ll struggle to find a decent one for under £3k. More often than not you’ll find a 5 at the beginning of the price sticker, despite the fact that the number of Lupo GTIs on British roads is actually rising – not just because people are restoring them, but also because JDM imports are being brought in to satisfy the demand (of greedy dealers).

The Shedman is utterly uninterested in fashion, and should be stroking his chin in thoughtful appreciation of the unloved Arosa Sport. It’s actually much rarer than the hot Lupo, with only 100 or so left in the UK compared to the 600-odd VWs you’ll find. The Seat has even got the well good central exhaust, albeit ending in a funny flattened single oval tailpipe rather than the Lupo’s admittedly cooler dual tube arrangement.

The wondrous tintanet says that the Arosa Sport weighs anything from 946kg to over 1400kg, depending on how stupid the bod inputting the figures was. It’s a lot nearer to the first than the second, so you’re unlikely to feel shortchanged by this little Seat’s performance. There’s a decent driving position, with good visibility. The suspension is on the firm side, but it’s not Panda 100HP firm. You won’t get much more than half a week’s shopping in the boot, and certainly not a golf bag.

It’s true that Seat build quality has marched on somewhat since 2003, so you might find old-school faults like dropping doors. The vendor mentions dash warnings and has quite rightly surmised that they are almost certainly down to crocked sensors. You might want to check the first to second change on any test drive, as Sport synchros can die early.

The cable is often accused as the culprit for sticky Arosa clutch operation, but it’s just as likely to be a problem with the pedal box. Quite a few Lupo boxes were changed under warranty. Shed isn’t sure if Seat customers were quite as lucky. Plastic cambelt tensioners were put into the 1.4 16 valve engine, boo again, but when (not if) they break, they don’t usually dislodge the belt. There was also a bit of problem with the piston coatings, leading to some warranty engine replacements.

But that’s all in the past. What we’re looking at here is a faux-Lupo GTI for about an eighth of the German car’s price. Christmas may have come early, if you’re smart and not driven by the foibles of fashion.

Here’s the ad.

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