12 August 2004

Volkswagen is developing a top-secret mid-engined lightweight roadster inspired by the Ariel Atom, chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder has revealed. He admitted to our German sister magazine, auto motor und sport, that the baby VW (previewed in our artist’s impressions) took its inspiration from the British flyweight track car and promised ‘it will be as fast as a Porsche Boxster’.

Dubbed Fun Roadster, the car has a choice of petrol or diesel 1.0-litre engines, mounted amidships driving the rear wheels through a DSG dual-clutch gearbox operated by steering-wheel paddles.

Although both engines are limited to around 100bhp, genuine sports-car performance is guaranteed by a light 600kg kerbweight. Pischetsrieder claimed a 0-62mph dash in ‘less than 7.0sec’.

The Fun Roadster measures just 3400mm long, about the same as a Smart Roadster, whose two-seat layout it shares. The VW is constructed around a tubular steel frame and its skeletal body has more in common with an Ariel or Caterham, with exposed wheels and minimal bodywork. Suspension is by double wishbones at both ends.

This isn’t core territory for Volkswagen and the Fun Roadster is only tipped for limited-series production as a PR booster, in much the same way as the Smart Crossblade. However, sources in Germany confirm it will be built with deliveries starting in 2007.

Surprise news of the Fun Roadster reflects a renewed push to make the VW brand more dynamic. The top-secret project is separate from all previous small-car programmes and shouldn’t be confused with the recent Concept C or Concept R roadsters.

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