Another month, another new Volkswagen. Or so it seems. So far this year we’ve seen the Golf Plus, Passat and, even though it’s hasn’t made it to the UK yet, the replacement for the Bora. Now the Fox, Volkswagen’s Brazilian-built entry-level model, is attempting to make its mark.
Interest in the Fox, which sits on the front-wheel-drive underpinnings and has the same engines as the larger Polo, is running high. Not only because it replaces the popular Lupo – which in GTi form will continue to be sold in the UK – but because it is meant to take Volkswagen back to its roots. Its role is to offer cheap but dependable motoring for the masses. Modern-day Beetle, anyone?
UK prices are yet to be revealed, but Volkswagen says the Fox will be pitched below the outgoing Lupo, with even the 1.4-litre petrol version expected to start below £8000, putting it in direct competition with the excellent Fiat Panda. Although the Fox is built in both three- and five-door guises for the South American market, the UK will only get the three-door version. Don’t hold your breath waiting for one, though. Right-hand-drive sales aren’t envisaged until early 2006.
When it does go on sale there’ll be three engines to choose from: a 54bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol, the 74bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol tested here and a 69bhp 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel. All come with a comparatively high level of standard equipment, including a five-speed manual gearbox, anti-lock brakes, twin front airbags and three-point seat belts all-round. Electronic stability control will be optional.
On the outside
Initial impressions are mixed. The Fox’s styling doesn’t excite in the way some of its supermini rivals manage. The conservative appearance is old-school Volkswagen, which means it looks rather dull. Despite having none of the upbeat detailing evident on VW’s recent offerings, the Fox looks nicely cohesive and, by supermini standards, build integrity is genuinely impressive.
While it doesn’t look it, the Fox is a considerable 301mm longer than the Lupo at 3828mm. It’s also 21mm wider, 84mm higher and rides on a wheelbase that’s 142mm longer. All of which makes it a good deal roomier than the Lupo.
On the inside
The first thing you notice when you get inside is the elevated seating arrangement. To provide the Fox with the commanding driving environment buyers demand these days, Volkswagen has raised the height of the front seats by 60mm over the Lupo’s, positioning you higher above the road than in many cars from the class above. However, any gains in visibility are spoilt by extra-wide A-pillars, which might help the tiny Volkswagen’s crash impact credentials but also create large blind spots.
Still, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. The Polo-sourced steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach, while the well-shaped driver’s seat offers a good range of longitudinal adjustment and comes with height adjustment as standard. But while class-leading interior quality played a central role in the Lupo’s appeal this isn’t reflected in the Fox, whose dashboard plastics look and feel cheap by comparison. It’s a backward step that clearly smacks of cost-cutting, even if the Fox’s cabin design is pleasingly modern and the trim durable.