Fleet News

Volkswagen Fox

Volkswagen

Review

BEFORE we start, let’s clear up this name issue. Volkswagen’s new city car is called the Fox, which replaces the Lupo and sits below the Polo but isn’t the same car as the former Polo Fox. Is that clear? Good.

The reason I mention this is because, having driven the Fox, the differences between the new entry-level Volkswagen and its established Polo supermini aren’t immediately clear.

Of course, the two cars look different (and from June the Polo will look even more so when it adopts the company’s new front-end lights from the Passat) but, in terms of size, space and performance, there doesn’t seem to be that much between them – except price.

By opting to have the car built in Brazil Volkswagen is able to offer the Fox at a very low price.

When it goes on sale in the UK next February, it is expected to cost less than the German-built Lupo it replaces. So prices could well be around the £7,000 mark for the entry-level 1.2 version (Polo prices currently begin at £9,125).

This engine, a three-cylinder unit with 55bhp, is expected to be the big seller and there will also be the choice of a 1.4-litre 75bhp engine in either petrol or 70bhp Euro IV-complaint diesel guise. The existing Lupo GTi, popular with younger drivers and not too pricey on insurance, will remain in the range for the time being.

But it’s in terms of size where the two models really overlap. The new Polo is 3.9m long while the Fox is just 88mm shorter, but in terms of width and height the Fox is larger. What this means is that the Fox has more interior space.

I’m somewhere between Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas in build, but during my test drive there was bags of space inside for me and my six-foot-plus co-driver. Our shoulders never touched and our heads were well away from brushing the headlining which, incidentally, is made from recycled fibres from a pineapple plant.

There’s also a neat sliding rear bench seat which can either give maximum rear passenger leg room or can be slid forwards to create a much bigger boot space. Set at its furthest position back, the Fox can accommodate a six-foot passenger in the rear behind a six-foot driver.

The amount of interior space on the Fox really is very impressive, which is the result of the car being designed as a five-door family car for South America and then being adapted as a three-door city car for Europe.

And since it went on sale in Brazil early last year, the Fox has been a huge success, selling around 300,000 units.

Volkswagen hasn’t set sales expectations for the Fox yet, primarily due to the fact that the domestic launch is so far away and specification and pricing isn’t certain either.

The wait is due to limited production of right-hand drive cars at the South American factory.

But what is certain is that the Fox will sell in much bigger numbers, both to fleet and retail customers, than the car it replaces. Last year, Volkswagen sold 2,549 Lupos in the UK and around 40,000 Polos. While the Fox won’t reach the levels of the Polo, expect to see many more Foxes on the road than Lupos.

In fleet terms, there are clear areas where it will do well. Volkswagen is already eyeing bodyshop courtesy car fleets and daily rental firms as key outlets, while companies wanting an affordable pool car for urban driving should all be interested.

Behind the wheel
AS you’d expect from a car designed for use in the city, the Fox is an absolute doddle to drive – nicely light steering and gearchange, great visibility all round and short overhangs to make parking a cinch.

But the Fox is also pretty competent on the open road. I drove the entry-level 1.2-litre model, which is expected to take the lion’s share of sales, and found it comfortable and refined at motorway speeds. At 70mph the engine is turning over at about 4,000rpm but there’s no irritating buzz from under the bonnet and wind noise is well suppressed.

Around town the steering is nicely weighted and it offers a tight turning cycle – perfect for city work. And the gearbox works so well that you’d have to be the worst type of ham-fisted numbskull to miss a gear.

Inside, it’s all familiar Volkswagen fare, which means nice tactile plastics on the steering wheel and indicator stalks. The quality feel continues to the centre console.

The only disappointment is the quality of the plastics just below eye level, such as on the glovebox lid and door panels, which stand out in the cabin against the other trim.

But this car is built to a price, and it’s a price which will be below the Lupo it replaces. As an affordable city runabout, the Fox will take some beating.

Model: 1.2 1.4 1.4 TDI
Engine (cc): 1,198 1,390 1,422
Max power (bhp/rpm): 55/4,750 75/5,000 70/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 80/3,000 92/2,750 114/1,600
Max speed (mph): 92 104 100
0-62mph (secs): 17.5 13.0 14.7
Fuel consumption (mpg): 46.3 42.2 57.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 146 161 132
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 50/11 50/11 50/11
On sale: February 2006
Price (est): £7,000-£10,000

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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