REVIEW DATE: 05 Oct 2007
Volkswagen's Fox citycar responds to accusations that the old Lupo was too expensive. Andy Enright takes a look
Cynicism surrounded the launch of Volkswagen's Fox citycar. For a start, it was introduced at the Leipzig Motor Show, an event a long way from the white hot glare of the media mainstream. Secondly, it's built down to a price in Brazil and importing such 'world cars' into sophisticated Euro markets has often proved disastrous. Finally, there was the suspicion that Volkswagen couldn't build a decent cheap car.
Hold on a minute. The Volkswagen Group have proven past masters at building affordable, appealing citycars, with vehicles like the SEAT Arosa a case in point. The problem comes in leveraging brands in the hierarchy. Skoda and SEAT sit at the affordable end. Next up comes Volkswagen and 'the people's car' appeals to a rather more well-heeled set of people than Skodas and SEATs. That's the theory at least and while it's relatively easy to pull off this theory when dealing with mid-priced models like Golfs and Passats, the Volkswagen badge runs out of equity at the top end - witness slow sales of the Phaeton - and finds itself beached in shallow water at the bottom end of the market. Lupo sales were never what Volkswagen had desired, most customers unwilling to pay a premium that comprised a serious percentage of the car's overall costs for a Volkswagen badge over a SEAT one.
So now you appreciate Volkswagen's quandary. They needed a car cheaper than the Lupo but which retained Volkswagen brand attributes. The Fox does just that. Taking advantage of low labour costs in Brazil, Volkswagen is able to turn these cars out and ship them to Europe very cheaply and with the Lupo and the SEAT Arosa being ditched. Hierarchy issues with SEAT and Skoda have been settled with one sweep of the axe. So much for the background - what's the Fox like?
"The Fox represents a back to basic approach for Volkswagen"
If you were expecting something primitive, think again. While it's by no means as sophisticated as the latest crop of citycars - the Citroen C1, the Peugeot 107 and the Toyota Aygo triplets spring to mind - it does what an inexpensive Volkswagen should do. It's versatile, well built and hugely spacious. The tape measure even shows that the interior is bigger in most key dimensions than the Polo, a car that campaigns in a class above. Volkswagen have even managed to endow the rear seats with a certain degree of MPV-style flexibility. They fold 50/50 and an option is the capability to slide 15cm back and forth, allowing owners to choose between Golf class rear legroom or genuinely useable luggage space for a family of four. That's a rarity in this class of cars and will act as a significant plus point for family buyers. The rear seat even folds and flips up, revealing a very useful flat loading area.
After all, many buyers are now expecting more of so-called citycars. A true citycar is a somewhat limiting vehicle, often purchased as a second or third car. The latest crop are a whole lot more versatile and can shrug off longer journeys with insouciant ease. Count the Fox amongst these. Three engines are offered - two petrols and a diesel - and they're all useful powerplants. Most buyers will be attracted to the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol unit. This fronts up with 55bhp, which is just about enough to endow the Fox with some go. The sprint to 60mph in 16.8 seconds isn't anything to shout from the rooftops but this car will cruise at British motorway speeds without feeling too strained and will return a combined fuel economy figure of over 46mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are a saintly 146g/km, helped in no small part to the car tipping the scales at a smidgeon over 900kg. This car retails from around £6,500, or about the same as a mid-range Kia Picanto. Now you can appreciate why Volkswagen are more bullish about this car's sales prospects than they ever were about the Lupo's.
Aside from the 1.2-litre petrol engine, there's also a 1.4-litre petrol unit. The 1.4 petrol is good for 74bhp and represents the top of the range. It's still not what you'd describe as perky, getting to 60mph in 12.6 seconds, but it's still capable of managing over 42mpg and will top 100mph. There are two trim levels - standard and, for a premium of £800, Urban, which includes electric front windows, body coloured bumpers and door mirrors and remote central locking. All versions get twin airbags and are only available in a three-seater bodystyle. Access to the rear is good, even for taller passengers.
The fascia is cleanly styled with a four-spoke steering wheel and a functional instrument binnacle. This houses a large speedometer with an inset digital display and ancillary warning lights along with dials grouped around the outside. The centre console is of obvious Volkswagen provenance and looks a little outdated compared to some of the slickly designed offerings rivals have come up with. Volkswagen would doubtless claim the Fox offers everything you need in a citycar and nothing you don't, but fashionistas will probably look elsewhere.
It's easy to see the practical reasons for Volkswagen importing the Fox. It's a no-nonsense, practical and affordable citycar. What it lacks is that spark of individuality that many citycar buyers value. It's not exciting but it deserves success.
The results below show the top FOX deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Urban Fox 3dr hatchback|
|Volkswagen Fox 1.4 3dr hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT FOX DEALS|
|For FOX RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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