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Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Urban

Brazilian-built machine is entry point of German firm’s range.

The Volkswagen Fox is a small car that puts function ahead of form. While some city models play the retro card for all it’s worth, the entry-level VW holds all the aces when it comes to space – but is that enough to trump its newer rivals?

If you want neat details and stylish design, the Fox isn’t the car for you. The smart alloy wheels fitted to our test car are a £553 option, yet even they can’t disguise its run-of-the-mill looks. Its three-door body is neatly proportioned and features a trademark VW grille, although from the outside it looks thoroughly ordinary.

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Don’t expect things to improve on the inside, because this is where the Brazilian-built Fox’s budget roots are most obvious. Climb aboard, and you’re greeted by a no-frills cabin with simple switchgear and hard plastics. It feels solidly assembled and the instruments are both easy to read and attractive, but the overall feel is very workmanlike. The striped seat fabric is a welcome touch, yet the VW majors on cabin space rather than quirky design.

Sit in the rear, and you’ll appreciate the effort, because the Fox is easily the most comfortable choice for back-seat passengers. It has more head and legroom than all of the other cars on test, and its 260-litre boot is also the biggest.

In 1.2 Urban guise, the Fox is priced at £7,168, but standard kit is positively spartan. You get remote central locking, a CD player and two airbags, yet electronic stability control is a £436 option and air-conditioning a whopping £925 extra.

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You’re constantly reminded of the VW’s low-cost underpinnings on the road, too, thanks to its cheap-feeling plastic steering wheel. Thankfully, the rest of the package is more appealing, despite its 54bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine. It is the least powerful unit here, but it provides a hefty shove of torque and bags of character. Even so, it’s hard to ignore its limited power delivery on the move. At the test track, the Fox took a lethargic 18.1 seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph – 4.8 seconds slower than the Fiat. You also have to work the VW hard to maintain motorway speeds, yet refinement is impressive given its meagre output. Both the Fiat and Ford feel more substantial, although the Fox is a close third, well ahead of the Twingo.

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On twisty roads, the handling is safe and predictable, with plenty of grip, light controls and a smooth ride – but it doesn’t have the sharp steering responses of the Ka.

The Fox also struggles at the pumps, as you have to rev the engine hard to keep pace with traffic. A return of 36.2mpg was the worst here, while official CO2 emissions of 144g/km are the most polluting.

The Fox still fits the bill as a no-frills city car, but this inefficiency – and the costly options list – undermines an otherwise affordable and practical package.

What will it cost you? Our Fox seems cheap – until you look at the spec sheet. Although air-con is standard on both the Ka and 500, you will need to spend an additional £925 to have it on the Urban-spec Fox. That brings it much closer on price to its newer rivals.

High emissions of 144g/km also count against the three-cylinder VW. Potential buyers will have to balance this against some of the lowest servicing costs in this test, plus the Fox’s excellent predicted residual values.

In detail * Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl, 54bhp * 0-60mph: 18.1 seconds * Economy: 36.2mpg * Annual road tax: £120 * Euro NCAP rating: Four stars

Details

Price: £7,168Model tested: Volkswagen Fox 1.2 UrbanChart position: 3WHY: A VW badge, low prices and a practical interior should make Fox a tempting choice.

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