Volkswagen Fox

The Golf may have got bigger, but VW has not forgotten buyers looking for something a little smaller. The Fox is the German firm's new city car, and it is just arrived for its first UK shakedown. We tried a left-hand-drive version to find out first how it measures up against budget rivals.

A spacious cabin and VW badge might be enough for foreign markets, but not in the UK. In a sector awash with capable rivals, the Fox has its work cut out. Uninspiring to drive, with cheap trim, its lack of five doors will only make VW salesmen's job all the harder.

The Golf may have got bigger, but VW has not forgotten buyers looking for something a little smaller. The Fox is the German firm's new city car, and it is just arrived for its first UK shakedown. We tried a left-hand-drive version to find out first how it measures up against budget rivals.

The newly introduced Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1 have raised the bar in recent weeks, and the likes of the Kia Picanto will offer stiff competition when the Fox goes on sale next January.

Longer than its Lupo predecessor and shorter than the Polo, the hatchback will be available only in three-door form, and is strictly a four-seater. Interior space is generous and there is even plenty of headroom in the back. The sliding and split-folding rear seat boosts practicality, although the boot has a high load sill. Cabin quality is disappointing for a VW, and despite its comfortable seats, fans of the brand will not be impressed - and that feeling is unlikely to change out on the road.

On the move, the 1.4-litre oil-burner is unrefined and sluggish, and there is plenty of wind noise at high speed. Two petrol engines are set to complete the line-up, but the 54bhp 1.2-litre and 73bhp 1.4 variants will undoubtedly both suffer the same overly soft ride quality as the diesel.

Visibility is good, thanks to the large glass area, but our test car's dark blue paintwork was of a poor quality, with a number of scratches already showing on the bonnet.

When the new baby arrives in 2006, base models are expected to start at £6,500, with spec levels yet to be announced. The VW will need to come with plenty of kit if it is to avoid losing out in the Fox hunt.

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