Volkswagen Fox

Entering the tough city car market, is Volkswagen's Fox as cunning as its name suggests? We took it out on the prowl

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Fox may not be as good to look at as its rivals and equipment levels could be better, but in every other respect it is the new class-leading city car. The baby Volkswagen is spacious, with ample room for four, and it delivers a mature driving experience. With a competitive price plus predicted excellent residual values, it all adds up to a great-value package.

Competition in the city car market is tougher than ever, and any new model aiming for success has got to be more than good value - it's got to be clever, too. Auto Express got behind the wheel of Volkwagen's new entry-level model, to find out just how clever a Fox it is.

Going up against Citroen's C1, Peugeot's 107 and Toyota's Aygo - not to mention newcomers like Kia's Picanto - the Fox is VW's eagerly awaited Lupo replacement. It goes on sale this month in two trims, standard and Urban, with a starting price of £6,590 - nearly £1,300 less than the its predecessor.

And not only is the Fox cheaper than the Lupo, it's also much bigger. Measuring 3,828mm by 1,544mm, it's 301mm longer and 85mm taller than its predecessor, and is close to the Polo in size. The bland exterior may not win it many friends, but those added dimensions certainly give the Fox an edge over rivals for cabin space.

Inside, it performs Tardis-like tricks. Rather than have a token central rear seat, there are two good-sized chairs in the back, and with lots of head and legroom, there's ample space for four tall adults inside. All the chairs are mounted high, too, giving occupants an MPV-style seating position, with great visibility.

Urban-spec models add more flexibility with a rear bench that slides back and forth through 15cm. It also has a 50:50 split seat back to create more space - although even with the rear chairs in place, there's enough room for the weekly shop. There are also plenty of cup-holders and cubbies, along with a good-sized storage compartment under the driver's seat. As with the exterior, the dashboard isn't exactly stylish. The semi-circular instrument pod may be reminiscent of the original Beetle's, but the rest of the cabin is functional. The hard plastic mouldings make it clear the Fox's low price has resulted from some cost-cutting in terms of material quality.

Trim levels could also be better. Base models get reach and rake adjustable power-assisted steering and a CD player. But if you want electric windows and remote central locking, you'll have to pay at least £7,190 for an Urban-spec model. On top of that, you'll still have to pay extra for alloys and air-con.

Once on the move, the Fox proves to be very impressive. The steering is linear and well weighted, but it's completely devoid of any feedback. The handling, meanwhile, is composed and very grown up for such a small car, if not much fun. Unlike its competitors, the Fox has a very comfortable ride, and despite the tall driving position, the car doesn't feel as if it pitches about. Road and wind noise are very well suppressed, too, which means motorway cruising is a relaxing affair.

Under the bonnet, two petrol engines are available, one a 54bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder, the other a 74bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder unit. VW has no plans to introduce a diesel, which is a shame, but both engines return more than 40mpg on the combined cycle, while our test car's 1.4-litre unit proved responsive and refined.

Factor in insurance groupings of 1E for the 1.2 and 2E for the 1.4, plus residual values that will more than likely better even the Toyota Aygo, and you've got a city car that's a winning package.

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