Issue 002 Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Road Test
Not so small wonder
Fox 1.2: a cut-price Polo alternative? ‹ In town and on the open road
‹ 1.2-litre 54bhp Urban Fox
‹ Big on space, small on price
02 | Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Road Test
or a car that is approaching its fifth birthday and is relatively inexpensive, catching sight of a Volkswagen Fox on the road can be something of a rare occasion. But, as the new fifth‑generation Polo has moved Volkswagen’s evergreen supermini further upmarket, the company’s smaller offering may be more relevant than ever. Promising the solid build and quality buyers have come to expect from the German marque, but for a cheaper price, does the Fox offer big brother Polo’s virtues in a smaller package? A few months ago PoloDriver tested a 1.2 model over 1000 miles to find out if Volkswagen’s city car is a cut-price Polo alternative. The first thing that strikes you is how large the Fox is. Replacing the Lupo in 2005, the Fox is built in Volkswagen’s sites in Argentina and Brazil and is quite a star in its home market. On the other side of the globe, three further body styles enhance its functional appeal (see ‘Foxy!’ panel on page 4), and although Europe solely gets the three-door variant, that doesn’t mean its short on space. Much larger than the Europeandesigned Lupo and not much smaller than the outgoing Polo (current when we tested the car), the Fox’s tall and narrow silhouette give it an appearance of a shrunken MPV, or a smaller version of Volkswagen’s own Golf Plus. Two trim levels Available in two trim levels - Fox and Urban Fox - with 1.2-litre 54bhp or 74bhp petrol engines (continental buyers can also choose a 1.4 69bhp TDI), ‘our’ car was a 1.2 Urban Fox, coupling the most basic engine with the plushest trim level. Coming in at £8180 on the road, the range starts at £7460, rising to an entry-level Polo-pushing £9095 for the top‑spec Urban Fox 1.4. The Urban Fox looks more attractive than the more basic-spec model, due to its colour-coded bumpers and mirrors, and
Technical specification Model Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Urban/1.4 Urban Displacement (cc) 1198/1390 Power output 54bhp @ 4750rpm/74bhp @ 5000rpm Maximum torque 80lb ft @ 3000rpm/92lb ft @ 2750 Cylinders 3/4 Valves per cylinder 2/4 Transmission Front-wheel drive, five-speed manual Top speed (mph) 92/104 0-62mph (seconds) 17.5/13.0 Braking system Servo-assisted, diagonally split circuit with ABS, ventilated discs (front), self-adjusting drums (rear) Running gear Independent with McPherson struts and coil springs (front axle), torsion beam with trailing arms (rear axle) Steering Electro-hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion Wheels 6J x 14 steel Tyres 185/60 R14 Unladen weight (kg) 978/1018 Dimensions (l, w, h mm) 3828, 1660, 1544 Wheelbase (mm) 2465 Official CO2 emission (g/km) 144/159 Price (£, February 2010) 8180.00/9095.00 Options fitted to test car 6J x 14 ‘Parana’ alloy wheels (£620), ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) (£490), ‘Sunshine’ paint (£200), alarm system (£156 at time of test)
february 2010 | polodriver.com
specced in yellow ‘Sunshine’ paint, it exerts a cheeky character, at odds with its functional (some would say dour) styling. Other extra goodies over its less well-equipped brother include easy entry front seats, front electric windows, manual rear vent windows, remote central locking and sliding rear bench seat with split-folding backrest. Being a Volkswagen UK press car, OY58 RZX also came with a few choice factory-fitted extras. ‘Parana’ 14-inch alloy wheels with 185/60section tyres lent the car more visual appeal and while a thoughtful safety feature, we did question the need for the £490 ESP system on a 54bhp car. But, it all adds up to an impressive package. Yes, there are small signs that the little Brazilian car isn’t hewn from quite the same German stock as its other European family members, but overall it feels like a fully-fledged Volkswagen. The global Fox marketing slogan is ‘Really Volkswagen’ and buyers must agree, borne out by the fact that VW has sold over 27,000 examples of the car since its UK introduction in 2006. The Fox offers almost as much space as a Series 4 (2002-2009) Polo, but for around £2000 less than the current Polo. But is it really a case of almost as much car for a cheaper price? A family holiday in the picturesque North York Moors driving over 1000 miles in a week, taking in A and B roads, motorways and plenty of town driving would be the ultimate test. We also hoped to find out if the Fox would be practical enough to be run as your main vehicle for townies with no children, and if there was some character begging to be set free underneath all that functional practicality. As you’ll discover later, we needn’t have worried. Commodious The first thing OY58 RZX had to do was to fit in out luggage for the week. Just as the size of the car surprises you when you first see it, the space inside is equally bewildering. With a wheelbase just 5mm shy of the new Polo’s (2465mm vs 2470mm), there’s more than ample room in the commodious interior. Taller than both the outgoing and new Polos and with a length not far off either of them, the Fox is, with its doors open to their full extents, almost as wide as it is long. Those big doors make loading the not so little car easy. With a 50/50 symmetrically-split rear seat – which on Urban Fox models, slides forward and backwards depending on your load – piling stuff into Volkswagen’s smallest car is a doddle. We dare say the easy-entry front seats helped, their memory functions more than making up for the lack of two rear doors. The 260‑litre luggage compartment is sizeable for a car of this type, although we will admit to using the back seat, which when folded down gives 1016 litres of space, easy rivalling that of a small van. Moving around to the front of the cabin, there’s plenty of storage space there, too. With deep door pockets shaped to hold drinks bottles, cup holders in the centre console, front under-seat trays, a full-width ‘shelf’ on top of the roll-top dashboard, a shallow compartment on the uppermost section of the centre console, map pockets on the front sear backs and pockets in the rear panels, Volkswagen has certainly thought out storage solutions for most Fox owners’ needs. Our only criticism is that the rear seat is shaped for two people rather than three, with the centre most part being replaced with two further cup holders. Light and bright While the Fox feels like a ‘proper’ Volkswagen, there’s no getting away from its built-to-a-price Brazilian roots. Some of the interior plastics aren’t as plush as in the Polo or Golf, and the tailgate sounds a little tinny when compared to other models in the range, but if we’re honest, these are niggles, and shouldn’t put you off a Fox as a potential purchase. The ‘Coloured Stripes’ upholstery adds to the overall impression of a bright and light interior, its yellow, blue, cerise and orange pinstripes adding a sense of fun to the otherwise soberly-styled, functional surroundings.
Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Road Test | 03
The Urban Fox looks ‘more attractive than its
basic-spec brother, thanks in part, to its colour-coded bumpers and mirrors.
Urban warrior: (clockwise from below): the city car Fox is Volkswagen’s contender in the town tiddler class and is an Europeanised version of a model which originated in Brazil. Like the Lupo before it, it sits on a shortened Polo platform; 1.2-litre, 54bhp engine also shared with the last-generation Polo; generous-sized interior features colourful upholstery; class-best boot holds 216 litres
Story | Rich Gooding | Photography Rich Gooding and Volkswagen UK Press Office
polodriver.com | february 2010
04 | Volkswagen Fox 1.2 Road Test The tiny town tiddlers: fierce competition in the Fox’s class, the city car sector, includes rivals such as the Ford Ka, Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo. It also does battle with the Peugeot 107 seen here. Bright colours not always compulsory Open road: while the Fox is best-suited to the urban cut and thrust, it doesn’t disgrace itself on A and B roads out of the city landscape. While not the most involving, the car is still good fun, surprisingly peppy and frugal to boot Sunny character Primarily built for economy and the bump and grind of urban streets, it would be foolish to think the Fox is going to worry any warm hatches. With 54bhp, performance from the 1.2-litre, three‑cylinder engine can best be described as leisurely with 62mph coming up in 17.5 seconds. But, the three-pot motor is an engaging one, it’s thrum giving the car a sometimes vocal voice and suiting the car’s sunny character. The 1198cc unit gives 80lb ft of torque and 144g/km of CO2, and compares well with the more powerful 1.4 unit also offered. With 20bhp more, the larger-capacity motor only gains 12lb ft of torque and is 15g/km dirtier. Both are in the lowest possible insurance group of 1E, and while we didn’t have one eye on economy, both should return upwards of 40mpg on the combined cycle.
Tried, tested and traditional Just as Volkswagen’s urban warrior isn’t going to pick on the big boys when it comes to speed, nor is it going to pull any knockout punches when it comes to handling. Relying on VW’s tried, tested and traditional semi-independent rear axle and strut-type front suspension, handling is more on the comfort rather than sporting side. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. Nippy with light steering and almost comical levels of body roll due to the soft but compliant springs and dampers, the Fox is undoubtedly more at home cutting through the urban thrust than it is storming down a twisty B road. As you would expect, understeers is always not far away, not helped by the lack of feel through the electro-hydraulic steering. Refinement’s good, though, with only marginal suspension noise filtering into the cabin and the 1.2-litre Fox can hold its own at motorway speeds. The slick gearchange from the five-speed ‘box also helps easy progress. Intelligent urban transport Overall, OY58 RZX dispatched all our routes in the North York Moors with very little effort, from the slow wooded tracks of the Dalby Forest and the city outskirts of York, to the town landscapes of Scarborough and Whitby. And we’ll be honest, we didn’t expect to be wowed by the Fox as much as we were. We’d heard too many reports of non-sturdy build, bland styling, a functional personality and an unengaging drive. But we were very pleasantly surprised. By the end of our 1200 miles with OY58 RZX, we were complete Fox converts. Volkswagen’s not so small city car is capable of most of the jobs a larger Polo can do and seems almost as comprehensively equipped. It has as much character as it has interior space (though our car’s yellow paint undoubtedly helped) and it must be one of the most intelligent choices of urban transport. This particular one has now departed the press fleet, sold to a new owner through Volkswagen’s retailer network, who we hope enjoys it as much as we did. If you’re on the look-out for quality urban transport, choose a bright colour, buy a Fox and be amazed. We were.
Foxy! Sporty, rugged and practical: the sexy (and not so sexy) global Fox family The European Volkswagen Fox is just one of a family of Fox variant on sale largely in South American markets, which of course is where the basic car originates from. Even the name is traditional, being both the badge of a 1980s base-model Volkswagen sold in the US, and also a special edition basic variant of the pre-facelift Series 2 Polo, on sale in Europe from 1984 to 1990. In addition to the three‑door, a five‑door is also offered and is joined by the CrossFox, a raised‑height, two‑wheel drive SUV-style model based on the same formula as European Cross models such as the CrossPolo (Dune in the UK). There’s also the Sunrise, a raised‑height, plastic‑wheelarched halfway house between the two, and the Suran/SpaceFox, a five-door Fox estate or mini-MPV. Most versions are powered by 1.0-litre 73bhp and 1.6-litre 98bhp/ 103bhp petrol or 1.9 SDI 64bhp diesel engines. Volkswagen sees the need for no GTI version, although European buyers can raid the official accessories brochure and make a firecracking Fox in looks, if not in power. Finally, in the car’s spiritual home of Brazil, the Fox has been given a new Polo-inspired facelift to become the Novo Fox. Taking on the headlamp, grille, rear light and wheel style of the new fifth‑generation Polo has really transformed the car; it could almost be mistaken for its little brother. There’s even a new and much more luxurious-looking dashboard and interior, too. PoloDriver knows of either no set date or even if the Polo-lite post-facelifted model will be sold in Europe or the UK.
february 2010 | polodriver.com
Multiple personalities (clockwise from top left): five-door perfect for increased practicality; rugged CrossFox for stylish city dwellers; GTI looks from official VW accessories; New Fox on sale now in Brazil; Suran/ SpaceFox ‘MPV’ ideal for small families