Volkswagen's new Fox is keenly priced to make inroads into the small car market, but its handling is rather less than nippy, says David Wilkins

Price: £7,190
Engine: 1.2 litre petrol
Performance: 0-62mph in 17.5 seconds, 46.3mpg
CO2: 146g/km
Worth considering: Vauxhall Agila, Ford Ka, Toyota Aygo

Volkswagen made a clever move in naming its new small car, because unless you are a chicken farmer, the chances are that when you hear that word Fox, it engenders warm feelings.

Most of us like foxes because we grew up with Basil Brush on the telly, and when we see these animals in the countryside - a rare event, since they are shy and nervous creatures - we are struck by their small size and vulnerable beauty. I suspect, too, that there are few women who would not be flattered to hear themselves described as foxy. In fact, we love foxes so much that we even passed a law intended to prevent them being hunted.

That said, it's less obvious that Volkswagen has done itself any favours with the name of the version we are testing this week. With some extra trimmings thrown in, the new Fox becomes an Urban Fox. No doubt the addition of the word "urban" is intended to convey a sense of metropolitan sophistication, but for most of us urban foxes mean nocturnal yelping and chewed bin bags, and we hardly associate these pests with their fondly regarded country cousins.

The name is doubly daft when you consider that one difference between the basic Fox and the Urban Fox is that the latter has posh body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, which, as our reader John Lambert perceptively observed, are probably less able to withstand urban scrapes than the unpainted alternatives.

But you can forgive all that, because the Urban Fox is a sensible choice. When Volkswagen decided it needed a cheap car to slot into its range below the Polo as a replacement for the Lupo, the company didn't go small - it went simple.

In some respects the sturdy, straightforward, Brazilian-built Fox has more in common with Renault's Dacia Logan and Fiat's Palio - models designed to be built and sold outside western Europe in countries with rougher roads than ours - than mainstream small cars.

Cornering is safe rather than exciting, perhaps even stodgy, but there are two areas where the Fox is certainly right up to First World standards: interior-trim quality and refinement. The 1.2 litre engine gives up a cylinder - it has only three - but gains quite a bit of character and mid-range punch compared with most units fitted to cars of this size and price. The upright body is roomy, although it provides just two doors rather than four. In fact, only the steep price of the optional air conditioning - more or less essential these days - might cause you to give this Fox the brush-off.

Matthew Large, 32, Buying director from Birmingham


Volkswagen describe their new baby as a city car with a high-value package, and it's hard to disagree with that. For me, the Fox is everything you need from a small, reliable and reasonably stylish car. The build-quality is surprisingly sturdy - shutting the doors provides a satisfying clunk - with easily enough room for two adults in the back. The interior is typically well thought out, perhaps a little on the bland side, though the retro stripy seats in this model add a touch of individuality. The Fox handles very well on the road, with responsive steering and a smooth, comfortable ride. My only criticism would be that the brakes feel a little soft at times.

Jody Chapman, 29, Automotive engineer, Leamington Spa


Approaching the Fox parked outside my house hardly had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Even in a vibrant red it seemed to be yet another anonymous small car. Its biggest redeeming feature is the price and that will probably be enough to convince frugal car buyers to make it popular. From the outside it's clearly a VW and carved from the same rock as the Lupo, although markedly larger. The interior trim is well executed; good material and uncluttered surfaces. The one real gripe for me is the (very economical, of course) engine. Its three cylinders have all the panache of an Eighties diesel engine and it suffers from the same mean rev range.

John Lambert, 30, IT analyst from Evesham, Worcs


The urban fox is a known pest but it also shows astonishing speed, agility and grace. It can dodge and dart and get through small gaps. By contrast VW's Urban Fox is too big and soft to go dodging, weaving and darting through traffic. Even so it is not a bad town car, the controls are light and easy to use and the engine responsive. There are downsides; the absurdly thick windscreen pillars, which appear to converge towards the base of the screen, the overlarge speedometer and too-small tachometer. If you need a big car but only have a small budget, the Urban Fox is difficult to beat. In character, however, the VW is more family dog than wild fox.

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