I've reviewed so many cars over the past six months or so, that I may have been guilty of getting used to the thrills and spills of driving fast ones. If this is the case, my assignment this week brought me back down to earth - very slowly might I add - with a bump. The car in question is the Volkswagen Fox - the baby of the German manufacturer's fleet.
The car has a 0-60mph time of...wait...for...it...17.5 seconds. Top speed is 91mph and no, there isn't a turbo attached to the puny 1.2 liter engine. Yet to lambaste the Fox for being slow and unexciting is to completely miss the point of the car. The giveaway is in the model name of the car I tested - the Volkswagen Urban Fox. You see in this time of petrol prices soaring, roads becoming more congested and the car being the global warming villain, the Fox could well be where the smart money lies when it comes to getting around town.
I don't like to use the word 'cheap' but there's no other way to describe the Fox, with prices starting at £6,430 to be precise (in the UK I should add). To get four brand new wheels onto the road, with a Volkswagen badge adorning your car for this money is quite simply a remarkable feat. The cost saving doesn't end there either, with the Fox falling into insurance group one - the cheapest banding around. Fuel consumption almost looks made up with combined urban and extra urban figures of 46.3mpg.
Blimey this is starting to make a lot of sense. The Fox is quite tall too, so despite the diminutive length, the driving position is not too dissimilar to that of a larger 4x4 vehicle. The advantages of making the car tall, aren't limited to the driving position, as headroom and legroom are also boosted by the extra inches up top. There's plenty of glass around the car, making all round visibility excellent and parking a doddle.
Outside of its favored habitat things do go a bit awry with the Fox - particularly on the motorway. Now before you shout "the little thing's not meant for the big roads!" if we're being objective, there's going to be occasions when you're going to leave the big smoke and hit one of the multi-laned snakes cutting through the country. By-passing (no pun intended) the 0-60mph time, the Fox is - and I hate using this word as much as 'cheap' - slow. An overtaking maneuver requires the forward planning of a chess master and snooker champion all in one. Changing from fifth gear to fourth made little difference to my forward motion and worryingly, nor did a further shift down to third.
The tall sides also act as a pair of very large hands that grasp hold of every gust of wind or buffeting from a passing lorry, making the Fox a wee bit skittish in the outside lane. However, once off the motorway, the Fox feels far more assured navigating country twists and turns, thanks to a longer wheelbase than most in its class and wider track. In fact, rather than welding the accelerator pedal to the floor, a gradual motion combined with a neat gearbox brought great rewards in the great outdoors.
Parked up against it's rivals the Fox sits comfortably in the 'not ugly' bracket but struggles to make it into the 'pretty' range either. As with Volkswagen's other small hatchback the Polo, the Fox is subtly styled compared to its rivals, in this case the Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107. Yet there is something more grown up and civilized about the Fox when viewing it alongside the almost immature stylings of the other city cars.
An interesting fact for your next pub chatter - Volkswagen are committed to reducing the environmental impact of producing cars and are keen to promote recycling and greener vehicles. In the case of the Fox, it's built in Brazil where the Curana plant grows. Fibers of this plant from the pineapple family are mixed with a recyclable synthetic material which makes the material for the roof lining and rear parcel shelf. No the car isn't edible.
The Fox has been manufactured using the latest laser welding technology which means it's a very rigid car helping it garner 4 stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests and features ABS as standard. Optional extras include alloy wheels, air conditioning and a CD player.
The Fox has a big fight on its hands, not necessarily from its competitors, but from the car it replaces - the much loved, and cute Lupo. Either way, the evidence is clear. Next time I get behind the wheel of a 2.0 liter turbo'd monster, I'll be wishing I was a far sensible human being and was driving a Volkswagen Fox.