As it launched the Brazilian-built Fox three-door compact in Europe, Volkswagen was introducing the Crossfox in Brazil, a five-door pseudo-offroader version.

The new model is made in the São José dos Pinhais plant, in Paraná state, the same factory that produces the Fox for Latin America and Europe. In the second half of the year, the European Fox will also be made also in the São Bernardo do Campo plant, in São Paulo state.

The Crossfox was shown to Brazilian media as a concept car during the Fox launch there in October 2003. The car is designed to look like a compact SUV with suspension height increased 53mm, bulky bumpers with fog lights, a front bull bar, side bars and roof bars.

The spare wheel is located on a support arm across the rear door. Despite its off-road looks, the Crossfox has on-road tyres (205/60 R15) and is front drive only.

"It's a version for people that want a small vehicle with an SUV's image, but will use it only on asphalt", said Paulo Kakinoff, marketing director of Volkswagen of Brazil.

For Brazil the Crossfox has a 1.6-litre eight-valve flexfuel engine, that runs on petrol, alcohol or any blend of the two. Power output varies between 101hp and 103hp depending on fuel used. This engine was developed in conjunction with Bosch and is the same used in the Brazil market Fox.

Crossfox prices in Brazil start at €11,200.

Volkswagen will fit petrol engines to export versions of the Crossfox. The automaker will initially ship the line to other Latin America countries but is eyeing Europe.

"We don't have contracts to export the Crossfox to Europe, but we will try to expand sales to other markets and we think that the model could find a place in Europe," said Hans-Christian Maergner, president of Volkswagen Brazil.

Likes the Fox, the Crossfox is based on the current Polo platform and was developed and designed by Volkswagen in Brazil. The new version widens the Brazilian Fox range that already includes three- and five-door hatchback models. So far, only the three-door is shipped to Europe.

Volkswagen will introduce a Fox minivan at the end of the year. The new car will be the first in the range to be produced outside Brazil - it will be made in Argentina for Latin American markets.

Rogério Louro