VW Brazils 2015 Fox gets new 1.6-litre flexfuel engine and six-speed gearbox as alternative to one-litre

VW Brazil's 2015 Fox gets new 1.6-litre flexfuel engine and six-speed gearbox as alternative to one-litre

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Two new model launches by the same automaker the same day is unusual here in Brazil but, in a sluggish and competitive market, it can happen, as it did with Volkswagen's 2015 high-roof Fox hatchback and the double cab Saveiro compact pick-up both revealed recently.

Cars here are steadily becoming better equipped and more expensive though added features are generally priced lower than their real cost in the face of strong competition.

The one-litre Fox now starts at BRL35,900/US$16,200 but has been updated both internally and externally with Golf inspired features like electric power steering, height and telescope steering wheel adjustment plus double-reflector headlamps, among other items.

VW has repositioned the Fox upwards due to the current Polo phase-out which will be completed before the end of this year. This explains the appearance of previously unavailable features like electronic stability and traction control, hill start assist, front and rear parking assist, touch screen GPS navigation and fog lamps with a cornering light function.

Better still, a new, double overhead camshaft, multivalve, EA211 1.6-litre/118bhp (on ethanol) engine and six-speed gearbox, a combination notably superior to the current powertrain (continuing in more affordable versions), is now offered. Its smoothness, low-end responsiveness and onboard quietness was impressive during a launch day test drive.

Amid the ongoing wrestle between Volkswagen's Saveiro and Fiat's Strada compact double cab pickups, making a like-for-like price comparison is quite complicated. Adding a third door cost Fiat dear, because its top version exceeds BRL70,000/$31,500, pricing it higher than medium-size pickups with petrol engines.  

This enabled VW to add more equipment to the Saveiro models at competitive prices. This is a rare scenario in Brazil where Fiat usually heads the sales charts thanks to a (nearly) unbeatable product cost-benefit ratio, among other reasons.

The Saveiro starts at BRL47,500/$21,400 and the high-end Cross version can top BRL63,000/$28,300 (also more expensive than petrol medium-size pickups).

While Fiat gets credit for offering a more powerful engine (1.75-litre/130bhp), the VW performs better off-road, thanks in part to a specific ABS mode for gravel braking, and also has traction, hill start and stability controls. Its electronic differential lock via brakes is more effective in this environment than the rival’s electromechanical lock inside the differential housing, which obliges the driver to stop completely before pushing a button, and it disengages automatically above 20kmh/12mph in any case.

Despite the Strada being wider overall due to wing arch extensions, it is 8cm/3.15in narrower across the rear passenger compartment and was homologated with just two rear seats, in contrast to the Saveiro’s three, although the Fiat's pair are more suitable for children or average size adults. The VW also has better knee room and a more reclined backrest as further advantages over the Fiat.

Even though the Savieiro has longer front doors (from Brazil's two-door Gol), ease of access into the Fiat rival is incomparably better (thanks to the nearside third door). VW compounds the problem by not fitting a mechanism to automatically slide the front seats as far foward as possible.

The rivals' cargo beds both offer 580-litres/20.5cu ft capacity but the Saveiro’s spare wheel is placed under the bed, not in it, and its rear gate is gas spring-controlled for easy and safe handling.