Enter the Volkswagen T-Cross, a new compact SUV from Wolfsburg, Germany – seen here in metallic Takena Turquoise. I say from Germany, but I really mean Spain, at least that’s where it’s built. How compact is it? Well, quite. About the same size as the Polo it's based on but significantly taller, despite looking a lot like its larger siblings the Tiguan and Toaureg.
It's already the company's third bestselling car in Mzansi so naturally, we thought we needed to take a closer look at what makes it such a success. It helps to think of it as a refinement of the concept of a Polo Cross. So, no longer derivative, instead a very convincing standalone model. And you can add to that the fact that it was designed to compete in the most relevant segment of them all.
What we have here is a chunky gravel traveler with a four-square stance, purposeful looking sheet metal and tough 18-inch Nevada alloys tucked into each gratuitous arch. Ours is a Highline model with the R-Line styling pack - yours for R365,000, but comes jam packed with features. Which I'll get to in a moment but first – let’s talk about what moves it.
That is, a minuscule one litre engine with just three cylinders. Mind you the 1.0TSI engine is turbocharged to the tune of 85kW and 200Nm, comes mated to a seven speed DSG automatic gearbox and can sprint from zero to hundred in ten seconds. It will top out at 195kph and return an admirable 4.7l/100km fuel consumption. So that’s pretty good.
Right, those features
Ours has keyless entry plus a raft of connectivity toys to better talk to your smartphone via the onboard Infotainment system. Also here, wireless phone charging, app-connect, voice controls and 3D map navigation. In addition to VW's usual attention to safety ours is equipped with the park package – comprising park assist, a rear view camera and power-folding mirrors. It's all very hand-holdy, isnt it? Not that I'm complaining. The result is a cabin as well appointed, and comfortable I might add, as the exterior is convincing. If somewhat less exciting. Without even starting the engine, it’s easy to see why South Africans are flocking to the T-Cross.
Wireless charging is a huge plus
Hop into the cabin and you’re dropping your bum into a comfy pew in what is a fairly sumptuous affair, one that pleases the driver as much as it does its occupants. The diamond pattern details carried through the interior, on the dash and the seats are a nice touch too. The window line is however a bit high, so it makes you feel like you're sitting quite low in the car, not a problem – merely an observation.
The driving experience feels very familiar – smooth, direct and easy to get used to, like a marginally more adventurous Polo. Perfectly car-like then, I mean why wouldn't it be? The platform is VW's MQB modular system and that means its road manners are impeccable. The helm delivers a robust amount of steering feedback and the chassis, whilst firm is in no way harsh. Cabin noise in general is on the quiet side which is great for what is still a moderately small package. Chuck it around your favourite bends and look, it's no race car – nor is it trying to be. No, this is built for compliance.
To sum it all up
Overall, this is a small vehicle with the attitude of a large one, but there’s no escaping from the fact that under that turquoise bonnet beats a one litre, three cylider heart. And while VW have done an impressive job of giving it respectable outputs, you do feel the car's limitations.
Get over that mental hurdle however and you're rewarded with a very competent city car that is perfectly at home playing in the dirt. At R365,000, or the price of a Golf, this particular, highly specced T-Cross represents the flagship and I can see why it's monstering the sales charts. Well until the new 110kW 1.5T model lands next year that is. That car will be accompanied by an even more affordable 70kW Trendline model, filling out the range nicely and giving buyers a few more options, or, entry points into their hot new thing. The T-Cross.
And for me it makes a heck of a lot of sense. You lose nothing in premiumness but gain a lofty vantage point and that go-anywhere feeling of ruggedness that accompanies SUVs, but without the true but seldom used capabilities of a 4x4. Which if we're being honest, places it in great company.
VW T-Cross 1.0T DSG R-Line Spec:
|Engine ||1l, inline 3-cyl, turbocharged|
|Gearbox ||7 speed DSG auto|
|0-100kph ||10.2 seconds|
|Top Speed ||195kph|
|Average Fuel Consumption ||4.7l/100km|
|CO2 Emissions ||126g/km|