First Drive: Volkswagen T-Cross
Does Volkswagen’s new baby SUV live up to the success of its bigger brothers, asks Jonathan Musk.
SECTOR Small SUV PRICE £16,995-£23,150 FUEL 57.6mpg* CO2 112g/km**
Volkswagen wants to offer an SUV for everyone, and is well on the way to doing so with an already extensive line-up and no fewer than a dozen models being introduced in various markets between 2016-2020. The company predicts growth in the small SUV segment will almost double over the next decade and consequently the latest SUV in its line-up is perhaps the most significant, yet also happens to be the smallest.
The new T-Cross is built on the same underpinnings as the Polo using the company’s MQB platform and sits below the successful Golf-sized T-Roc. However, at only 12cm shorter than the T-Roc and with a wheelbase of 2,551mm it’s not as small as you might think.
Inside, this translates to loads of practical space that’s been accentuated by a useful sliding rear bench that either extends boot storage or rear leg room by up to 14cm depending on your needs, and is a rare feature in this class. Even with a six footer up front there’s still plenty of space in the rear to comfortably seat five and accommodate a decent amount of luggage.
Engine options are decidedly simple with a choice of just two power outputs from a 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol turbo pushing out either 95 or 115hp. The UK may additionally get a 1.5-litre petrol and/or 1.6-litre diesel if there’s sufficient market demand, both of which will be available in Europe in the near future.
Fleets – that are expected to account for half of all UK sales – will likely be better off selecting the 95hp petrol variant, which comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, rather than being lured by the minimal gains of the 115hp engine. However, if larger loads are a regular occurrence then the 10.5-second 0-62mph capable higher horsepower unit should appeal, as well as its slightly more economically-minded six-speed gearbox or DSG option.
Although Volkswagen isn’t known as a particularly ‘fun’ brand (that’s more Seat’s role within the VW Group), a lot of effort has gone into making the T-Cross offer plenty of eye appeal, with a variety of bright colours available both inside and out. And, even SE spec (the expected best seller) offers abundant technology and safety kit to ensure the car feels premium. There’s the second-generation Active Info Display like you get in an Arteon, and standard safety tech in the form of Front Assist with Pedestrian Monitoring, as well as Lane Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring. As is now familiar for UK Volkswagens, the full line-up consists the usual base-spec S, SE, SEL and range-topping R-Line trims.
It’s at this point there’s usually a catch in the form of a high asking price, yet Volkswagen and value appear in the same sentence thanks to keen pricing, with the base S model starting from £16,995.
The car drives much like you’d expect: like a Polo, but taller. Don’t allow the Up! GTI-derived engine to fool you into thinking the T-Cross is rapid, however, but it is adequately powered and doesn’t feel strained. As mentioned above, there’s precious little on-road difference between the 95 and 115hp engines, and both the five- and six-speed gearboxes are sharp and reasonably short-throw, which helps keep things entertaining enough.
T-Cross order books are open now, with first dealership examples expected to arrive in April. A limited run of 250 First Edition cars priced £23,150 are also available.
With keen pricing, generous space and standard kit, as well as a fresh new face, the new T-Cross has abundant appeal over established competition.
KEY FLEET MODEL: 95hp 1.0 TSI SE
STRENGTHS: Pricing, equipment, practicality
WEAKNESSES: A lack of engine options at launch
*WLTP, **NEDC Correlated