Volkswagen T-Cross joins the mini SUV revolution
The final piece of Volkswagen’s SUV puzzle has arrived, with the Polo-based crossover T-Cross delivering class-leading driver-assistance and safety features and huge interior space.
While other car makers fear internal cannibalisation, Volkswagen has welcomed it, insisting it hopes every Polo customer moves to the crossover instead.
It may have been caught dozing in the early years of the crossover revolution, but the front-drive T-Cross will be fired into the middle of the compact crossover segment populated by the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.
Set to launch in SA during the second half of 2019, it is being pitched from less than €18,000 up to €25,000 in Europe and Volkswagen claims the crossover is more Tiguan than T-Roc in its philosophy, with a driver’s seat height 100mm higher than the Polo hatch.
It’s also significant as Volkswagen’s latest attempt at building a quality car cheaply without skimping on safety or quality.
"The goal for this car is to keep it affordable. It’s not a Tiguan," Volkswagen’s T-Cross project manager for sales and marketing, Felix Kaschützke, said. "This is a car families will use. Safety is more important to these buyers than in Polo, even."
The European-built T-Cross is 4,107mm long, which is 54mm longer than the Polo. It will be sold in four slightly different body styles and lengths, with Central and South America scoring a slightly longer and two different (and longer) versions for China.
It will range from the entry-level T-Cross with a 1.0l, 70kW/160Nm three-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual gearbox up to a 110kW/250Nm version of Volkswagen’s 1.5l four-cylinder TSI motor, which only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
There will be an 85kW/ 200Nm version of the three-cylinder petrol engine, too (with a six-speed manual). The only diesel in the family will be a 70kW/ version of the 1.6l four-cylinder motor. Both of the middle-ranking motors will be available with six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gear-shifting options (at least in Europe).
There has been a change of ideas at Volkswagen about the equipment packages and the T-Cross is the second of the brand’s cars (after the Arteon) to switch to the "Y" strategy.
The T-Cross takes the Polo’s full standard suite of driver-assistance and safety features and adds lane-assist, blind-spot assist, front-assist and emergency brake-assist systems as standard equipment. Its safety and convenience systems will be helped by equipment like lane-departure systems, active cruise control, cross-traffic alerts and autonomous braking.
The interior has a character just slightly its own, but it’s really a series of Volkswagen MQB modules pieced together into a moderately unique dash layout.
The instrument cluster is an old-school analogue system with two round dials, though there is a digital system as an option, along with style pieces like ambient lighting and illumination for the gear lever on the DSG models.
It uses a soft-feeling dash plastic, and while the standard dash is an analogue dual-dial setup, there is an optional digital active info display and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment unit (an eight-inch unit is optional) at the same eye level.
Based off the Polo, though pitched as a junior Tiguan, the T-Cross adopts a lot of the mid-sized SUV’s interior flexibility by pinching its back-seat technology, while raising its driver’s seat 100mm. The 60:40 rear bench seat can slide fore and aft, creating a bigger space for adults or luggage and a smaller space for children. There is a standard front-seat Isofix system. The boot is good for 385l of space. Pulling the rear seat forward adds another 70l. The rear seats fold down to deliver 1,281mm.
"The T-Roc is more sporty and coupe-like and it has bigger wheels and it’s more muscular. Here we wanted to fit the most pace and practicality as possible into the smallest possible footprint," said Volkswagen design boss Klaus Bischoff said.
Given all the talk of cutting costs to make the T-Cross, it’s a bit surprising that it, not the T-Roc, will host Volkswagen’s first modern convertible crossover, known as the Breeze.