The Polo-based T-Cross arrives this year to slot in under the Tiguan in VW’s SUV line up. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Polo-based T-Cross arrives this year to slot in under the Tiguan in VW’s SUV line up. Picture: SUPPLIED

It’s called T-Cross and is Volkswagen’s challenger in one of the most competitive and fastest-growing segments. It will ask some tough questions of A0 segment leaders Ford Ecosport and Renault Captur when it arrives in SA before the end of 2019.

I took it for a whirl on the narrow roads of the holiday island of Mallorca, Spain. It offers premium sub-compact SUV sophistication and it’s solidly built too. It’s a very fine piece of kit with not only generous cabin space but a broad list of convenience and safety systems.

Personalisation is possible through style packages which are Life, Style and R-Line. It is, of course, yet another SUV to hit the market but VW also views it as a natural upscale for maturing owners of the Polo who require a more practical but not necessarily uninteresting step up.

Styling cues are quite fresh. It’s an aptly youthful look that doesn’t depart far from the blocky but rounded look of VW’s other T-lettered SUVs: Tiguan and Touareg. Is there fun and functionality to be found in VW’s own take on a formula and segment which went from 19,027 new vehicles sold in 2014 to 31,982 in 2018?

It’s based on the scalable MQB platform shared with the current Polo but stretched out to 4,237mm, edging both Ford and Renault alternatives. The 2,551mm between both axles and a height of 1,584mm transform the T-Cross cabin into an adequately spacious place for families.

With the rear bench in place, boot capacity is rated at 377l but this increases to 1,281l with the chairs folded in their 60/40 split. Additionally, the rear bench can also be moved back and forth to create more legroom or boot space for luggage.  

Digital suaveness can be had with VW’s optional Active Info Display which mirrors a host of information, including the car’s integrated navigation system in direct view of the driver via a digitised instrument binnacle. The primary command screen in the centre is also retained.

The T-Cross is also available with up to four USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, inductive wireless charging, optional keyless access, headlight assist, optional Beats 300-watt amplified sound system, and a connect app that networks driver with car for even more information like journey history, status updates and driving style. More features to be had include optional LED headlights, wheel sizes of up to 18 inches, Android Auto and CarPlay preparedness, lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control, stop/start and more.

At launch there is one engine and two transmission combinations available and based around a turbocharged 1.0l three-cylinder petrol which is offered in two flavours: 70kW and 85kW. You can pair both to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch transmission driving the front wheels. Fuel consumption is claimed at an identical 4.9l/100km for both outputs. A third petrol 1.5l engine that is still being developed is under consideration for SA.  

The T-Roc is a Golf-sized crossover destined here in 2020. Hopefully the local line up will include this high-performance R version. Picture: SUPPLIED
The T-Roc is a Golf-sized crossover destined here in 2020. Hopefully the local line up will include this high-performance R version. Picture: SUPPLIED   

 VW expects to launch it here at an entry price below the R300,000 mark, positioning it comfortably between Polo and Tiguan but crucially within striking distance of the Ford Ecosport.

First drive impressions reveal a pleasantly refined car. It will be the first VW of its kind when it hits our shores. Previous references would be the Cross Polo but the T-Cross is more SUV than the high-riding hatchback which should be phased out in due course.

Its SUV looks are matched by typical crossover driving dynamics of composure and an easy precision to its controls. The engines don’t muster a hurricane of power but the outputs give the range good enough urge everywhere and they surely will be cheaper to fill up at the pumps.

But that’s not all that VW has in store. We were whisked over to Wolfsburg, Germany, to sample yet another new model that’s destined for this market, but only in 2020. The T-Roc is a more stylish, coupe-like take on the T-Cross genre but is instead based on a larger Golf platform.

The aim here is for swankier looks and keener driving sensations. It’s also powered by the 1.0l T three-cylinder but its slightly lower centre of gravity helped its neutral chassis balance and agility for an enjoyable time behind its wheel. It has a distinctively sporty texture and there’s a sporty version that wields the 221kW engine from the gung-ho Golf R.

As overall packages, both T-Cross and T-Roc are charismatic and quite appealing. Ecosport and Renault Captur should be worried.