Under that hip design is an impressively roomy cabin. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Under that hip design is an impressively roomy cabin. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Volkswagen has not exactly rushed to enter the small SUV-crossover arena, which has left Ford’s EcoSport to rule the segment for a long time, with supporting roles by the likes of Renault Captur and Hyundai Kona.

Given the ever-increasing popularity of these higher-riding cars and the fact that the Polo is the country’s best-selling car, a Polo-based crossover seems like a no-brainer way for VW to sell lots of vehicles.

Enter the new T-Cross, a compact SUV with a keen starting price of R334,600. You can almost hear the metaphorical tills ringing at VW dealers around the country, but just how good is this higher-riding Polo?

For starters, it’s actually a little more than a Polo on stilts. It is 182mm longer than its hatchback cousin which gives it a more family-sized interior with impressive roominess, allowing four adults to sit in comfort with plenty of leg and elbow space.  

At 4,235mm the T-Cross is longer than the market-leading EcoSport (3,998mm) and it’s also slightly longer than the Hyundai Kona (4,165mm) and Renault Captur (4,211mm).

The Composition Media touch screen infotainment is an extra-cost option in the T-Cross Comfortline. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The Composition Media touch screen infotainment is an extra-cost option in the T-Cross Comfortline. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The Volksie also has the elevated “command” seating position that lures so many buyers into the SUV segment, and you sit about 10cm higher than in a Polo.

The 377l boot is one of the biggest in the segment and houses a full-sized spare wheel. The rear seat can be slid fore or aft to suit varying cargo and passenger requirements, and the rear backrests fold flat to expand the cargo space. The boot floor is adjustable to two height levels, completing an impressive practicality scorecard for this VW.

Less impressive are the tactile finishes of the T-Cross cabin, which has hard plastic surfaces instead of the richer-feeling soft-touch stuff you find in a Polo and even the budget-focused Polo Vivo. In entry-level Comfortline trim (it’s also available in a fancier Highline version) the car also has rather basic-looking cloth covering the seats, all in a bid to keep costs down.

However, technology-wise the baseline T-Cross covers most of the bases. Standard fare for the price isn’t bad with cruise control, a leather multifunction steering wheel, and front and rear park distance control.

There are no shortcuts in the safety department either with ABS brakes, traction control and six airbags.

IT’S ALL PACKAGED IN A FRESH, MODERN DESIGN THAT WILL ATTRACT ITS TARGET 30-SOMETHING AUDIENCE

It’s all packaged in a fresh and modern design that will undoubtedly attract its target 30-something audience. The exterior styling is spiced up with black roof rails, LED daytime running lights and front fog lights, and the test car had the optional R-Line Exterior with 17-inch “Manila” alloy wheels.

There’s a raft of extra-cost options to bully your budget, including a Composition Media touch screen infotainment system with all the requisite connectivity, a 300W Beats audio system, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, and lane assist. Our test vehicle was also fitted with the optional park package with a rear-view camera. 

The little 1l turbo three-cylinder petrol engine does its thing efficiently, sipping just 6.2l /100km, and it has a fair amount of vooma once it gets going. At Gauteng altitude there’s significant turbo lag from a standing start, worsened by an overzealous engine start-stop system which I mostly kept switched off.

The basic price is R334,600 but those 17” Manila alloy wheels cost extra. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The basic price is R334,600 but those 17” Manila alloy wheels cost extra. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Once it’s going, the tiny 85kW power plant gives a good account of itself, delivering fairly zippy pace and good overtaking shove, which is livened up even more in a sports mode that holds on to lower gears for longer.

It can become a rowdy engine when revved hard, but that only happened when I used manual mode. In auto mode the seven-speed DSG transmission never allowed the engine to rev that high so noise is essentially a non-issue. It’s a terrific transmission, swift and smooth, and there’s no real need to change gears manually.

It’s a small car with a grown-up feel and the refinement is good, with no wind or road noise to disturb the commuting reverie.

The ride-handling balance is good; it rides the bumps and potholes fairly comfortably, and it’s more than nimble enough for its intended urban-scooting purpose.


WE LIKE: Fuel consumption, styling, practicality

WE DISLIKE: Hard interior plastics, turbo lag

VERDICT: Fun-to-drive compact SUV


This raised ground clearance gives the T-cross some gravel- and pothole-tackling ability, but it’s no off-roader as it’s only front-wheel driven — a factor that is very unlikely to worry its urban-focused clientele.

A Polo-based crossover seems like a recipe for mega sales. The roominess, hip styling, and relatively affordable pricetag are set to lure many buyers who are ready to move up — in size and ground clearance —  from the Polo league.

The hard plastics on the dashboard are a little disappointing, but VW’s goal was to keep this car affordable rather than creating a Tiguan with less legroom.

The price is competitive but if that’s still too rich for your taste there will be a sub 300 grand T-Cross when the entry-level 70kW Trendline version is introduced in 2020.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Three cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 999cc

Power: 85kW

Torque: 200Nm

Transmission

Type: Seven speed DSG automatic

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance (claimed)

Top speed: 193km/h

0-100km/h: 10.2 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 4.9l/100km (claimed); 6.3l / 100km (as tested)

Emissions: 126g/km

Standard features

ABS brakes, six airbags, traction control, cruise control, aircon, remote central locking, touch screen infotainment system, electric windows, electric mirrors, LED daytime running lights, park distance control, 205/60 R16 tyres

Warranty: Three years/120,000km

Service plan: Three years/45,000km 

Price: R334,600

Lease*: R7,203 per month

*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Competition

Ford EcoSport 1.0T Trend auto, 92kW/170Nm — R321,600

Renault Captur 88kW turbo Dynamique auto, 88kW/190Nm — R341,900

Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 Shine, 81kW/205Nm — R339,900

Hyundai Kona 1.0T Executive, 88kW/172Nm — R384,900

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI Comfortline R-Line

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