The Stylish VW T Cross

Though it’s the smallest SUV in Volkswagen’s line-up, the newly-launched T-Cross punches well above its weight.

Wynter Murdoch

Volkswagen’s recently introduced T-Cross has sparked considerable consumer interest in the local market, the model racking up sales of almost 2 000 units in the two months which followed its October launch.


Built in Spain and based on the brand’s modular MQB platform that underpins the Polo, the compact SUV tends to dwarf its hatchback-styled sibling thanks to a body that’s taller by 123mm, longer by 54mm and wider by 31mm. Additionally, the T-Cross’s wheelbase has been slightly stretched compared with that of the Polo’s, and its front and rear tracks widened, helping to heighten perceptions of bigness.


The result is a car that looms large on the road – its stance a lot more imposing than you would expect from a vehicle that weighs just 1 160kg, and which is powered by a three-cylinder, 1,0-litre engine. In fact, lightness is at the core of the T-Cross’s success, its lack of weight enhancing its dynamic agility, its fuel-efficiency and its performance.


Though the smallest SUV in Volkswagen’s line-up, the vehicle doesn’t want for interior space. At 377 litres, its boot is bigger than the Polo’s by 27 litres. Artfully, if passenger legroom at the back isn’t an issue, the adjustable rear bench can be moved forward to increase luggage space to 455 litres. And, if more cargo area is needed, folding down the rear seat backs flat frees up 1 281 litres of storage volume.


At the front, there’s leg-, elbow- and head-room aplenty, the elevated driving position – the driver’s seat is mounted about 100mm higher than it is in the Polo – offering a commanding view of the road thanks to a large windscreen and sizeable glass areas along the flanks and at the rear. Incidentally, the windows on the sides and at the back are of the heat insulating kind, which helps to keep the interior cool when the vehicle is parked in the sun. 


Controls in the cockpit are well-positioned. Switchgear falls readily to hand, and the model is equipped with a selection of features – including Bluetooth and four USB inputs – to facilitate connectivity. Instrumentation is of the electronic kind, with clear lettering helping to make dials easy to read. A trip computer – which includes fuel usage and distance to empty – is a standard feature. Build quality appears solid, with no squeaks or rattles apparent in the cabin.


The test vehicle sported Comfortline trim – tastefully-styled cloth for seats and door panels, with a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel – and was fitted with an optional park package (park assist, rear view camera and power-fold mirrors); an infotainment package (including an uprated sound system, eight-inch touchscreen, app-connect and inductive charging); and R-Line exterior trim.


It was also jammed packed with standard safety features – including front, side and curtain airbags, a fatigue detection monitor, Isofix child-seat anchor points and an auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror, with LED headlights available as an option. On the road the vehicle felt comfortable and adept, with surprisingly little engine, wind or road noise intruding into the cabin.


Also, it proved enjoyable to drive, it’s seven-speed dual clutch auto ’box quick to react to prods of the accelerator, though steering wheel mounted paddle shifters offered the option of manual gear changes – a useful feature for those in search of pacey travel.


The turbocharged engine – which produces 85kW and 200Nm – is responsive and eager, its small size in no way impairing its ability to keep the T-Cross moving at the speed limit on the open road. Around town, too, the vehicle responds nimbly, easily keeping up with traffic flow and proving stress-free to manoeuvre and park. Volkswagen quotes the model’s zero to 100km/h time at 10,2 seconds and its top speed at 193km/h, with fuel economy in the combined cycle quoted at 4,9 litres/100km.


While the T-Cross range is currently limited to two derivatives – the Comfortline model described here, which sells for R334 600, and a comprehensively equipped Highline stablemate which adds a little over R30 000 to the price tag – an entry-level Trendline variant featuring a manual-shift, five-speed gearbox and an engine tuned to produce just 70kW is expected in the second quarter of next year.


According to a Volkswagen spokesman, the derivative is expected to sell for less than R300 000, which will make it one of the most affordability priced compact SUVs on the local market. Equally, the range’s flagship – powered by a turbocharged, 1,5-litre engine which produces 110 kW – is expected in March next year and is set to be priced at around the R403 500 mark. No all-wheel-drive derivatives have been developed, and Volkswagen does not plan to offer a diesel variant in South Africa.


Practical, comfortable, economical and stylish are words that come to mind when describing the T-Cross. It’s a compact, small-family-styled vehicle well-tailored for both open-road travelling and city commuting – at home whether it is being used on the school run or as an adventure wagon for weekend trips away.


Models in the range are sold with a three-year, 120 000km warranty and a three-year, 45 000km service plan. Service intervals are set at 15 000km. If you are in the market for vehicle that represents good value, take the time to include the T-Cross in your test drive programme – you find it the answer to many of your commuting needs.