Juliet McGuire

First drive in the new Volkswagen T-Cross

The Volkswagen T-Cross is finally here, people!!!!!!! It feels like I have been waiting for decades, maybe subconsciously I was…I am psychic like that (no I’m not). It is set to shake up the compact SUV segment and after having driven it at the local launch up the Garden Route this week, I can confidently say that its rivals need to watch their backs, this T-Cross is coming in hot!

WHAT IS A T-CROSS?

Who knows, but the T-Cross I speak of is like a bigger and more SUV-like Polo. You know how popular the Polo is, right? So just imagine how this will go over with the general public. It is longer and higher than the Polo but is the same width which makes it the perfect city-sized car.

It is also rather pleasing on the eye, especially in the array of colours on offer. What I like best is that it doesn’t just look like a beefy Polo. It has its own identity and for that I applaud Volkswagen because it surely would have been easier to just pop the Polo on stilts and voila! Some of the T-Cross’s competitors don’t exactly give you that high-ride feel many SUV lovers are after, the T-Cross, however, does. Driving past a current Polo, I definitely looked down on them (not in a snooty way though because I do love a Polo too).

GET IN

Polo lovers will be very content with the interior of the T-Cross. It is all very familiar, but what has bugged a number of my colleagues is the use of what seems like cheaper plastics than that of the Polo. It didn’t bother me as much but because I am far more interested in build quality and the T-Cross feels and looks solid. You can also tick a bunch of options to customise your cabin to suit your style. So they could have maybe used a few more plush fabrics and trims, but ag, like I say, it is not something that will bother most of the customers already interested in this car.

For instance, the design package offers 3D décor for the dash pad, two-tone seat surfaces, a steering wheel clasp and central console in a matching tone, and colour-coordinated wing mirrors and wheels. The standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is up there with some of the best and if you opt for Active Digital Display you can make things even more fancy by having a digitised instrument panel. You should do it! It really lifts the cabin to a more ‘premium’ height (I use the single quotation marks on the word premium because I know this is not a premium car and don’t want you to think I am a total spaz. You get my sentiment, right?).

MORE PRACTICAL THAN A POLO

It is indeed more practical than a Polo and so it should be, it is bigger after all. The boot is bigger at 455-litres. When I went to put my carry-on bag in the boot I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. I know how I pack for a weekend away and this T-Cross would just not cut it. BUT, thanks to the sliding rear bench (which is standard across the range), I was able to gain a few more centimetres to ensure my cases of wine cooler box would fit in as well as a few of my other bags when we go away. Oh and that of my husband’s, but we know he is only allowed one bag.

There is ample legroom for rear passengers which is something many a rival lacks in this segment. Push that rear seat forward, however, and you will need to also push the front seats forward if you want anyone to be comfortable in the back.

Currently you can choose between Comfortline or Highline trim levels. Both offer a host of standard spec, the Highline being at the top of the range. And the options list is of course extensive so if wireless phone chargers and fancy pants safety features are on your want list, be sure to tick the boxes.

WHAT ARE THE ENGINE OPTIONS?

The all important question for many a customer. At the moment, you only have one option I’m afraid, albeit a great one. It is the turbocharged 1.0 TSI 85 kW unit that gives you ample torque in the amount of 200 Nm. There is no manual option here, so only the 7-speed DSG ‘box is on hand. It adds to the convenience of the drive though and is mated well. The engine is punchy enough, even at highway speeds when overtaking. Fuel consumption is claimed at a low 4.9l/100 km.

The ride is as refined as you can expect from Volkswagen with little road noise entering the cabin. It is a fuss-free drive which is something I have come to expect and love from the German brand. It is one of the reasons I struggle to fault most of its products. I would happily own this car and drive it every day. There are few niggles or issues that would render me an unhappy customer – I can’t speak to customer service for obvious reason, this is where I depend on you guys for feedback.

If you are prepared to wait till March next year, South Africa will see the flagship 1.5-litre 110 kW motor arrive, but this will take you over the R400 000 mark. If you heart is, however, set on a T-Cross and your budget sits at under R300 000, then wait a little longer for the entry-level Trendline derivative with its 70 kW and a five-speed manual gearbox.

IS IT GOING TO KICK ASS?

Look, it has come in to a very established segment very late. This has given time for rivals such as the Ford EcoSport, Suzuki Vitara, Renault Captur and Duster and Opel Crossland X to truly establish themselves. But when Volkswagen decided to build this T-Cross, it certainly wasn’t to just sit somewhere in the middle of these competitors. Nope, the T-Cross has come to take over. And take over I think it will.

Once the full range is here this car will more than likely be unstoppable. Sure, the likes of the EcoSport and so on come in a bit cheaper, but the T-Cross offers more in terms of spec, space, comfort, build quality, and the most glaringly obvious reason, the Volkswagen badge. It holds a lot of weight in this country and one cannot deny it. From my very wise and experienced perspective (apparently also very humble), we will see the T-Cross smashing it out of the park.

Volkswagen T-Cross

PRICING OF THE NEW VOLKSWAGEN T-CROSS

  • 1.0 TSI 85kW Comfortline DSG       R334 600
  • 1.0 TSI 85kW Highline DSG                  R365 000
  • 1.5 TSI 110kW R-Line DSG                   R403 500
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