VW firmly believes in horses for courses so the rolling Lambourn Downs in Berkshire was a natural choice for first driving impressions of its new small SUV, the T-Cross.
The open countryside favoured by the racehorse training fraternity was ideal to stretch the legs of this near Polo sized competitor now entering the UK market and joining its T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg stablemates.
It is the latest model from VW Group to use the multi-model MQB platform underneath which can be modified in both length and width to fit any sector and for now T-Cross comes to the UK with a three-cylinder 1.0 litre turbo-petrol engine in choice of 95 or 115ps outputs, with five or six speed manual gearboxes and seven-speed DSG automatic on some derivatives.
However, and despite its countryside canter, it is only front wheel drive and is most likely to be used in towns and villages, certainly not off-road.
Usefully, all versions get a standard sliding rear seat arrangement to increase legroom or bootspace as desired from 385 to 455 litres, with a higher seating position for improved vision and safety.In the current climate of car crime, keyless locking and starting is an option.
VW said it believes the arrival of the T-Cross will be as significant to the brand as the original Beetle and then the Golf so its kept to a familiar model line up of S, SE, SEL and R-Line models from under £17,000 to over £25,000 for eight versions at the moment, although more are expected to join the line up.
We took the reins of the VW T-Cross SE 95 manual at £18,805 and found it adequate for the terrain with reasonable flexibility but at times wished it had more power with two aboard and some steep hills facing us. .
The powertrain was smooth and not particularly noisy, and overall we returned 40.3mpg but that excluded motorway or dual carriageway driving.
The extra urge in the 115ps modelat £19,555 seemed better and the additional sixth gear helped us achieve 49mpg overall and provided shorter overtaking moments but at other times it seemed undecided about which gear it preferred to be in.
Both were biased towards a compliant yet firm ride with their high riding suspension some body lean crept in on tighter turns. We liked their steering weight and feel and the powerful brakes underfoot.
One of the models came with a very jazzy fascia trim panel to relieve its otherwise dull heavy-grained hard plastic interior and this is one to please the children, but whether it will appeal to young couples is another matter. It also means it should better withstand the normal abuse for a family car.
The T-Cross is another capable car from a big stable, but its closest challengers are also likely to be carrying the same badge, and that's a handicap in a neck and neck race for the the winning post.