T-Cross proves small

is beautiful

Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, front, action
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, display screen
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, rear seats
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, interior
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, rear, action
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, boot
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, dashboard trim
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, rear
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, side
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, rear, static
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, rear
Volkswagen T-Cross SEL, 2019, side, static

VOLKSWAGEN say its new T-Cross - the company's first offering in the highly competitive compact SUV sector - is the car many of its customers have been demanding and waiting for.

Interest was very high ahead of its launch and initial sales have outstripped expectations. So, is VW right to be excited?

In a word, yes.

The T-Cross, the third new SUV to appear from VW in the last 18 months following the T-Roc and new Touareg, is impressive indeed, combining the practicality of an SUV with compact class manoeuvrability, and boasting safety and assistance systems usually associated with more expensive market sectors.

Priced from £16,995, it's initially being offered in the UK with a choice of two three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines - one with 94bhp, the other 113bhp. The former is available with a five-speed manual gearbox, and the latter paired to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic. A diesel will possibly be available later in the year. All are front wheel-drive.

The lower-powered option puts out over 175Nm of torque and powers from 0-62mph in just over 11 seconds. Top speed is 112mph. It officially returns over 48mpg and on a short jaunt around the English countryside I managed over 43mpg. It emits 111g/km of CO2.

In the higher-powered version, torque is boosted to 200Nm and the 0-62mph time dropped to 10.2 seconds. Top speed is 120mph and, again it officially returns over 48mpg. On a similar jaunt I managed around 42mpg. It emits 112g/km.

With the seven speed DSG, it offers over 45mpg depending on trim. Max speed and the sprint time are the same but CO2 emissions go up to 140g/km. And I managed under 40mpg, which is a little disappointing.

To give you an idea of its size, it's 54mm longer than a Polo, and 123mm higher. Importantly, the hip point is much higher than the Polo's giving drivers that typical high-seat visibility.

The new compact SUV (or Crossover Utility Vehicle to give it its proper name) is also more than 12cm shorter than the T-Roc - which it sits beneath in Volkswagen's SUV portfolio - but is a smidgeon higher.

It comes with a prominent roof spoiler to give it a sporty, ‘youthful' look and there's a coat of many colours to choose from. However, it's also more of a classic SUV shape than its larger sibling - more rugged looking, more planted.

Load space is class-leading, and variable, thanks to the extra flexibility afforded by a clever sliding rear seat, which allows a boot space of between 385 litres and 455 litres with the split-folding rear seats up.

Sliding the rear seats back creates an extra 140mm of legroom in the rear, meaning two six-footers can easily sit one behind the other.

The S, SE, SEL and R-Line will be familiar to VW customers in the UK but more than half are expected to choose the SE 1.0-litre 113bhp six-speed manual, which starts at £19,555.

A Front Assist area monitoring system with Pedestrian Monitoring and City Emergency Braking, Lane Assist, Hill Start Assist and the e-call emergency calling system are all included as standard, as is Blind Spot Protection with integrated Rear Traffic Alert. An intuitive eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system is also standard.

The entry-level S trim version rides on 16-inch wheels and comes with a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, front and rear electric windows, and electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors.

All models above S come equipped with Car-Net App Connect, which combines the functionality of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, allowing mirroring of a smartphone display on the infotainment screen.

SE trim adds 17-inch wheels, front fog lights, black roof rails, a front centre armrest with storage compartment, leather trimmed multifunction steering wheel and gear knob, auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror, adaptive cruise control, driver alert system, auto lights and wipers. SEL adds LED headlights with automatic range adjustment, privacy glass, silver roof rails. climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and satnav.

For the R-Line, it's mainly about the looks as it comes with 18-inch wheels, and a sporty styling pack which jazzes up the front and rear bumpers and adds black wheel arch extensions and body-coloured side skirts. Inside there's ‘aluminium-look' pedals, stainless steel door sill protectors and a 10.25-inch TFT dash display screen. Automatic models also get paddleshifts.

The interiors of all are roomy, well-built with nice quality touches and materials, as you would expect from Volkswagen. For the modern, connected family there's four USB ports and the simple but effective infotainment system and aircon buttons are all within easy reach of the driver.

Just like Polo, its hatchback sibling, the front-wheel drive T-Cross is a pleasure to drive. There's plenty of grip and any body roll seems to have been eliminated.

Quite simply, it's as driveable as a Polo, and that's high praise indeed. Under hard acceleration, there's a boisterous and high-spirited tingle to the engine, especially in the higher-powered model, though, if you can live without the extra kit, the 94bhp S is worth a look at.

It'll be nippy around town - its natural home - but has enough power to cruise happily on the motorway too.

And, though Volkswagen's six-speed manual gearbox is slick, the equally smooth five-speed seemed to hit the sweet spot much better. Unless you're planning regular trips to the Swiss Alps, you may prefer it. The S trim's slightly smaller wheels also give off less road noise.

As for the auto, everyone knows VW's seven-speed DSG is fabulous but, in a car of this size with these engines, unless you're completely bone idle, is it really necessary?

However, if the T-Cross really is the car, customers have been waiting for, on the whole, they will not be disappointed.

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