VW T-CROSS

WOLFSBURG’S SMALL SUV SALVO BEGINS

TOM FRASER

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

V OLKSWAGEN is beyond fashionably late to the small SUV party. While the segment’s popularity has been exploding, and early adopters like Mazda, Subaru and Hyundai have been making hay with now-established nameplates like CX-3, XV and Kona, Wolfsburg has been noticeably absent.

Enter the T-Cross. Swanning into Aussie showrooms this month, it’s the opening salvo in VW’s small-SUV offensive which also includes the soonto-arrive (and slightly larger) T-Roc.

The T-Cross is largely based on the Polo light hatch, which means MQB underpinnings and a 1.0-litre threecylinder turbo with 85kW/200Nm powering the front wheels.

At launch, two variants will be offered (Life and Style), though a range-topping 110TSI model will arrive in the coming months and boast a more powerful four-cylinder petrol and a richer equipment list.

The T-Cross range kicks off at $27,990 for the 85TSI Life, which is fitted with cloth upholstery, 16in wheels, an 8.0-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, AEB with pedestrian detection, and front and rear parking sensors. The $30,990 85TSI Style steps up the spec with dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, adaptive cruise, LED headlights, blind-spot detection and keyless entry.

Both variants are smartly packaged, with excellent room for passengers in both rows, though rear-seat air vents are a frustrating omission. The cabin feels nicely screwed together and materials seem durable, though an overuse of hard plastics does dull the experience somewhat.

A sliding second row means boot space can be expanded from 385 litres to a whopping 455L, which is one of the largest in the segment. For context, a Mazda CX-3’s boot is 264L.

Despite its Polo-based roots, the T-Cross is a larger vehicle. Its 4108mm length (55mm longer than Polo) and 1583mm height (137mm over Polo) feel chunkier on the road, though the T-Cross is still easy to manoeuvre around town and into tight parks.

While not overly communicative, the steering has a solid weight to it, and the seven-speed transmission does a smart job of selecting ratios quickly and decisively when you’re on the move. Disappointingly, the T-Cross succumbs to the characteristic dualclutch foibles at lower speeds and can feel frustratingly slow to engage and jerky. And while the 1.0-litre three-pot tries hard, its 85kW/200Nm outputs just aren’t as effective as they are in the 88kg lighter Polo.

Cabin refinement is a highlight. On the freeway the T-Cross is hushed and refined, and over large road imperfections the ride quality displays a sense of composure that few in the class can match.

Things aren’t as convincing when the road gets twisty, however. Push the T-Cross dynamically and its handling is adequate rather than engaging and the 1.0-litre engine’s lack of performance is more keenly felt.

Yet there’s no denying the T-Cross presents an intriguing proposition. It’s fairly priced, impressively packaged and brings a level of German sophistication to a segment that’s continuing the find new buyers. Late as it is, the T-Cross might have landed at the pointy end of its class. We feel a comparo coming on…

TOM FRASER

Model Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life

Engine 999cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo

 Max power 85kW @ 5000-5500

Max torque 200Nm @ 2000-3500rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch

Weight 1240kg

0-100km/h 10.2sec (claimed)

Economy 5.4L/100km

Price $27,990

On sale Now

PLUS

Standard equipment levels; roomy cabin; enormous boot; quality

MINUS

Jerky dual clutch; no rear air vents; average cabin plastics

The Rival

MAZDA CX-3 MAXX SPORT AWD $28,650

Mazda’s strong-selling CX-3 is still kicking goals five years after it first arrived Down Under. It scored a podium finish in our recent small SUV Megatest (beating much newer rivals in the process) and offers striking design and sharper dynamics than the T-Cross. It can’t match the VW’s space or load lugging ability, however.