VW joins the mini SUV revo­lu­tion

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL LAUNCH/ Com­pact Volk­swa­gen T-Cross ar­rives at around the Polo price point in Europe

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

The fi­nal piece of Volk­swa­gen’s SUV puz­zle has ar­rived, with the Polo-based cross­over T-Cross de­liv­er­ing class-lead­ing driveras­sis­tance and safety fea­tures and huge in­te­rior space.

While other car mak­ers fear in­ter­nal can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion, Volk­swa­gen has wel­comed it, in­sist­ing it hopes ev­ery Polo cus­tomer moves to the cross­over in­stead.

It may have been caught doz­ing in the early years of the cross­over revo­lu­tion, but the front-drive T-Cross will be fired into the mid­dle of the com­pact cross­over seg­ment pop­u­lated by the Hyundai Kona, Nis­san Juke and Re­nault Cap­tur.

Set to launch in SA dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2019, it is be­ing pitched from less than €18,000 up to €25,000 in Europe and Volk­swa­gen claims the cross­over is more Tiguan than T-Roc in its phi­los­o­phy, with a driver’s seat height 100mm higher than the Polo hatch.

It’s also sig­nif­i­cant as Volk­swa­gen’s lat­est at­tempt at build­ing a qual­ity car cheaply with­out skimp­ing on safety or qual­ity.

“The goal for this car is to keep it af­ford­able. It’s not a Tiguan,” Volk­swa­gen’s T-Cross project man­ager for sales and mar­ket­ing, Felix Kaschützke, said. “This is a car fam­i­lies will use. Safety is more im­por­tant to th­ese buy­ers than in Polo, even.”

The Euro­pean-built T-Cross is 4,107mm long, which is 54mm longer than the Polo. It will be sold in four slightly dif­fer­ent body styles and lengths, with Cen­tral and South Amer­ica scor­ing a slightly longer and two dif­fer­ent (and longer) ver­sions for China.

It will range from the en­trylevel T-Cross with a 1.0l, 70kW/160Nm three-cylin­der en­gine and a five-speed man­ual gear­box up to a 110kW/250Nm ver­sion of Volk­swa­gen’s 1.5l four-cylin­der TSI mo­tor, which only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion.

There will be an 85kW/ 200Nm ver­sion of the three­cylin­der petrol en­gine, too (with a six-speed man­ual). The only diesel in the fam­ily will be a 70kW/ ver­sion of the 1.6l four­cylin­der mo­tor. Both of the mid­dle-rank­ing mo­tors will be avail­able with six-speed man­ual or seven-speed DSG gear-shift­ing op­tions (at least in Europe).

There has been a change of ideas at Volk­swa­gen about the equip­ment pack­ages and the TCross is the sec­ond of the brand’s cars (after the Ar­teon) to switch to the “Y” strat­egy.

The T-Cross takes the Polo’s full stan­dard suite of driveras­sis­tance and safety fea­tures and adds lane-as­sist, blind-spot as­sist, front-as­sist and emer­gency brake-as­sist systems as stan­dard equip­ment. Its safety and con­ve­nience systems will be helped by equip­ment like lane-de­par­ture systems, ac­tive cruise con­trol, cross-traf­fic alerts and au­ton­o­mous brak­ing.

The in­te­rior has a char­ac­ter just slightly its own, but it’s re­ally a se­ries of Volk­swa­gen MQB mod­ules pieced to­gether into a mod­er­ately unique dash lay­out.

The in­stru­ment clus­ter is an old-school ana­logue sys­tem with two round di­als, though there is a dig­i­tal sys­tem as an op­tion, along with style pieces like am­bi­ent light­ing and il­lu­mi­na­tion for the gear lever on the DSG mod­els.

It uses a soft-feel­ing dash plas­tic, and while the stan­dard dash is an ana­logue dual-dial setup, there is an op­tional dig­i­tal ac­tive info dis­play and a 6.5-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment unit (an eight-inch unit is op­tional) at the same eye level.

Based off the Polo, though pitched as a ju­nior Tiguan, the T-Cross adopts a lot of the mid­sized SUV’s in­te­rior flex­i­bil­ity by pinch­ing its back-seat tech­nol­ogy, while rais­ing its driver’s seat 100mm. The 60:40 rear bench seat can slide fore and aft, cre­at­ing a big­ger space for adults or lug­gage and a smaller space for chil­dren. There is a stan­dard front-seat Isofix sys­tem. The boot is good for 385l of space. Pulling the rear seat for­ward adds an­other 70l. The rear seats fold down to de­liver 1,281mm.

“The T-Roc is more sporty and coupe-like and it has big­ger wheels and it’s more mus­cu­lar. Here we wanted to fit the most pace and prac­ti­cal­ity as pos­si­ble into the small­est pos­si­ble foot­print,” said Volk­swa­gen de­sign boss Klaus Bischoff said.

Given all the talk of cut­ting costs to make the T-Cross, it’s a bit sur­pris­ing that it, not the T-Roc, will host Volk­swa­gen’s first modern con­vert­ible cross­over, known as the Breeze.

MICHAEL TAY­LOR ROCK­ING GOOD TIME: A new com­pact ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle from VW is based on the best­selling Polo.

Above: The T-Cross will range from a 1l to 1.5l turbo en­gines. Left: The soft dash plas­tic has an up­mar­ket vibe, and there’s an op­tional touch­screen.

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