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Volkswagen’s entry-level crossover confidently rides in on a rough wave of expectations. We test the new T-Cross...

"A life burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment.” It’s a poignant quote, isn’t it? The fact that it’s not the sage musings of a Greek philosopher but rather an excerpt from one of Douglas Adams’ (of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) later works doesn’t detract from its relevance to any automaker pressed to maintain a legacy of solid and sought-after products. Give the people your best and they’ll inevitably expect better in future.

Given the sheer breadth of its product portfolio, it’s a surprise that Volkswagen has come to the small crossover party as late as it has with the T-Cross. After all, pickings are relatively slim at this end of the segment. Quality showings such as the Tiguan mean a knee-buckling weight of expectations has been placed on the T-Cross’ narrow shoulders but will this offspring of such lofty standards continue to carry the torch, or will it be sucked into a black hole of mediocrity?  

Spun off Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform – an impressively versatile foundation for nearly four-dozen Volkswagen Group products – the T-Cross slots in at the bottom of the firm’s SUV/crossover pile. As such, it presents as an enticing entrée to this highly aspirational automotive bracket.

Visually, touches such as the one-piece trim bar incorporating the brakelamp arrays, sharp sheet metal creases and neat two-box profile create a tasteful canvas to customise. This makes the T-Cross a versatile little car, looking just as comfortable wearing the bold optional Energetic Orange styling pack pictured here, which includes eye-catching orange paintwork and alloy wheel trimmings, as it does in its more business-like standard garb.

Size-wise, the 4 235 mm T-Cross sits roughly 200 mm between the Tiguan and Polo, with its 2 551 mm wheelbase fairly on par with the latter. The dimensions are handily compact for urban driving but the cabin is deceptively spacious. There’s a degree of configurability courtesy of a rear bench with 140 mm of slide adjustment, allowing you to determine the rear-legroom/luggage-space balance. With the bench up against its rear buffers, there’s a remarkable 714 mm of legroom on offer, albeit at the expense of boot space – which at 200 litres is smaller than that of a Polo – while freeing up the maximum 272 litres sees kneeroom pared down to 574 mm. Seats stowed, the T-Cross’ load compartment swallows a useful but not class-leading 856 litres of our ISO measuring blocks.

While it is accommodating, the cabin’s finishes are a mixed bag. In general, it’s a tastefully executed environment. The orange trim panel elements accompanying the optional styling pack are an acquired taste but the layout is logical and classy. Much as we found in the Audi A1 Sportback 35 TFSI, though, upmarket features such as the switchgear, optional R9 000 Active Info Display and infotainment screen are at odds with hard finishes. It’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker and the construction feels pleasingly solid. However, it is a little disappointing to see firm materials adorning surfaces which are soft to the touch in the less expensive Polo.

When it comes to the overall driving experience, there’s little to complain about with the T-Cross. The 1,0-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine has already proved itself a capable performer in both the Polo and Golf, and it continues to impress here. The engine’s segment-typical 85 kW is backed up by a hearty 200 N.m of torque in a 2 000-3 500 r/min spread, making it feel nippy in town and well within its depth on the motorway.

Testing the mechanically related Polo 1,0 TSI Highline DSG in our July 2018 issue, we had some reservations regarding the calibration of its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Its tendency to upshift at low engine revs sometimes made the powertrain labour, impacting both mechanical refinement and smooth progress. Volkswagen appears to have got it right with the T-Cross, though. Shifts, both up and down, are swift and well measured against the engine speed.

The result is an altogether more balanced and wieldy demeanour, and may go some way to explaining the impressive 5,2 L/100 km it returned on our mixed-use 100 km fuel route. Mechanical refinement is especially impressive; the engine proving smooth and quiet at speed with just a hint of three-pot warble when leaning on the accelerator. This peaceful powerplant does mean road and wind noise are noticeable on the motorway.

Our test unit’s optional 18-inch alloys, shod with 45-profile rubber, and soft suspension resulted in a ride that was generally well resolved but occasionally gave over to a touch of jitteriness on less-than-perfect surfaces. The 16-inch items fitted to the Comfortline with their plumper footwear will likely hit the sweet spot in terms of overall balance.

There’s little remarkable regarding the T-Cross’s dynamic capabilities and that’s not a bad thing at all; when the driving experience is a composed, fire-and-forget affair, it means the powertrain/chassis union is a well-balanced one.

On the face of it, the sticker price seems steep, especially when you factor in a service plan that’s shorter than those of its rivals. Highline spec is reasonably generous, however, with the likes of dual-zone climate control, auto LED headlamps, auto wipers, auto-dimming mirror, electric windows, cruise control, ESC and brake-assist aids, roof rails, front/side/curtain airbags and a six-speaker audio system among the standard fitments.
GEORGE, Western Cape – It’s taken quite some time but Volkswagen has finally plugged that gaping crossover-shaped hole towards the base of its passenger vehicle line-up. Yes, the T-Cross has officially made landfall in South Africa, spoiling for a fight with the likes of Ford’s EcoSport, the Renault Captur, Hyundai’s facelifted Creta and the Mazda CX-3. And, rather significantly, it shares much with the sixth-generation Polo.

I say significant because the locally built Polo hatchback is second in passenger vehicle sales only to its Vivo cousin, with consistently more than 2 000 units registered each month across the land. While the T-Cross line-up is unlikely to hit such heights right off the bat (the final members of the range are due in SA only in 2020), it should quite quickly become the Wolfsburg-based firm’s third most popular offering locally, outselling the Tiguan, Golf and Polo Sedan – and surely also the slightly larger T-Roc due next year.

Plus-size Polo?

So, is the T-Cross more than merely a well-dressed Polo on stilts? The short answer is yes. While the MQB-based newcomer’s wheelbase is virtually identical to that of the hatchback, its body is longer, wider and taller. The upshot of those increased exterior dimensions is more space inside, with rear legroom proving particularly impressive for a vehicle in this segment.

The Spanish-built crossover is furthermore a touch more practical than the Polo, thanks largely to a sliding rear bench – with a useful 140 mm of adjustment – that allows rear legroom or luggage space to be optimised according to needs. Handily, this feature is standard across range, although it’s worth noting that shoving the split-folding bench into the foremost position opens up a something of a trench (into which smaller items could potentially disappear) at the far end of the boot.

While the temptation to simply slap some black plastic cladding onto a Polo and jack up its ride height might have been strong – the Cross Polo certainly has a following in the local market, after all – it’s refreshing to see VW has instead opted to hand the T-Cross styling distinct from that of the hatchback. Specified with the optional R-Line exterior package (a box many a South African buyer will surely tick) and painted in one of the bolder hues from the nine-strong palette, the T-Cross certainly has presence in the metal.

The local range

Just two variants are available at launch: a 1,0 TSI Comfortline DSG (at R334 500, likely the volume-seller in the range) and the subject of this driving impression, the 1,0 TSI Highline DSG (R365 000). Both employ the German firm’s familiar turbocharged 1,0-litre three-cylinder petrol mill, directing 85 kW and 200 N.m (yes, the same outputs offered in the Polo) to the front axle via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

An entry-level Trendline variant detuned to 70 kW and making do with a five-speed manual gearbox is scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of 2020 sporting a price tag below R300 000 (a mid-tier Comfortline version with this powertrain is also on the cards), while the flagship 110 kW 1,5 TSI R-Line DSG is expected in March next year, priced at R403 500. No all-wheel-drive derivatives have been developed, while VW does not plan to offer a diesel variant in SA.

So, back to this 1,0 TSI Highline model. Despite the T-Cross weighing a mite more than the Polo, the three-pot offers sufficiently perky performance, with its peak torque figure available between 2 000 and 3 500 r/min. At times, the DSG transmission feels reluctant to downshift, although the tiny paddles (standard on this trim level) sited behind the leather-clad steering wheel allow the driver to assume cog-swapping duties should they deem necessary.

Refinement levels, meanwhile, are impressive, with very little engine sound – and only a smidgen of road noise – entering the cabin at cruising speeds. The ride, too, is well judged, although the 18-inch “Nevada” alloy wheels (wrapped in 215/45 R18 rubber) fitted to our test unit as part of the R17 850 R-Line package do make their presence felt over poorly finished surfaces.

Step inside...

Inside, it’s somewhat surprisingly a bit of a mixed bag. While build quality in general appears quite solid, we did detect a creak emanating from the gloss trim surrounding the centre console. And it’s difficult to ignore the fairly liberal use of low-rent plastics in some areas of the cabin, leaving the T-Cross feeling a little less premium inside than the Polo despite being positioned slightly above its hatchback cousin.

Still, should you wish to add some visual spark to the cabin, two optional interior trim packages (as well as the broader “Energetic Orange” kit) are available for this Highline model, each bringing unique finishes for the seats, instrument panel, carpets and headliner. And it’s worth pointing out there are plenty of handy hidey holes dotted around the interior to store smaller items (the door pockets up front are particularly roomy), while as many as four USB ports were fitted to our launch unit.

Of course, this Highline variant’s standard specification level is quite, er, high, with its lengthy list of features including big-ticket items such as LED headlamps, parking sensors (front and rear), wireless smartphone charging, supportive sports seats and VW’s “Composition” media system with an eight-inch touchscreen. In addition, Volkswagen offers a range of optional extras, such as an upgraded infotainment arrangement, a Beats sound system, the fully digital “active info display” and even adaptive cruise control.

So, Polo or T-Cross?

Model to model, the self-shifting Highline variants in the Polo and T-Cross ranges are separated by some R42 100, although on balance the new crossover boasts a little extra standard kit than the hatch. But just how successful will the newcomer be in South Africa? And how much of that success will come at the expense of the Polo? Well, the firm fairly conservatively predicts around 7 000 units will be sold in 2020, which translates to almost 600 examples a month. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see monthly figures push past that once the full range is here, although it’ll be interesting see to what sort of impact that has on Polo sales.

Few small crossovers are as good as their donor hatchbacks, but the T-Cross is at least that. While it loses a few points for the hard plastics applied atop its facia and on the inside of its doors, it scores plenty more for its capacious cabin, fuss-free powertrain and sophisticated road manners, not forgetting its high levels of practicality. There's no doubt SA streets will soon be awash with VW's smallest crossover yet. Consider that gap well and truly plugged.

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Optional
  • Lumbar support adjustment: front
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: Optional
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear + front passenger
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Eco
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Optional
  • Cruise control: std (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: Standard
  • Central locking: remote (opt keyless)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Optional
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: front + rear (opt rear camera)
  • Camera for park distance control: opt rear
  • Towbar trailer hitch: opt removable
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 755 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 7
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automated dual-clutch
  • Transmission name: DSG
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Front tyres: 215/45 R18
  • Reartyres: 215/45 R18
  • Length: 4235 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1782 mm
  • Height: 1584 mm
  • Wheel base: 2551 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.6 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 377-455 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1160 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 1750 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 40l
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.3 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 126g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: EU 6
  • Power maximum: 85 kW
  • Power maximum total: 85 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 73.3 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 200 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 2000-3500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 200 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 172 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 10.2s
  • Maximum top speed: 193 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 999 cc
  • Engine size: 1.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.0T
  • Engine + detail: 1.0 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 3
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i3
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): 120000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 3
  • Service plan time (distance): 45000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Volkswagen
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 64030190
  • MMVariant: T-CROSS 1.0 TSI HIGHLINE DSG
  • MMintrodat: 2019-07-16
  • Introdate: 2019-07-15
  • DuoportarecordID: VolkTCros1e2

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Volkswagen T-CROSS 1.0 TSI HIGHLINE DSG 1.0TSI 85kW Highline R-Line for sale in Bloemfontein from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
Used T-CROSS 1.0 TSI HIGHLINE DSG 1.0TSI 85kW Highline R-Line availbale from the following auto dealer:
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