In the cross hairs: Volkswagen T-Cross SEL
Ryan Hirons finds out if Volkswagen's smallest SUV can be a success
Another day, another new SUV from the VW Group - and this time it's the smallest yet: The Volkswagen T-Cross.
Based on the firm's MQB platform, it's similar in size to its Polo hatchback - coming in at 55mm longer and 97mm taller respectively - and sits below the T-Roc in the range, which itself has become Europe's class bestseller since its 2017 launch.
With tough competition from the likes of Nissan's Juke and Mazda's CX-3, plus the imminent rival of the Ford Puma, it's going to have to be special to emulate that success.
This is an entirely new model, and one spawned from the T-Cross Breeze concept shown in 2016 - though that car was a convertible.
Though fresh to the range, it does take a healthy amount of parts from the breadth of the VW Group catalogue - namely its choice of 1.0 TSI petrol engines, DSG gearbox options and wide array of safety and luxury gizmos on offer. Notably absent at launch is a diesel engine option - though one is available on the continent.
What's under the bonnet?
Powering our test car is the 1.0-litre petrol engine in its most powerful form. Producing 113bhp and 200Nm of torque, which here is delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It covers the 0-60mph sprint in 10 seconds flat and can go on to a 120mph top speed. As for efficiency, Volkswagen claims this unit can return 48.2mpg on the WLTP combined cycle while emitting 112g/km in CO2.
This powertrain setup has to be the pick of the bunch. The engine is punchy and offers just the right amount of power. Its lower-output sibling just lacks the crisp edge of the more powerful option, and its DSG alternative feels comparatively sluggish.
What's it like to drive?
The T-Cross is designed first and foremost for the city, and that's where it excels. A combination of light steering, compact dimensions and excellent visibility results in a car that's perfectly at home when navigating concrete jungles - and softly-set suspension allows it to absorb speed bumps and potholes without an issue.
Its strengths as a city car do prove to be its downfalls elsewhere, though. At speed on the UK's bumpier back roads, its ride is akin to driving a slab of jelly - wobbling about all over the place and not inspiring too much confidence as a result.
How does it look?
It'd be easy to accuse Volkswagen of making a range of cars that are quite boring to look at, though with the T-Cross it's managed to inject a bit of funk - more so with its exterior.
Though about the size of a Polo and very mechanically similar to one, you wouldn't guess a direct relation from the design alone. Up front, a gaping grille brings it in line with the rest of VW's SUV range, while toward the back a concept car-like look is created with a huge light bar transcending the boot.
With our money, we'd look toward the more creative end of the T-Cross' palette of colours. The design is best exposed in eye-catching 'Energetic Orange' and 'Makena Turquoise'.
What's it like inside?
Things are very in line with the typical Volkswagen norms. A boxy cabin design features, with good quality materials deployed for the steering wheel, switchgear and other points of contact throughout the cabin.
As for space, five can be seated comfortably - particularly when the sliding rear row is taken advantage of, creating as much as 14cm of extra legroom, though it's not lacking in the first place for a car of this size. The T-Cross also boasts 455 litres of boot space when the rear seats are moved forward.
What's the spec like?
Pricing begins at £16,995, making it one of the most expensive in its class, for an entry S model. It's quite light on equipment, with the only noticeable additions being 16-inch alloy wheels and an eight-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth support plus DAB radio. There is, however, a generous helping of no-cost safety equipment.
Tested here is the SEL trim, which brings with it LED headlights and daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Options ticked here include Reflex Silver metallic paint (£575), 18-inch alloy wheels (£540) and VW's Active Info Display Technology (£375), bringing the cost of the car to £20,795. It's a high price to pay, especially as it's not even the range topper - that honour belongs to R-Line models, starting from £22,695.
Volkswagen is onto another hit in its ever-more successful SUV range with the T-Cross. It blends style and practicality into a package that's perfect for the city, which is where these cars are destined to spend a good chunk of their time on the road - and perhaps for the best when its poor refinement elsewhere is considered. A decent amount of safety equipment as standard is a positive too, although we'd like to have seen some of that generosity extend further into the luxury bonuses thrown in the package.
Facts at a glance
Model: VW T-Cross SEL
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder
Power (bhp): 113
Torque (Nm): 200
Max speed (mph): 120
0-60mph: 10 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 112