Road Tests

First Drive: New T-Cross is a Polo on steroids

VW is finally crossing into the front-wheel drive gravel travel segment with its Polo-based T-Cross.

For a brand which dominates the traditional South African hatchback market with Vivo, Polo and Golf, the T-Cross is a value play for those who desire a VW crossover but can’t quite align their budget with Tiguan.

The expectation is that T-Cross will unlock very strong local demand. It rides on an excellent platform, VW’s MQB structure, and the styling is decidedly on trend.

You have option on nine colours, and five wheel options, ranging from 16- to 18-inches. The various T-Cross appearance combinations will appeal to fashion conscious buyers.

T-Cross is clever inside too, with VW’s latest digital interfacing and quality switchgear. Luggage capacity is generous, with a siding bench allowing up to 455-litre of capacity behind the rear seats.

Mechanically this is a study in VW’s downsized power-  and drivetrain components. The engine is VW’s familiar 1-litre turbocharged triple. It boosts 85kW and 200Nm, which makes for a fairly swift little crossover, capable of 0-100kph in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 193kph.

With a typically intuitive and slick-shifting DSG transmission, the tiny engine rarely feels out of synch with driver demands.

VW’s T-Cross has a higher centre of gravity than the Polo on which it is based. With 180mm of ground clearance it will roll without bother on most gravel trails, but it certainly remains a front-wheel drive crossover instead of a true all-terrain vehicle.

Considering its higher ride height, you’d expect it to feel quite a bit less agile than the Polo. But where it finds a great element of mediation is its engine. The small 1-litre triple is light and does not have a very disruptive affect in its position above the front axle. Without a heavy engine above the front wheels there is marginal dive and roll, during heavy braking or intense steering inputs.

VW is positioning the T-Cross at R334 600, for a 1.0 TSI Comfortline, with the slightly better equipped 1.0 TSI Highline R365 000. Lance Branquinho

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