You don’t need me to tell you that SUVs and crossovers are all the rage. That winning combination of high driving position, space, rugged good looks and perceived safety is still driving the new car market.
The T-Cross, Volkswagen’s new kid on the block, is the baby of the brand’s SUV family, sitting below the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace (seven seats) and Touareg. You could say that VW has now crossed all the Ts.
It’s late to the party too, which means it’s up against everything from the Nissan Juke (the car that started the compact crossover craze back in 2010) to the Renault Captur. Intriguingly, it will also cross swords with its VW Group cousins, the Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq.
The good news is that the T-Cross stands out from the crowd – not just in terms of its cool looks, but the way it drives and its superior packaging.
It may be based on the latest Volkswagen Polo, but it has a personality all of its own.
Sharply-styled and sporting an on-trend LED light bar running across the width of the rear and chunky wheel arches, it’s actually 54mm longer and a 138mm taller than its hatchback sibling.
Available in funky colours (Energetic Orange is my favourite) and with plenty of personalisation opportunities, the T-Cross is a breath of fresh air.
Step inside and there’s a real feeling of space with plenty of room for adults in the back, while the boot is a generous 385 litres – 455 litres with the sliding rear seat pushed forward (1,281 litres with the rear seats folded flat).
Just like the Polo, the dashboard is attractive with an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen boasting bright graphics and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity as standard on SE trim and above. It’s just a shame that there’s a lack of soft-touch surfaces inside.
The T-Cross is available with a choice of two petrol engines (1.0 and 1.5-litre) and a 1.6-litre diesel. We tested the best all-rounder which is the 113bhp 1.0-litre (an entry-level 94bhp can also be specified).
Also used in the fantastic VW up! GTI, it’s a punchy little three-cylinder capable of 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, but feeling swifter, and a top speed of 120mph.
With low CO2 emissions of 112g/km and fuel economy of 48.3mpg, it isn’t far behind the diesel’s claimed 52.9mpg.
The oil-burner is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG automatic. The smallest petrol engine (94bhp) only gets a five speed manual, while the bigger 1.0-litre (113bhp) is blessed with a seven-speed auto or six-speed manual, which I experienced.
The refined, yet distantly thrummy petrol turbo is a fantastically willing engine, happy nipping around town or stretching its legs on faster roads. The six-speed manual shifts sweetly, making it a genuinely entertaining car to drive.
Despite being a bit taller than a Polo, body roll is well controlled and the ride is comfortable with well tuned suspension supple enough to soak up most potholes. The light, direct steering and good visibility make it ideal for driving in town too, which is just as well because this is going to be one of the coolest urban crossovers on the market.
Competitively priced from £17,395 to £23,995, it’s available in four trim grades – S, SE, SEL and R-Line, though we’d recommend the SE, which is likely to account for around a half of sales.
The T-Cross is also safe, gaining a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing partly down to its impressive driver assistance tech.
As standard, the T-Cross features Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Assist, Hill Start Assist and proactive occupant protection system, which automatically closes windows and the sunroof, tensions seat belts and builds up brake pressure if there is a risk of an accident. Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control are also available.
Frankly, apart from the hard interior plastic trim and the fact that’s there’s no four-wheel drive option, the T-Cross is hard to fault.
Verdict: The funky new Volkswagen T-Cross is a cracking compact crossover. Not only does it look great, but it delivers a surprisingly dynamic drive – it’s also well packaged, safe and generously equipped.