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20th of July 2018

Automotive



New Volkswagen T-Cross prototype review

The Volkswagen Polo-based T-Cross will be the company’s third new SUV in 18 months when it launches next spring, completing a family line-up of five off-road-inspired models.

We’ve been for an early drive in Volkswagen’s new mini-SUV in all-but-finalised pre-production form, ahead of the car’s official debut in October.

• Best crossovers and small SUVs 2018

The front-wheel-drive SEAT Arona rival is a bit longer than a Polo, at 4,107mm. It’s also 110mm higher, and the driving position has been raised by 100mm, too. As a result, it’s considerably bigger than a Polo in every direction, despite featuring an identical wheelbase.

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In the rear, the T-Cross features a bench seat that slides backwards and forwards, increasing rear legroom by an impressive 150mm. This means luggage space can vary between 385 and 455 litres, making it far more practical than a Polo. Having said that, sliding the rear seat forwards leaves a curiously large hole right across the back of the boot, into which fairly large items can fall. Still, fold all the seats flat and you’ll reveal a decent 1,281-litre load bay.

There will be three engine choices initially: two three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrols and one diesel. The first TSI motor gets 94bhp and 160Nm of torque, linked to a five-speed manual gearbox.

The second petrol bumps things up with 113bhp/200Nm and a six-speed transmission, while the single 1.6 TDI boasts 94bhp and 250Nm, plus a six-speed box. These might also be joined by a 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI DSG in time.

There will be four trim levels: S, SE, SE L and R-Line. VW has yet to set definite UK prices, but the entry-level S with the least powerful petrol motor will start at around £17,000. That’s a £3,000 premium over the cheapest Polo.

We drove the 113bhp petrol version that’s expected to be the biggest seller. Climb aboard and the first thing you notice is the loftier driving position and the T-Roc-like new dash design. The dashboard plastics are harder than in a Polo, but the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks great.

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It feels more grown-up inside, and the extra space is immediately obvious from any of the five seats, but especially in the rear. With the bench in its rearmost position, it’s genuinely roomy in the back, with leg and headroom to spare.

• Volkswagen T-Cross details

Performance from the turbocharged engine is decent rather than sparkling, but refinement is still impressive. There was a little more wind noise than we expected around the A-pillars on these pre-production cars, however.

On the move the T-Cross rides extremely well and steers with a light, accurate precision. It doesn’t roll as much as you’d think for a car so tall, and again its chassis has a grown-up refinement to it that belies the small SUV’s price tag. The T-Cross seems to drive more than well enough for a car in this class, then, even if it is never going to excite an enthusiast.

Where the VW scores most strongly in relation to its competition is on cabin feel, although good practicality and upmarket option packages should help it further stand out from the crowd.

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