Think of a Volkswagen Polo with a more adventurous image, a slightly larger cabin and a more flexible interior. You're picturing this car, Volkswagen's smallest SUV, the T-Cross. It's trendy, quite sophisticated and very acceptably efficient, thanks to its 1.0-litre TSI petrol and 1.6 TDI diesel engine options. And you can make it very much your own. What's not to like?
There are three T-Cross engine options. Most buyers will want Volkswagen's 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine. Entry-level variants get it in 95PS form with a 5-speed gearbox but further up the range, the variants available feature this unit in a 115PS state of tune. Go for that and you'll be offered the option of a 7-speed DSG auto gearbox. Both engines have impressive torque available from low revs - the 95PS version delivering 175Nm from just 2,000rpm and the 115PS version serving up its 200Nm across the same 2,000rpm to 3,500rpm band. In other words, you won't have to row this little VW along with the gear lever through town.
T-Cross models equipped with the 95PS engine reach 62mph in 11.5 seconds, with a top speed of 112mph where legal, while the punchier 115PS versions top out at 120mph, reaching 62mph in 10.2 seconds. We said there were three engine options. The minority-interest third choice is a 1.6-litre TDI diesel with 95PS. It develops 250Nm of pulling power, a useful increase from the 200Nm figure you get in the 1.0 TSI 115PS unit. All T-Cross models are front-driven: there's not much appetite in this segment for 4WD. In any case, the Polo platform doesn't allow for it. Don't expect a T-Cross to ride quite as well as a Polo - that taller, heavier body has to tell somewhere - but for the school run and commuting duties, few buyers are likely to have issues.
The T-Cross is actually very similar in size to its T-Roc showroom stablemate, despite the fact that it sits on an MQB-A0 platform supposedly designated for cars a class smaller. It's a couple of inches longer and just under six inches taller than the Polo supermini it's based upon but that still leaves it a touch tinier than most key rivals in the segment for small SUVs. That doesn't stop it from being plenty spacious enough for a small family inside though. There's second row space big enough for a couple of six foot adults to sit comfortably, particularly if they shift the standard sliding rear bench all the way back. Doing that reduces boot space from 455 to 385-litres (still 10% more than a Polo). An adjustable-height boot floor makes the cargo space accessible for a variety of loads too.
Up front, the elevated hip point makes this T-Cross feel bigger than a supermini. If you find yourself paying more to get the Volkswagen badge, you might be a little disappointed to find that the dashboard plastics are rather scratchy. Still, the fascia controls are intuitive and the top two trim levels get a classy 8-inch centre-dash touchscreen with 'Apple Carplay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring functionality.
It's surprising that Volkswagen took so long to enter the supermini-sized part of the SUV segment. There's no doubt though that the brand has taken careful note of what buyers want in this class and provided a product that seems to meet what the market's currently looking for. You'll pay a little more for a T-Cross than you will for its most obvious rivals, but what you get in return is a car will a little more polish than obvious competitors.
The sliding rear bench will be a key showroom selling point and buyers will be pleased to find plenty of opportunities for personalisation. You could downsize from a Golf into one of these and feel quite happy - and we think plenty of customers will. How appealing the T-Cross will be to drivers currently loyal to rival brands is another question. There's no doubt though, that it's likely to carve out a useful niche for itself.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen T-Cross range