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Driven: Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0TSI 70 kW

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You don’t need to be a genius to realise that, with the T-Cross, Volkswagen is onto something. The Polo - and its budget sibling, the Polo Vivo - have long been favourites of South African consumers. The combination of affordability, quality and badge cachet is near-unbeatable in SA. 

However, crossover-crazed consumers had nothing to plug the gap in the Volkswagen range. 2019 saw the introduction of the handsome T-Cross and the rest, as they say, is history. The stylish crossover is now everywhere, with buyers flocking to dealerships in their droves to get behind the wheel of one.

Dressed in R-Line gear, the little SUV certainly looks the part. It feels the part too, with a solid ride and robust powertrain. The 85 kW 1.0-litre, three-cylinder may not be the fastest car in the world, but it is more than adequate. A 110 kW 1.5-litre is available for those who require more thrust, but most of the time the three-pot will do just fine.

Problem is, the cheapest model was sitting at R399 900 — affordable, but still out of reach for many. To remedy this, Volkswagen has introduced a lesser-powered version, which retails from R357 900.

While 70 kW may not seem like much, let us remind you that the base-model Polo has the same amount of power and feels perfectly capable. In fact, in the Polo, the engine feels perfectly suited to the little hatchback. But will it work in a larger crossover body shell?

Well, yes. It may not feel as athletic than its more powerful siblings, but the T-Cross Comfortline 70 kW still feels nippy. With 170 N.m on tap, it’s still able to sprint to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds, which isn’t bad for a compact crossover. Indeed, the 85 kW derivative is just 0.6 seconds faster - and has a higher claimed fuel consumption, too. The performance trade off is negligible, but the fuel savings aren’t, especially as we edge closer to R20 a litre.

VW claims that the T-Cross 70 kW is capable of 4.8 L/100 km. We believe them wholeheartedly, having achieved 4.9 L ourselves. We must add a caveat here, though. This fuel economy, while possible, requires careful and considered driving. The 70 kW derivative is fitted with a slick-shifting five-speed manual, which certainly aids in this frugality.

Unfortunately, the base-model is not available with VW’s DSG gearbox, which may be a deal-breaker for some. Certainly not for us - like the Polo, the T-Cross is blessed with a lovely manual ‘box which makes rowing your own gears all the more fun.

From a practical point of view, the compact T-Cross has been given a deceptively large boot. Despite the petite dimensions, the T-Cross boasts 377 litres of boot space. Courtesy of a 2nd row which slides fore and aft, the boot space can be extended further to 455 litres. Folding the row down altogether nets you a panel van-rivalling 1 281 litres of cargo space.

Passenger space is on par with rivals, with plenty of space for children and smaller adults in the rear. Taller passengers will be fine on headroom but may struggle with kneeroom. This, to be fair, is a criticism that can be levelled at all the T-Cross’ competitors.  

Unfortunately, the T-Cross doesn’t share the Polo’s padded, soft-touch dashboard. The plastics are of the harder variety but do, at least, feel solid and well-screwed together. As standard, the T-Cross Comfortline receives 16-inch ‘Belmont’ alloy wheels, a six-speaker sound system, hill-start assist and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake. Naturally, central locking, electric windows and manual air-conditioning are also standard.Safety wise, you’re looked after by six airbags, ABS, brake assist, traction control and stability control.

Ticking the R-Line option nets you a stylish body kit, 17-inch ‘Manila’ diamond-cut alloy wheels and discreet R-Line badging. A three-year/45 000 km service plan is standard.

Verdict

The T-Cross has always been an excellent choice for small families or consumers looking for an affordable (but classy) compact crossover. The styling is a hit and so is the driving experience. What’s more, the level of standard safety features continue to impress. If you can live without a DSG gearbox (which we can; the manual is great) then we’d have to say that the 70 kW is the pick of the bunch. It’s the cheapest to buy, the lightest on fuel and offers a negligible performance difference.

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