2019 Volkswagen T-Cross FIRST DRIVE review – price, specs and release date

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The T-Cross will be Volkswagen’s smallest SUV and should cost from around £17,000, making it a rival for the big-selling Nissan Juke. It won’t go on sale until next year, but we’ve already tried a late prototype

*** Note : £1 = $1.32 (correct at time of post)

  • Price from £17,000 (est)
  • Release date Spring 2019

‘I am more’ is the marketers’ strapline for the forthcoming Volkswagen T-Cross. If you’re confused, they mean more good stuff, such as space and tech; not that it’s vastly more expensive than other small SUVs.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

Well, that’s the intention. It’s basically a jacked-up VW Polo underneath or, if you prefer, a close cousin of the Seat Arona. And with an estimated starting price of £17,000 when deliveries commence in early 2019, the T-Cross should be only slighlty pricier than the Arona. But, presently, it’s a prototype, meaning all the specifications and prices are still to be confirmed.

It’ll utilise much of the current Polo’s and bigger T-Roc SUV’s modern technology; configurable digital instruments and a slick 8.0in infotainment touchscreen will be available, while lane-keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking that can avoid pedestrians as well as cars are likely to be standard. Blindspot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control will feature, too.

2018 Volkswagen T-Cross on the road

So, this isn’t the finished article, but the engineers reckon the T-Cross, as tested, is 95% there. This bodes well, because it’s pretty darned good now. Most of our brief drive was in the 113bhp three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol, which is expected to be the big seller. It pulls eagerly from 1500rpm and revs out cleanly, so it may very well end up the most recommendable option.

A 94bhp version of that engine will also be available, although we haven’t tried it. But we have tried the 113bhp 1.6 diesel. It’s more flexible than the petrol in the mid-range, yet not noticeably quicker for outright pace and produces a fair amount of dieselly rumble; the petrol’s thrum is far more agreeable. There’s talk of a 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol joining the line-up, too, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Most versions will have a five or six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but we tried the seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It’s available on both the 113bhp petrol and diesel and shifts smoothly and quickly, and most of the time finds the correct gear for the occasion.

The brakes are strong and progressive, so it’s easy to stop the T-Cross smoothly, while at speed road noise on mid-sized 17in wheels – 16in and 18in wheels will also be available – remains hushed. It’s mainly wind noise from the door mirrors that you notice, but even this isn’t extreme for the class.

What about handling? Well, without the opportunity to really push it, we can’t be definitive. But the T-Cross is certainly light and nimble in town, and feels sure-footed on faster, winding roads. The steering loads up naturally in turns, too; it just needs more heft off-centre on motorways to give it greater straight-line stability. It’s a work in progress, said the engineers.

As is the inconsistent ride. While the petrol model is supple over speed humps yet harsh over sharp ridges, with a tendency to fidget across small imperfections, the diesel is much firmer. The aim, we were told, is to tune it towards the comfort bias that the Polo offers.

2018 Volkswagen T-Cross interior

The dubious dashboard fixtures and fittings in these cars are clearly not production spec. But we know that, rather than the plusher, soft-touch surfaces you get in the Polo, the T-Cross will get similar hard-plastic dashboard and door trims as the bigger T-Roc.

Riding 15cm higher than a Polo means the T-Cross has a genuine SUV stance and offers a more elevated driving position than many rivals, including the lower-slung Kia Stonic. Meanwhile, the supportive driver’s seat is lifted straight from the T-Roc and, with plenty height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, we had no problem getting comfortable.

And that promise of more space is borne out. It’ll fit four tall adults inside (five with more of a squeeze), with leg and head room in the rear to match an Arona, while its decent boot is even more flexible; as well as a height-adjustable boot floor, you get sliding rear seats – and even without them slid forward the boot is bigger than a Golf’s. It’ll easily manage several small suitcases or small-person accessories, such as a large buggy.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

That £17,000 starting price already mentioned will be for the lower-powered 1.0-litre unit in an entry-level trim. But this potentially favoured 1.0 TSI 115, with a few creature comforts, should cost between £18,500 and £19,500. And if you look at the equivalent engine in the Seat Arona for guidance, by today’s NEDC measurements we’d expect it to manage around 57mpg, with CO2 emissions in the region of 113g/km. By the time the T-Cross arrives, though, cars will be measured by the more real-world-representative WLTP tests.

Having been told that the T-Cross is 95% ready, we’d have to say from our drive that it’s 95% recommendable. The ride and handling need fine-tuning, but the fundamentals certainly feel right, and it’s great in terms of space and practicality. So, if VW can hit the targets above, making it relatively affordable to by and run, this forthcoming baby SUV has the potential to be more than just good. Indeed, the strapline could be ‘I am best car in the class’.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 specs
  • Price tbc
  • Engine 3cyl, 999cc, turbo, petrol
  • Power 113bhp
  • Torque tbc
  • Gearbox 6-spd manual
  • 0-62mph tbc
  • Top speed tbc
  • Official economy tbc
  • CO2, tax band tbc

(whatcar.com, http://bit.ly/2JigXQR)

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