Jaco van der Merwe
The hype Volkswagen has created around its latest offering has worked
There is a reason why Volkswagen sells around 5 000 Polos and Polo Vivos every month. They offer good value and South Africans love the brand. And, like any ambitious manufacturer, Volkswagen realises the importance of evolving with the times.
Already owning the hatchback segment, Volkswagen has now targeted the only other area that has shown growth over the last few years – SUVs. With the premium Touareg and Mzansi’s favourite compact SUV, the Tiguan and Tiguan Allspace, already in its stable, Volkswagen is now following the world trend of a smaller SUV with the introduction of the T-Cross.
The hype Volkswagen has created around its latest offering has worked so effectively that it managed to sell 810 units in the T-Cross’ launch month, September – more than one of its biggest competitors, the Ford EcoSport, did during the same period. We had the 1.0 TSI 85kW Highline (the only other initial offering locally is the Comfortline) as a house guest recently to see what all the hype was about.
This model costs R365 000 and our test unit was R-Line clad, which is an optional extra at R17 850. R Line is basically just a civilised way of saying windgat (braggart), because it just gives the car some attitude, the highlight being five-spoke 18-inch Nevada wheels with “diamond-turned surface”. Although I’m not all that sold on our tester’s colour called Makena Turquoise, the colour Volkswagen uses in all their marketing, all three women in my house instantaneously remarked what “a cool colour” it is, so who am I to argue?
The T-Cross might be built on the same chassis, feature the same engine and share virtually the same cabin as the Polo, but the designers did a good job in creating its own exterior identity. The car is 182 mm longer than the Polo and 123 mm higher and, more importantly, features an elevated front seat position that is 100 mm higher.
The designers made the T-Cross look bigger than it is with a wide front grille and headlights that extend into the flanks as well as a tail light that stretches the width of the rear. On the inside the T-Cross is pretty much all Polo, just more spacious. One highlight is the sliding rear seats, which can move 14 mm to give rear passengers either more legroom or increased luggage space, of which there is a decent 377 to 455-litres on offer.
We felt the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI engine, which generates 85 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG gearbox, is great for its intended purposes. These will probably include making it’s way to work or home in traffic, transporting the children and moving your groceries from store to shelf. If you’re after something with an extra pinch of spice, there is a 110 kW 1.5 TSI option making its way to South Africa next year.
Pulling away took some getting used to as it suffers from a terrible turbo lag. You can get the ball rolling a tad sooner by deactivating the auto stop before you pull away and caress the throttle first, but it still feels like forever before you really hit the sweet spot. For some reason we also experienced a few roll backs on inclines initially, making us wonder if the hill-start assist was working properly. Applying the handbrake at every stop at least fixed that for the remainder of our week.
There is the option of sport mode, which is activated by flicking the gear lever down. It also gives you the additional option of operating the box manually by shifting the gear lever to the right which then enables gear changes by tapping the lever up or down.
We felt using sport in automatic mode around the city a tad ineffective as it is noisy and should rather be saved for overtaking on the open road. Claimed fuel consumption is 4.9l/100km, but we averaged 8.2l/100km over the course of 400 km, which included bumper-to-bumper traffic. The overall steering, handling and cornering was every bit as solid as something you’d expect from Volkswagen.
Although the T-Cross boasts a top-class safety rating, the real nice goodies in that department – like adaptive cruise control with blind spot monitor and lane assist, something not always commonly found in this price bracket – are optional extras. Apart from the R-Line styling, our tester also had keyless locking and starting (R5 050) and the Beats sound system (R8 800), featuring six speakers, digital eight-channel amplifier and subwoofer for a total power output of 300W.
On the whole, we could see what the hype surrounding the T-Cross was all about. It’s a car at the right price in the right segment which will make the brand’s faithful queue for blocks to get their hands on. Take a bow, Volkswagen.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.