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VW's Polo SUV headed for SA: The T-Cross is 'measured maturity' in an awesome crossover package

2019-03-12 11:08
vw t-cross

Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Polo, Polo Vivo, Arteon… Volkswagen has released some fantastic products over the past two years and in 2019 turns its attention to the compact SUV market with two new models both built on its most successful products - the entry-level T-Cross (Polo) and stylish T-Roc (Golf).

With the new T-Cross, the automaker hopes to grab its share of the compact SUV market in SA that's long-since been dominated locally by Asian rivals. The T-Roc, however, has loftier goals targeting the R300k - R400k market and slots in below its popular Tiguan sibling.

The T-Cross is set to arrive later in 2019 with the T-Roc penned for 2020. We experienced the new T-Cross in the stunning surrounds of Mallorca, Spain. So, will the new "Polo SUV" be a sales hit in SA?

We find out during an epic drive through the popular Spanish island.

Martine Biene, Volkswagen head of Passenger Cars, tells us more about the T-Cross:

Design

The vehicle measures 4.2m long, has a wheelbase of 2.5m and is 1.5m tall. The T-Cross is a good-looking SUV and borrows many elements from the Polo it's based on. I feel, however, VW's designer could have done a bit more as it's bordering on bland, even in R-Line guise, especially at the rear.

In SA, however, bland sells as the Polo/Polo Vivo proves, so perhaps playing it safe in terms of design will be part of its recipe for success. What do you think?




In terms of practicality, it has a boot capacity of 377 litres which can be expanded to 455 litres if the second row of seats is moved forward. By folding the rear seats flat, the carrying capacity is increased to 1 281 litres.


Driving it

In short, it’s an impressive SUV considering its origins and market. While its not exactly gifted with vrrr-pah, it makes up for this in comfort and hatchback-esque agility.

In 2018, VW launched a much more premium Polo. This measured maturity has filtered to its latest SUV as the T-Cross is a breeze to drive and is in its element around bustling city centres and suburbs. Its suspension is supple enough to soak up bumps and undulations while its steering is precise and light, making it rather easy to drive and a boon for first-time buyers.

The 1.0 TSI version delivered predictable power and enough performance to satisfy first-time families or young professionals in need of a no-frills SUV.

It's quiet around town with enough agility to make short work of bends and parking spots, and it is incredibly intuitive to drive.

The German automaker's 1.0-litre unit delivers adequate torque and although you're not exactly going to be rushing off anywhere at a brisk pace, considering its target market it's perfectly serviceable. The engine is refined, fuel economy respectable and it's perfect for moderate cruising.


Overall, it’s a Polo SUV – meaning it has the best qualities (and minor niggles) of both. In essence, it’s the perfect marriage of C-segment hatch and entry-level SUV. It actually poses an awkward question for VW consumers – "Why purchase a Polo if there’s an equivalent priced VW SUV on the market?".

VW designers have played it safe with regards to its styling but judging by the Polo's sales record, safe equals success in SA. Overall, it’s a fantastic compact SUV and could be a best-seller should VW manage to implement (and retain) it’s proposed aggressive pricing.

The T-Cross isn't as flashy, sporty, nor as stylish as some of its rival crossovers. Instead, it's a continuation of Volkswagen's measured approach to maturity - ensuring buyers are receiving a properly executed SUV packed with substance and practicality. Flashy doesn't sell in SA, especially in the entry-level market.

Volkswagen took its sweet time entering the crossover market but ultimately delivered a great all-rounder that delivers on practicality, ride comfort, and features. The T-Cross will be available with optional LED headlights with wheel sizes of up to 18 inches. The interior of the T-Cross is similar to that of the new Polo and will be offered with an optional Active Info Display.

Why the shift to compact SUVs?

According to VWSA: "In 2018, the compact SUV segment constituted 8.7% of the total market. Where most segments have shrunk, the compact SUV segment grew year-on-year from 2014 to 2018. In 2014, the segment accounted for 19 027 of new vehicle sales, whilst in 2018, the sales volume increased to 31 982 units, which equates to a 68% growth. This is one of the many reasons that attracted Volkswagen in the segment."

Rivals

The Volkswagen T-Cross faces off against the likes of some stiff competition –

Ford EcoSport

Image: Supplied 

Renault Duster

2018 Renault Duster

Image: Supplied 

Honda BR-V


Image: Supplied 

Hyundai Creta

Hyundai Creta front

Image: Supplied 

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