The small hatch which morphs into a family-friendly SUV
Remember fidget spinners? They were in the hands of just about every child and twitchy adult several years ago.
Like many fads, they quickly disappeared to sit alongside Pokemon Go and yoyos, and many thought sports utility vehicles — collectively called SUVs — would ultimately head in the same direction. Unfortunately for the driving purists, that hasn’t been the case.
Manufacturers without a strong SUV portfolio have seen sales dwindle.
Volkswagen has been busy bolstering its high-rider range this year, with the T-Cross and T-Roc additions.
Those desperate for both a VW and an SUV, the T-Cross is the most affordable in the German brand’s range. Starting from less than $30,000 drive-away, the T-Cross underpinnings are shared with the Polo hatch.
Costing about $2500 more than the Polo, this trendy compact SUV proves more spacious and family-friendly than its donor stablemate.
Called Life, this version of the T-Cross has a no-frills appeal. Manual aircon, turnkey operation rather than a push-button start and liberal use of grey plastics — practicality trumps opulence.
Modern necessities come via an eight-inch touchscreen which controls the six-speaker sound system that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charger and four USB ports (two in the back).
The flashier sound and vision pack costs an extra $1900 and includes a Beats stereo, satnav, as well as an active driver display with customisable menus and information.
Rolling on 16-inch alloys, the T-Cross has black roof rails, while white and a deep aqua hue are complimentary colour options. Metallic orange, grey, blue, silver and pearl black are all $600 extra. The turquoise metallic option is $800.
Take a $1800 five-year care plan when buying and that means the first service is free, ultimately leading to a saving of more than $645 compared to pay-as-you-go capped price servicing with annual intervals or every 15,000km. A three-year service plan is also available for $990.
Warranty coverage is five years and unlimited kilometres. Mitsubishi offers 10 years and 100,000km, while Kia, SsangYong and MG have seven-year deals.
Expected features are included, like emergency braking that can autonomously apply the anchors to help avoid or lessen the impact with other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists at speeds less than 30km/h, along with a rear view camera and parking sensors.
Disappointingly radar cruise control (which maintains set distances from other vehicles when in use), higher speed autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert is part of a pack which costs an extra $1200.
Just because SUVs have the shape of off-roaders, doesn’t always mean they deliver improved space. Often there is less internal real estate and features compared to the car on which they are based.
Not in the T-Cross. It’s 55mm longer than the Polo which translates to greater rear seat legroom and nearly 30 per cent greater boot volume.
Despite having room for a full-size spare tyre, there is 385L of carrying capacity which can grow to 455L when the rear seats shift forward. Drop the rear seat back and capacity is increased to more than 1280L.
Basic functionality means less complexity and there is little chance of getting lost within the various controls on offer. VW have some of the best touchscreens around with impressive clarity and usability which is further bolstered by the smartphone mirroring applications that provide seamless connectivity with Apple and Android devices.
Large windows and a high riding position provide an airy feel with impressive all-round vision.
While the Polo is a brilliant runabout, the
T-Cross transforms into a family chariot able to handle growing kids courtesy of additional head, leg and knee room in both rows.
Storage areas are good, along with dual cup holders in the console and slots in each door which can handle a bottle (water, soft drink or wine).
Enthusiastic and responsive once under way, the T-Cross is an honest performer which neither underwhelms or disappoints.
The three-cylinder petrol engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic, and together they work beautifully in tandem — except from standstill. There can be some lag between the call for acceleration and power delivery, especially when the stop-start functionality is in use.
Though, once under way the T-Cross drives without fuss and confidently handles work around town or on the highway.
The steering feel lacks the accuracy of the Polo, although few buyers would notice any difference.
Fuel consumption was slightly higher than the official figure from VW, averaging an impressively thrifty 6.3 litres/100km over 600km while running on its preferred fuel source of 95 premium unleaded. Most compact rivals operate on the less expensive standard unleaded.
Circa $30k with room for the family and low fuel bills, it’s a small SUV that’s big on appeal.
European and an SUV, what’s not to love?
MG ZST EXCITE $29,490 D/A
Much-improved offering from the Chinese manufacturer, powered by a 1.3-litre 3-cyl turbo, 115kW/230Nm. Has good tech, a seven-year warranty, with 359 litres if boot space but only a four-star safety rating and higher fuel consumption than the VW.
KIA SELTOS S SAFETY PACK $27,990 D/A
Among the best combination of functionality, driveability and peace of mind in the genre. Runs on steel wheels, but has better safety credentials and a larger boot.
Delivering space-efficient cabin design, the T-Cross bucks the trend of many SUVs based on hatches. It’s among the top echelon within a crowded genre.
VOLKSWAGEN T-CROSS 85TSI LIFE
PRICE $29,990 drive-away (good for a Euro)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 year unlimited km warranty (fine); service plan $1800 5 years (bit steep)
ENGINE 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo 85kW/200Nm FWD (solid)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, low-speed AEB, lane-keep assist. Extra $1200 for improved tech (should be standard)
THIRST 5.4L/100km (6.3 on test, excellent)
SPARE Full-size or space-saver available (excellent)
BOOT 385-455L, 1281L all seats down (roomy)