New arrival will shake up the SUV market
Like a studious pupil checking over its work, you can imagine Volkswagen dotting each I and crossing every T to ensure its bases are covered.
Perhaps that is how the new Volkswagen T-Cross got its name.
While most manufacturers are well-established in the class, it was a glaring omission in the German brand's range.
Based on the Volkswagen Polo city car, the T-Cross shares its core structure and engine with the little hatchback. Priced from $29,990 drive-away in entry-level "Life" form, the T-Cross costs $5500 more than an equivalent Polo hatch.
Blocky styling suits the SUV theme, giving it a point of difference compared to conventional Volkswagens.
Standard kit includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a basic safety suite with auto emergency braking and lane keeping assistance. An 8-inch central touchscreen has wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but no sat nav or digital radio.
Those who want more can spend $32,990 drive-away for the higher-spec T-Cross "Style" which adds 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, smart keys, active cruise control, blind spot monitoring and dual-zone climate control. Life customers can add the extra safety kit for $1200, while both variants benefit from a tech pack featuring a digital dash, Beats stereo and upgraded infotainment system for $1900.
Metallic paint is $600 or $800 depending on your choice of tone, and Style customers can choose an R-Line bodykit with bigger wheels for $2500.
VW supports the car with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. A pre-paid five-year service plan costs $1800.
Both models are powered by the same 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine found in the Polo. Turbocharged to make 85kW and 200Nm, the T-Cross has more low-down punch than most cars this size.
It also uses less fuel than most, returning a claimed figure of 5.4 litres of premium fuel for every 100 kilometres driven.
It's a modern driveline with effortless real-world punch compared to non-turbo alternatives which must rev hard to deliver. There's a grumpy rumble to the motor which drivers might find uncouth or charming, depending on their tastes.
The same goes for a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which keen drivers might appreciate more than the CVTs served up by Toyota, Honda or Nissan, even if it isn't quite as smooth at very low speeds.
Like many cars in this class, the T-Cross' lofty suspension isn't as plush as its low-riding cousin. It feels a touch busy on bumpy roads and can't match the compliance of a similarly-priced Golf. Those taller springs can make the car feel floaty at speed, though few customers will choose this car in search of driving nirvana.
The big surprise is a shift from soft-touch cabin plastics to hard materials on the dash and doors.
The class-leading quality found in most Volkswagen models isn't obvious here.
Instead, customers get a roomy cabin with space for full-sized adults in the back - something which can't be said of many competitors.
There are twin USB points in the rear, and the back seat slides fore and aft to prioritise leg room or cargo space as required. The boot varies between 385 and 455 litres, making it among the biggest in this class. A temporary spare wheel is better than an inflation kit.
Volkswagen was bold to reduce the standard of quality regular customers are used to, but folks new to the brand won't notice anything amiss.
Dated dash dials and a basic monochrome display feel old-hat compared to VW's best work (check out the new Golf arriving for similar money at the end of the year) though buyers who care about such things can upgrade to a classy digital readout unmatched in this class.
The T-Roc's teachers might report that it's a good rather than great effort turned in late by a distracted brand.
But it still represents one of the better students in a broadly under-performing class.
Price: From $29,990 drive-away
Engine: 1.0-litre 3-cylinder turbo, 85kW/200Nm
Warranty/Service: 5-year/unlimited km, $1800 for five years
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, lane keeping assistance
Cargo: 455 litres
Originally published as New arrival will shake up the SUV market