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There’s no hiding the fact that South Africans are besotted with Volkswagens, if the monthly sales are anything to go by. That’s heavily weighted toward the lower end of the offering of course, with the likes of Polos and Polo Vivos flying off the shelf nearly as quickly as they can make them.
That doesn’t quite capture the rapidly growing crossover segment, though. So that’s what today’s offering is all about. Called the T-Cross, this is Volkswagen’s small crossover introduced to leverage off of the brand’s massive local goodwill. Whether one should buy a T-Cross just because of the Volkswagen badge on the front is another story though, one which we’re about to unpack.
We tested the Comfortline 1.0 TSI derivative recently. Comfortline is the base spec option for a T-Cross and will set you back R374,300 in standard trim and frankly, at that money, you should simply look elsewhere. Having spent a week behind the wheel, along with a few trips in the rear seats, I can safely say that the T Cross is not a vehicle I’d consider owning.
Let’s discuss the engine and gearbox. The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol unit produces enough power at 85 kW and offers 200 N.m of torque. It’s mated to the acclaimed VW dual-clutch gearbox. The combo unfortunately doesn’t seem well-suited, or perhaps VW just couldn’t have been bothered to fiddle with the software to get the power delivery right. It’s not bad, but at R374,300, not refined enough. It’s supposed to be quite fuel efficient too, with claimed at 5.3 litres/100 km but it simply isn’t. Not if you want to keep up with traffic, at least.
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Then there’s the ride quality. This is basically a Polo on stilts and the Polo is actually a fairly comfortable thing, especially in base spec where the wheels are of a reasonably small size. The same goes for the T-Cross Comfortline, which normally comes on 16-inch wheels with a bit of sidewall in the tyre. Not so for my test unit, which was fitted with the optional Manila 17-inch wheels shod on low-profile tyres (part of the R-Line package). That, in combination with suspension set up to control additional body roll that comes with a raised centre of gravity, results in a crashy ride.
Inside, the T-Cross boasts about the same amount of space as a Polo. So you can fit four adults and some luggage, perhaps. It’s equipped with features such as Bluetooth, air-conditioning, cruise control, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers. That’s not too shabby a list of features, I must admit. However, having to spend time inside the cabin to make use of said features isn’t what I’d call pleasant thanks to poor noise insulation, especially noticeable in the rear. It’s like VW missed some sound deadening in the boot and that road noise then resonates up through the parcel shelf and into the cabin.
So I guess by now you’re all wondering what car I would recommend in this segment. Well, there are many. The Mazda CX-3, for example. It features a better powertrain, being a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit with a conventional automatic gearbox and will deliver decent economy. It feels better made, has the same list of features and boasts a more premium interior fit and finish. Will probably be more reliable too (go read up on DSG gearbox failures). If you want something a little different, the Hyundai Venue is a cracking little crossover. I could go on but I think by now you get the picture.
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