REVIEW | It's easy to see why the 2020 VW T-Cross is such a strong seller
It was one of those products destined for success even before going on sale: a compact sport utility vehicle with a Volkswagen badge on its nose – two things that strike a chord with the local market when viewed in isolation.
The numbers attest to the success of the pairing. In February, for example, the T-Cross ranked a respectable fifth in the sales figures for the brand. At 462 units, it slotted behind the Tiguan (529), Polo sedan (540), Polo (2120) and Polo Vivo (2417). Yes folks, the once-mighty Golf no longer plays as big a role in the line-up as it did before.
What also makes for compelling observation is the sales race between the T-Cross and like-minded peers. In the same month, the Hyundai Venue sold 394 units and Kia shifted 377 copies of the Seltos. Meanwhile, Citroën sold 18 examples of the C3 Aircross. It must be said that this group of four lays claim to a commendable level of basic competence in the areas that matter. And as always, we advise that you go out there and plant yourself in the power seat of each before making a call.
But the equity of a brand like Volkswagen is arguably so solid that many consumers are going to pick a T-Cross from the outset, without even going for a test drive. So after living with one for five days, let me give you an idea of what you are in for.
First, the bad. Those interior plastics are not as up-to-scratch as you might have been expecting. A fitting descriptor, perhaps, since the coarse and hard surfaces are of the scratchy-textured variety one is generally used to seeing in budget-orientated offerings.
Next point of criticism: the intrusive nature of the stop-start system. The interval between removing your foot off the brake and having the engine restart borders on dangerous - in a Johannesburg context at least, where the impatient chap in the BMW 3-Series (E90) behind you is just about ready to plant his kidney grilles in your rear bumper should you not move the millisecond those lights turn green.
So, Volkswagen, address those two points in the facelift model.
Now for the good. It looks utterly handsome, even in the subdued shade of white - surprising, since all the ones on the billboards are either teal or orange.
Our Highline test unit wore the optional R-Line regalia with confidence. It is an outfit that seems almost imperative in South Africa, judging from the ubiquity of Polo, Golf and Tiguan models seen wearing it. We prioritise style. Interestingly, the options list states that a removable towbar cannot be specified with the R-Line package.
My neighbour, with his Comfortline-grade T-Cross purchased in December last year, seemed to steal more than a few glances, ostensibly with some regret. Oh well, exterior embellishments are for the benefit of those outside. From the main chair of the T-Cross, there are other aspects to delight in.
Like the slick-shifting, seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic (DSG), which complements the three-cylinder, turbocharged-petrol engine really well. Its 1.0-litre displacement is good for 85kW and 200Nm. The same unit in a lesser state of tune was promised at launch last year, though it is not yet listed on the Volkswagen website.
A boosted 1.5-litre with four cylinders can also be had, delivering 110kW and 250Nm, also coupled with the seven-speed transmission. It is available exclusively in R-Line guise. One gets the impression however that this 85kW/200Nm choice is the sweet spot.
Although it can err on the thirsty side when wound up around the cut-and-thrust of urban commutes. The average consumption displayed at the end of my stint in the car, spanning over 400km, was 7.7l/100km.
Basic pricing kicks off at R364,300. That can go north rather quickly if you forgo restraint with the list of optional extras.
I had an interesting thought while drawing this story to an end. With the SUV and crossover genres supplanting the humble hatchback in popularity, what if the next product to wear the budget-denoting Vivo suffix is a T-Cross?
If this is the case a decade from now, remember where you read the idea first.