SOMETIMES there are advantages to being outwardly a little “square”, it seems.
When another compact SUV from Volkswagen arrived in UK showrooms in the form of the T-Cross earlier this year it was hard to ignore the fact that it could very well step on the toes of the group’s previous all-new model launch — the T-Roc.
The stylish T-Roc might well be pitched at the sportier, more dynamic and premium looking entrant to this part of the market, but with prices starting at around £3,000 less, the T-Cross is clearly the practical choice.
It may be 10cm shorter and marginally narrower, but the newcomer’ honest delivery of interior accommodation by way of a taller, squarer silhouette delivers added practicality in the way of increased headroom and an extra 10-litres of boot space (445 vs 455).
Prices start at £16,995 for the TCross, but despite being served-up in the SE trim, which sits just above the entry-level S offering, my test car came in at £19,890 after the £725 addition of sat-nav with live updates and a speed limit display and some £85 floor mats.
An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard, however, and if you connect your smartphone you’ll be able to use the excellent Google Maps app in fully-integrated fashion anyway.
Where the T-Cross does fall short of the T-Roc and some other VWs is in outright interior quality.
All the controls are as intuitive as we’ve come to expect of the brand and everything feels solid enough, but the plastics are cheaper, less pliant and tactile than those found even in the new Polo.
There’s the option of some neat design upgrades, but there’s a sense that this is one VW vehicle that doesn’t run away with class honours for cabin quality with the likes of Peugeot’s 2008 and Kia’s Stonic the key challengers.
At launch the T-Cross was available only with VW’s impressive onelitre, three-cylinder TSI turbocharged petrol engine in either 95PS or 115PS states of tune — the latter adding the option of a seven-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox.
A 1.6-litre 95PS turbodiesel was added to the line-up last month, but its marginal fuel economy gains over the petrol — 52.9mpg vs 48.9mpg in the most economical from of each — and a price tag of over £20,000 makes it fairly unappealing.
Equipped with the 95PS petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox here, the T-Cross doesn’t deliver what you might call spirited performance.
Its 11.2-second claimed acceleration to 62mph and 112mph top speed feels pretty tepid in a world where even the average family car is fairly rapid.
While adaptive cruise control and Lane Assist systems take the stress out of the lack of power on longer journeys, this is a vehicle clearly developed with shorter, urban driving in mind.
Generally its controls feel light and biddable, the engine keen enough at lower speeds, and those modest dimensions aligned to impressive interior space strike a good balance. VW’s economy claims for the car, as tested here, are fuel economy of 41.9 to 56.2mpg under the new WLTP test regime, alongside CO2 emissions of 112g/km.
All considered, the T-Cross is the VW that feels more aligned to the more functional, slightly less premium formula of its Skoda sister brand than any other.
It’s a car that perhaps forgoes a little of that outright premium polish to deliver truly practical urban family transport.
Combining that formula with a badge that still seems to hold its own unique allure, it could yet prove that there is room for two compact SUV’s in the German brand’s line-up yet… even if it comes at the cost of being considered just a little bit “square”.