The Mazda CX-3 does an incredible job of selling like hotcakes in Australia, despite the fact it's effectively a jacked-up, more expensive Mazda 2.
So, without an SUV smaller than the Tiguan, Volkswagen thought it would be about time to pull the trigger on a raft of new SUVs, starting at the smallest end of the scale with the all-new 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross.
Sitting on the same platform as the entry-level Polo, the T-Cross measures 4107mm long (which is 54mm longer than the Polo) and sits on a 2563mm wheelbase (13mm longer than the Polo). It's 1750mm wide (1mm less than the Polo) and 1558mm high (112mm higher than the Polo), which means it's roughly the same size as the Polo but offers drivers easier ingress and egress.
We constantly get calls from older people on radio, who ask which car they should buy if they need something easier to get in and out of without sitting too high off the ground. It's these buyers, along with younger buyers chasing the appearance of an SUV without the overall size, the T-Cross will aim to target.
Pricing and specifications are yet to be confirmed for Australia, but we expect it to arrive around May next year with an asking price in the mid-high $20,000 range.
Powering the Australian specification will be a single drivetrain. It's a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 85kW of power and a healthy 200Nm of torque. It will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and will exclusively send torque through the front wheels.
From the outside, the T-Cross is quite a handsome-looking car. We had the chance to briefly drive an R-Line specification in Germany, which helped the T-Cross stand out in traffic.
Inside the cabin, it's loaded with usable tech and features the target demographic is going to love.
Central to the cabin is an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with high-resolution graphics and inbuilt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with wireless phone charging, dual USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity.
It's backed by the availability of an active information display ahead of the driver, which presents information via a full LCD screen that can display a combination of vehicle functions and trip computer.
You'll even find tech like semi-autonomous parking, which means you'll never need to contend with a kerbed wheel when parking.
Some of the plastics around the cabin feel quite cheap. We were hoping to see a more upmarket feel around the cabin, which is one of the few things that lets the Polo down. Compared to the CX-3, for example, the T-Cross feels a little low-rent, despite the high-end technology equipment fitted to the car.
The second row and cargo area is pretty interesting because it's a versatile space that doubles as a passenger area and adjustable cargo space.
Fitted to a sliding mechanism, the second row can move backwards to increase leg room, or slide forward to increase boot room. With the second row slid all the way forward, cargo capacity increases to 455L, while dropping the second row increases space to 1281L.
Will a 1.0-litre engine offer enough punch to move the T-Cross along with any great pace? We hit the road over a mix of city and Autobahn to see how the T-Cross would cope being led by a three-cylinder engine.
Part of the appeal to this engine is the raspy idle it has. Three-cylinder engines are inherently slightly unbalanced, and it gives the car a bit of character when it's sitting there.
As you accelerate, there is an equally unique engine note that arcs up. It's a throaty thrum that makes you feel like you're going a lot faster than you are. It's plenty quick, too, with 200Nm of torque on tap and a pretty snappy dual-clutch gearbox.
I'm not a huge fan of dual-clutch gearboxes at low speeds, and this one is no exception. It feels somewhat elastic and isn't a fan of small movements at low speeds. Once it's moving it's fine, but it's low-speed manoeuvres coupled with the stop-start system that make it a little unpleasant.
The ride in and around town over cobbled streets and undulations is excellent. This is one aspect Volkswagen tends to nail with its cars, regardless of the size of wheels they're riding on.
Surprisingly, as the speed picks up, the cabin remains quiet, and even on derestricted sections of the Autobahn it was happy to sit at 150km/h+ without raising much of a sweat.
It'll move from 0–100km/h in 10.2 seconds and consumes a combined 4.9 litres of fuel per 100km.
In terms of safety technology, you'll have no issue putting your kids in this car if it's their first. The entire range will come standard with autonomous emergency braking (low and high speed), lane-keeping assistant, a reverse-view camera and rear parking sensors. That's in addition to a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
When it lobs in Australia, the T-Cross will come with a five-year warranty, along with the option of prepaying for service to reduce running costs.
Volkswagen has an exciting range of cars hitting Australian shores next year, and the all-new T-Cross will be one to keep an eye out for.