Category: Comparison

Is the Volkswagen T-Cross a better version of the Polo?

We got to spend a few days with Volkswagen’s popular small SUV – using it to run our errands and see how it stacks up to its smaller sibling – the Polo.

The local automotive market has mostly recovered from the dismal sales caused by Covid-19 disruptions in 2020. New car sales numbers are more or less where they used to be and the popular automakers namely Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen are back to duelling for the top spot in the passenger vehicle segment. While the top two titles are always occupied by South Africa’s preferred vehicle of choice; the bakkie, the third and fourth spot are taken up by Volkswagens Polo Vivo and Polo models which sell in droves. 

These cars are successful for a variety of reasons but chiefly because they are compact, affordable, have an abundance of spare parts and are from a well loved automotive brand locally. Volkswagen have transferred all of this ideology into the T-Cross and while it is not a brand new vehicle to enter their lineup, it is their best-selling SUV according to the June 2021 sales report with 465 units being sold. Which is about a third of the total number for the Polo. 

The popular compact crossover SUV from the German brand can be had in three different levels of trim starting at R352 300 for the basic Comfortline and ranging all the way up to the R-Line priced from R464 900. Our test car was a base Comfortline with the R-Line package. This expectedly costs a little bit more but comes better equipped with features such as a reverse parking camera, roof rails, park distance sensors and an 8” integrated infotainment screen. 

In some respects, you do get a very familiar looking car to the Polo, on both the inside and the outside. This makes sense since both models share the same platform and engines making the T-Cross a pumped up version of the Polo. While it shares some styling similarities to its bigger SUV siblings in Volkswagen’s lineup, the side profile, window-line and shoulder-line are almost identical to the Polo, albeit slightly stretched out on a vertical axis with a bit more rugged plastic.

Overall, its aesthetics consist of a well-proportioned design and restrained styling meaning it’s unlikely to snap pedestrians necks as you drive by, especially in Limestone Grey Metallic. Its purpose is far more focused on function by being a proponent of a more adventure-capable lifestyle.

At 180mm of ground clearance, 12mm more than the Polo, it can easily navigate onto pavements and tackle uneven off-road surfaces. The plush suspension is one of its most notable features as it can traverse speed bumps and loose gravel roads effortlessly. Since it is still only a front-wheel driven powertrain, we can’t advise taking this on a hardcore off-roading course but it wouldn’t look out of place on a dirt road or gravel track. 

Like the Polo, the T-Cross Comfortline is powered by a 70kW 1.0 TSI motor mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The pokey 3 cylinder puts out an impressive 175Nm of torque that can often inspire a momentary spin of the front wheels before the traction control gets them back in line. As impressive as this torque figure is coupled to the 1154 kilogram body, the turbo only comes into boost above 2000rpm making stationery pull aways on inclines or fully laden stop-start journeys stall-inducing. In these scenarios, efforts to mitigate this can result in the front wheels screeching and very bemused looking pedestrians or passengers.

Despite this, after the turbo has come alive the torque delivery is smooth and linear all the way up to its redline – very impressive for a 1.0 litre motor! We achieved around 7.5l/100km during our time with the car which isn’t the most frugal but tranquil driving is stated to reward just below 5.0l/100km. 

The 5-speed manual gearbox on our test car was easy to use and comfortable in sedate urban driving scenarios. Where it fell short was on the highway where an additional 6th gear would have been ideal in lowering engine rpm and subsequently improving efficiency and engine noise. That being said, if you are looking for a nippy Volkswagen SUV runabout that is going to be predominantly doing open road/highway journeys then the full T-Cross range can also be specced with a 7 speed DSG which would be the better bet overall. 

The interior provides great forward visibility with a large expanse of glass around the drivers periphery. The front position seems much higher than a Polo yet the fully adjustable steering column and seat provide a platform to get completely comfortable in. The overall head, elbow and legroom in all seats is commendable while the rear door-wells are not awkwardly shaped to get in and out of either, making it more practical than the Polo. It scores well in the comfort and spaciousness department but does unfortunately fall short with interior fit and finish. 

There are a few cheap materials and crude plastic textures, more so than its hatchback sibling. Fortunately, the steering wheel and the main tactile points are soft and comfortable to use. It also comes with an integrated 8” infotainment screen which at times can be a bit sluggish with a reverse camera that isn’t the highest resolution.

If you prefer screen mirroring to the standard display then the T-Cross has you covered with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay accessible via one of two USB-C slots. Easily accessible Isofix anchorage is found on all passenger seats, including the one up front which should appeal to young parents. 

The T-Cross also trumps the Polo in terms of boot capacity with an impressive 385 litres as opposed to equally impressive, but inferior, 351 litres of the latter. The compact crossover SUV from Volkswagen emerges as the victor in most categories except for pricing where the Polo comes out on top starting from R293 800 for the base spec Trendline.

For comparative sake, other competing models in the segment such as the beautifully finished Peugeot 2008 comes in at R364 000 while more affordable options can be had with the seasoned Ford EcoSport at R303 900 or the new Hyundai Venue at R311 000. Included in the R352 300 base price of the T-Cross is a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and 3-year/45 000 km service plan.

The subcompact crossover SUV market is a hotly contested piece of real estate with new entrants from different automakers entering the market almost monthly. Volkswagen fortunately have a customer base that is steadfast in their loyalty and thus the T-Cross can be expected to remain their best selling vehicle in the lineup behind the two Polo models. Like the ageing Ford EcoSport, we can expect this shape to remain in circulation for many years to come but for the price, the Peugeot 2008 in this segment would be a strong alternative with its more refined and pleasant interior design.

Spring is coming! There’s a convertible for everybody.

A convertible for everybody.

Ah! Us South African’s love a good drop-top, don’t we? I mean , what’s better than cruising in the summer heat, feeling sticky whilst the leather seats give us 3rd degree burns? The reality is convertibles should be marketed as winter cars locally, because thankfully we have sunshine and a cool breeze to accompany us. This is assuming you live in Johannesburg, if you’re from Cape Town…eish askies. So, for those looking to get into summer looking fabulous, here are some cars that you might like. We’ve catered for ranging budgets here, so here goes:

Toyota Aygo X-Cite: R 189 500

Coming in at under R200K, this is a car aimed at the young, wild and free. Wild may be an overstatement since it only has a 1.0 litre engine and I don’t know if you can technically call it a convertible, but it will still allow you to feel the wind in your hair. Overall the Aygo X-Cite is an accomplished little car. It’s from a reliable brand, has great connectivity options and is well priced considering the price of anything nowadays. For someone starting out, it’s a decent drop-top to go for.

Toyota Aygo

Fiat 500C: R 240 900

If you can’t spend more than R300K and you happen to be what the youth refer to as a “hipster”, then the Fiat 500C is right up your alley. It has the “I only drink almond milk” appeal to it. Jokes aside, this is a good little car with trendy looks and a summer vibe. It only has a 0.9 litre turbocharged engine but it will still get you from A to B. Again, this is a youthful car, or rather, for someone who doesn’t require much space, as it is compact. It has all the safety features you need and you  also allows you to pair your phone and jam some Katy Perry.

Fiat 500 C

Mazda MX5 Roadster: R 441 700

In theory, this car was meant to be under R400K but we’ll let that extra bit slide. The MX5 really needs no introduction, it’s a small, visceral car that has tons of personality. For decades, the MX5 has offered thrills with its normally aspirated engine and terrific gearbox. The new one doesn’t disappoint toot, too. With it comes a BOSE sound system, heated leather seats and a big grin. It doesn’t have too much power but has enough to keep you driving. If you want some fun at under R500K, this is one great choice.

BMW 2 Series Convertible: R 600 084

Literally scraping the R600K mark, the 2 Series Convertible is a winner in SA with BMW being a brand of aspiration and all. The 220i is what you can get for that money and it gives you a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that has enough power to match its good looks. It’s only available with an 8-speed automatic gearbox so cruising is a stress free thing since all the work is done for you. Those looking for more power have a 230i to choose from and if that’s not enough then there is the M240i, but those cars cost much more. The people’s choice, then, is the 220i since it offers the performance and the looks at a palatable price.

Mercedes C Class Convertible/ Audi A5 Convertible/ BMW 4 Series Convertible -/+ R700 000

These three cars are start at the same price bracket of approximately R700K. All are German engineered and all offer 2.0 litre turbocharged engines as a starting point. There’s really no point is us telling you what’s better than what because it’s all subjective after all, there is no bad car amongst these three. What we can tell you is that all three cars appeal to different people. BMW has always been associated with dynamic driving, whilst Audi is the more chicer option. The Mercedes-Benz is stereotypically the classy car but all of them do the same thing, basically. They are luxurious, they have great standard kit and they carry enough swag to make people look. Isn’t that the whole point of having a drop top? Either way, these are three very good cars indeed.

Audi A5 Convertible

Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line vs Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Powershift

Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line vs Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost Powershift in South Africa

The newly launched Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R Line is a nifty little thing. The exterior look of this car is one that will pique the interest of many buyers. It’s marketed as a “performance” Polo despite it only having a 1.0 litre engine with 3 cylinders, but after driving it we can confirm that its nippy. The question then for you as a buyer is what’s the better buy, this new Polo TSI or perhaps the also-very-good Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost PowerShift Titanium?

 

The specs:

The Ford has been around for a while as consumers have loved the 3 cylinder 1.0 litre EcBoost engine it offers. With 74kW and 170Nm, the little Ford produces good numbers for both city and open road driving thanks to turbocharging. Equipped with the 6 speed PowerShift gearbox, it makes being stuck in traffic bearable since your left foot can rest. The Volkswagen Polo 1.0 litre TSI R Line has similar figures in terms of displacement and forced induction. It too has 3 cylinders but produces more power with 81kW and 200Nm. The difference is not huge but will be felt by keen motorists who love to drive in a hurry. Since both these cars have tiny engines, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that they would be frugal on fuel. The Fiesta has a great claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 4.9 litres/100km, but the Polo edges ahead with a claimed figure of 4.4 litres/100km, again very closely matched.

The looks: 

In this segment, aesthetics play a huge role as cars like these are aimed at youthful individuals and let’s face it, the youth “like things”. In that case then choosing between the Ford and the Volkswagen may be a challenge as they both look great. The Fiesta has ST bits on it, making it look nice and sporty. The Volkswagen on the other hand comes equipped with the R-Line package, giving it too a racier look. On the inside is where the Polo has the slight upper hand as the cabin layout is simpler whereas the Fiesta is a bit too busy. Both cars offer connectivity such as Bluetooth and USB as well as auxiliary input. The new infotainment screen on the Polo is the nicer of the two but Fords SYNC system is quite good to use as well. In terms of overall appeal, the cars are again closely matched but the Volkswagen has a disadvantage. The fact that there are so many on the road may make the car seem more “common” but the R-Line kit can set it apart. Both cars are also four doors so they’re on par when it comes to space and access into the rear.

The Drive:  

The spikey nature of the Fiesta has always been something we’ve enjoyed about the car, it’s an engine with character. As mentioned having an automatic gearbox makes the car easy to live with day to day, so it will be a dream in the city. The Polo however is more of an angry little car. The DSG gearbox in the car has changed the character of the vehicle, giving it an immediacy that’s quite surprising. The way the VW handles too is something you don’t expect from a little 1.0 litre car. The Fiesta will be the one you want if you’re of a more relaxed disposition, whereas the Polo wants to have more fun.

Overall:

Both these cars are great vehicles indeed. At the end of the day it all comes down to preference and of course price. At R290 000, the Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI R-Line is not exactly cheap, the Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost PowerShift Titanium comes in cheaper at R274 900. That price tag comes with a 4 year/60 000km service plan which is a good deal. The Polo only comes with a 3 year/45 000km service plan. So what will you buy? These cars are marketed differently but offer very similar specs. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, we recommend the Polo, but if you want to save some bucks and still have a banging little cool car, the Fiesta is a very good choice too.