Posts

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1 review: power to the people

VW Golf GTI Mk1

In 1975, Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik patented a new type of puzzle. Within three years of reaching the shops, his Rubik’s Cube had sold 200 million. At the same time, another surprise success was brewing in Germany. A team of Volkswagen engineers had been working weekends on an unofficial project called ‘Sport Golf’. After some arm-twisting, managers sanctioned a run of 5,000 cars to homologate the Golf for racing. But the new model – swiftly renamed Golf GTI – was such a hit with press and public alike, production was immediately ramped up from 50 to 500 cars a day. One of motoring’s few true icons had arrived.

The Rubik’s Cube and the Golf GTI are both simple concepts. The Cube is three layers of coloured plastic, yet it has 42 quintillion possible permutations. The GTI was merely a Golf with a 110hp 1.6-litre engine from the Audi 80 GTE, stiffer suspension, cosmetic tweaks and (slightly) better brakes. Yet it was brilliant to drive, without sacrificing practicality or reliability. It captured the zeitgeist and defined a wholly new type of car: the hot hatchback.

Read more Motoring Research reviews FIRST on City AM

Today, that basic formula has hardly changed. The seventh generation Golf GTI has just been phased out (soon to be replaced by the Mk8, while the original has graduated to bona fide classic status. The car pictured here, owned by GTI enthusiast James Bullen, won the ‘Made in Germany’ class at the prestigious London Concours last summer, seeing off a BMW M1, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 and Porsche 930 Turbo LE. Exalted company indeed.

VW Golf GTI Mk1

This isn’t just any Mk1 GTI, though. One of 1,000 Campaign editions built to round-off production of Das Original, it boasts a punchier 112hp 1.8 engine, 14-inch Pirelli ‘P-slot’ alloys (with Pirelli tyres), a twin-headlamp grille, green-tinted glass and a leather steering wheel. It’s also in breathtaking, better-than-new condition. The first owner paid £6,949 in 1983, but a GTI of this calibre could cost £30,000 now. To think I once bought one for £800…

Those memories of my much-loved Mk1 soon come flooding back. Giugiaro’s ‘folded paper’ styling still looks fresh, while that red go-faster stripe – endlessly imitated – hints at excitement to come. Inside, it’s less evocative: upright, functional and slightly austere. Still, a dimpled golf-ball gear knob lightens the mood, and there’s no faulting the textbook Teutonic build quality. The unassisted steering feels heavy and the Golf’s five-speed ’box is obstinate when cold, but it immediately feels peppy and well-suited to city streets. At 3,725mm long and 1,625 wide, it’s actually smaller than a current VW Polo.

VW Golf GTI Mk1

On open roads, the featherweight 840kg Mk1 is plenty fast enough to be fun. Its fuel-injected engine punches confidently out of corners, revving beyond 6,000rpm with real verve, while a fluid, forgiving chassis helps you maintain momentum, despite the modest grip. Push hard and you can lift an inside rear wheel, or even provoke a slide, yet it never feels edgy or unpredictable like the equally iconic Peugeot 205 GTI. Then as now, Volkswagen has always played it safe.

Driven: the cars that shaped Volkswagen’s past – and future

As for the brakes – the Achilles’ heel of right-hand-drive Mk1s, due to a convoluted cross-linkage – they’re actually better than I remembered. Then again, my Golf GTI was hardly perfectly preserved like this one, and I too am erring on the side of caution. Much as I’ve relished driving James’s pride and joy, I’m quietly glad to hand it back unscathed.

Price: £8,000+

0-62mph: 8.2sec

Top speed: 114mph

Horsepower: 112

MPG combined: 36.7

Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1: in pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2020 Volkswagen Golf review: the benchmark is back

2020 Volkswagen Golf

Back in September, Volkswagen revealed its ID.3 electric car. The Beetle, we were told, was ID.1 – the original ‘people’s car’ and beating heart of the brand – while the subsequent Golf was ID.2. Now, as a new Golf is launched to the world, there’s a sense it’s already yesterday’s hero.

So it felt until I spent an hour with some VW engineers, at least. These guys, whose specialist subjects ranged from engines to autonomous driving tech, still take the Golf very seriously. And rightly so: since 1974, more than 35 million have been sold. Somebody, somewhere, buys a new Golf every 40 seconds.

The ID range and its ‘new, dynamic era in the world of e-mobility’ may be coming, but the Golf hasn’t stood still. Indeed, this is the most radical, forward-thinking version of Das Auto yet. Not that you realise it at first…

The Golf club2020 Volkswagen Golf

Arriving in Portugal, I see the Mk8 Golf lined up alongside all seven previous generations. It looks a chip off the old block. Details have changed, such as the swoopy LED headlights and spot-the-difference VW logo, but the confident creases, kinked C-pillar and hewn-from-solid silhouette are instantly familiar.

In fact, the Golf uses the same ‘MQB’ platform as the outgoing model, so its wheelbase is identical. Overall, it’s a modest 29mm longer, 10mm wider and 4mm taller. Interior space is claimed to be ‘practically unchanged’.

Like most mid-size hatchbacks, the Golf is now five-door only – the three-door had dwindled to just five percent of sales. An estate version arrives in 2020, but the MPV-shaped Golf SV won’t be replaced. The arrival of the genre-busting T-Roc Cabriolet makes a drop-top look unlikely, too.

So far, so uneventful. Still, you can hardly blame design boss Klaus Bischoff for playing safe with a best-seller. He describes the Golf “an indicator of the present” that helps “millions of people [with] feeling at home”. One can only assume his interior design team missed the memo.

Crazy Golf2020 Volkswagen Golf

Inside, the new Golf has more in common with the ID.3 than its Mk7 predecessor. Volkswagen calls it a ‘digitalised workplace’ – and while it’s brimful of showroom appeal, learning your way around does initially feel like work.

Front-and-centre is the new Innovision digital dashboard, which has few physical buttons. A 10-inch central screen is standard in the UK (other countries get an 8.25-inch version), flanked by touch-sensitive sliders for heating/cooling and audio volume. The process is rather like swiping the screen of a smartphone.

You can also use gesture control for some functions, such as waving your hand to move between menus. Plus there’s voice control with integrated Amazon Alexa: say “Hello Volkswagen” to call up a song from your playlist, turn up the heating or find a nearby petrol station.

Ambient lighting is another feature that has filtered down from loftier cars. Pick from 32 colours or choose one of five ‘moods’: Infinity, Eternity, Euphoria, Vitality and Desire. Don’t choose the latter for a first date.

Putters and drivers2020 Volkswagen Golf

If all this sounds like the result of too many macchiatos at a marketing meeting, be reassured to know the Golf’s engines are steadfastly sensible. At least until the full suite of performance models – GTI, GTI TCR, GTD, GTE and R – arrive later in 2020.

The line-up at launch comprises 1.5 TSI four-cylinder petrol (130hp or 150hp) and 2.0 TDI diesel (115hp or 150hp), with the 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder petrol (90hp or 110hp) following soon afterwards. A 48v eTSI mild-hybrid system, which recuperates braking energy to save fuel, is available on 100hp, 130hp and 150hp petrol engines, but only with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Your other choice is a six-speed manual.

Details of the sportier versions are scarce, but we know the GTE plug-in hybrid will develop 245hp, a sizeable leap from 204hp in the Mk7. There won’t be a fully electric Mk8, as that box is ticked by the ID.3. However, Volkswagen has given the existing e-Golf a stay of execution until its new EV fully commences production.

As for trim levels, the structure now mirrors the German market, starting with ‘Golf’, then rising via Life and Style to top-spec R-Line. At the time of writing, UK equipment levels and prices had yet to be confirmed.

Time to tee off2020 Volkswagen Golf

My first instinct is to jump into the flawless Mk1 Golf and screech away in a cloud of hydrocarbons. However, I have a job to do, and the Mk8 awaits. Besides, it’s December and the new car has a proper heater. Heated steering wheel and seats, too.

I start in a 1.5 TSI petrol in Life trim with a manual ’box, predicted to be the best-selling version in the UK. As for the vivid Lime Yellow paint, that will be less common. More’s the pity.

As ever, the Golf feels impeccably well assembled – insert cliché about Germanic build quality here – although there are some plastics that wouldn’t pass muster in, say, a Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The unlined glovebox, which causes loose items to rattle around, also smacks of penny-pinching.

The firmly padded seats, with an optional massage function, are very comfortable, and finding a good driving position is easy. The digital dials are also clear, augmented in some models by a head-up display (which projects essential driving data, such as your speed, onto the windscreen). Peering out over the plunging bonnet, I ease out the light clutch and I’m away.

Fore to the floor2020 Volkswagen Golf

The turbocharged 1.5-litre engine is no ball of fire, but it revs eagerly and propels the Golf to 62mph in 8.5 seconds and 139mph flat-out. Its Mk7 equivalent managed fuel economy of 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 116g/km, so expect similar figures when the Mk8 undergoes official WLTP tests soon.

Where the TSI motor really impresses is refinement; it’s turbine-smooth, isolated to the point of being almost inaudible around town. At speed, this only serves to amplify wind roar from the chunky door mirrors, although the Golf remains an able and long-legged cruiser. Countless development miles on Germany’s autobahns have clearly paid off.

The manual gearbox feels well-oiled and easy to operate. It’s likely to be around £1,400 cheaper than the DSG auto upfront, and require less maintenance longer-term. However, that’s only a concern if you keep the car beyond its three-year UK warranty (also the usual term of a PCP finance deal).

Par for the course2020 Volkswagen Golf

The VW’s chassis is also geared towards easygoing comfort. Its steering, light and accurate, filters out the fingertip feedback some drivers will crave in favour of calm control. Its suspension also strikes a good balance between absorbing bumps and resisting roll.

On a series of mountain switchbacks near Porto, the car was genuine fun: its well-weighted controls and unruffled composure helping me chase down locals in careworn Renault Clios, many of whom treated the road like a rally stage.

There are some caveats, though. All the launch cars had multi-link rear suspension, while cheaper models make do with a simpler torsion beam (also true for the Focus). P;us all were fitted with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), which includes continuously variable dampers and four driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.

Switching to Sport isn’t transformative, but it does add extra heft to the steering and more zing to the throttle response. Granted, the Golf isn’t as lively or engaging as a Ford Focus, but wasn’t it ever thus? The essential rightness of the recipe bodes well for the GTI and R.

Into the rough2020 Volkswagen Golf

I then swap into a 150hp diesel with an automatic transmission, also in Lime Yellow. This 2.0-litre TDI offers markedly more torque – 266lb ft at 1,750rpm, versus 184lb ft at 1,500rpm in the 150hp petrol – which is immediately apparent on the road. The instant oomph, combined with seamless shifts from the DSG ’box, make for a compelling combination.

Preferable to the petrol? Well, the TDI is certainly more vocal, although its subtle snarl is a world away from clattering diesels of old. Inevitably, it will also be more expensive to buy – probably by around £1,200 if Mk7 prices are an accurate guide.

Nonetheless, for all the bad press about diesel (much of Volkswagen’s own making, of course), it’s certainly no poor relation. The 0.3 seconds it gives away from zero to 62mph is amply compensated for by mid-range muscle. Plus, what’s not to like about more miles per gallon?

Help or handicap?2020 Volkswagen Golf

As for the Innovision cockpit, I’m not fully convinced. One thing I’ve always loved about the Golf – and I speak as a serial owner, with Mk1, Mk2, Mk4 and Mk5 models under my belt – is its no-nonsense approach to ergonomics. For its core audience, middle-aged and middle-class, the minimalist design and deference to touch controls may not be perceived as progress.

The slider for audio volume is a case in point. I found it only worked with a firm push, and I’d end up checking the screen for confirmation – thus taking my eyes off the road. Admittedly, there is a volume switch on the steering wheel, but that’s missing the point: technology should make things simpler. The same goes for the voice controls, which were hit-and-miss at best.

Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned. There is also much useful tech here. The optional matrix LED headlights, for example, are fantastic, actively dimming sections of the high beam so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic. The new Car2X wi-fi function is clever, too; it allows the car to communicate directly with others nearby (only other Golfs at present, but the EU-standard tech is being trialled by other brands) in order to warn drivers of approaching hazards.

Hole-in-one2020 Volkswagen Golf

Brands within the Volkswagen Group seem to be steadily moving upmarket. Thus Skoda becomes more like VW, while VW edges closer to Audi. Where Bugatti goes next is anyone’s guess.

Prise those redesigned roundels off the Golf and it could easily be an Audi A3. Its interior has the requisite wow-factor and the technology sets new standards for a ‘mainstream’ hatchback. Build quality and refinement also measure up to premium rivals. Let’s just hope the Golf’s price doesn’t.

Much has changed, then, but the Golf still feels like the benchmark in its class. Its broad appeal and breadth of abilities make it the default ‘people’s car’ – for 45 years and counting. Don’t write this Volkswagen out of history yet.

2020 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI: specification2020 Volkswagen Golf

Price: TBC
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power: 130hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 184lb ft at 1,500rpm
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 139mph
Fuel economy: TBC
CO2: TBC
Length/width/height: 4,284/1,789/1,456mm
Boot size: 380-1,237 litres
On sale: February 2020

2020 Volkswagen Golf: in pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Magic e-bus: Volkswagen electrifies its classic camper

Volkswagen e-Bus electric camper

Volkswagen has followed up its electric Beetle with a battery-powered bus. The Type 2 camper uses the running gear from an e-Golf.

Like the Beetle, the Type 2 swaps out its rear-mounted air-cooled engine for an electric motor and battery pack. It features the Golf’s 35.8 kWh battery and 100 kW synchronous AC permanent magnet electric motor. That gives the ‘e-Bus’ an approximate range of 125 miles.

It also borrows the Golf’s single-speed transmission and charging system. The batteries can be found under the front seats, as well as where the fuel tank used to be. 

Volkswagen e-Bus electric camper

That is where the changes end, however. As with the Beetle, the aesthetic of the Type 2 Bay Window goes largely unchanged, maintaining its classic appeal.

Even the long-throw gear shifter of the original bus remains, albeit with new park, reverse, neutral, drive and regenerative braking modes. What is different inside is the digital dashboard, but even that is classically-styled.

The project is a collaboration between Volkswagen USA and EV West, an electric vehicle parts and EV conversion company. The latter has plenty of prior experience swapping electric powertrains into everything from classics to track cars. 

Volkswagen e-Bus electric camper

“Their passion for classic-car culture and commitment to renewable energy made EV West the ideal choice for this project,” said Mathew Renna of Volkswagen. 

“We thought, who better to see if the e-Golf powertrain would be the perfect fit for our older vehicles? It’s great to see that the spirit of hot-rodding is going to live on into the electric age.”

Volkswagen e-Bus electric camper

“We are very excited to be a part of this project,” said Michael Bream, CEO of EV West. 

“Merging a historic model from an iconic brand with the technology of today, is just one of many ways that we can step closer to a more sustainable future while continuing to enjoy our rich automotive heritage.” 

In pictures: Volkswagen e-Bus electric camper

Volkswagen Golf GTI M52 boosted to R-rivalling 310hp

Mountune M52 Golf GTI

Mountune’s new M52 division has launched an upgrade package for the Volkswagen Golf GTI, boosting the iconic hot hatch to 310hp. The Stage One kit comes hot on the heels of a similar upgrade for the Golf R.

The Stage One GTI calibration is essentially a software tweak, which you can install yourself at home. Costing £715.50, it’s described as ‘an affordable option to dramatically increase the performance of the GTI whilst retaining an OEM+ feel’.

Mountune M52 Golf GTI

Five settings are included in the Stage One package, including ‘stock’, ‘valet’ and ‘anti-theft’. For those worried about their standard clutch kit, there’s also a low-torque tune included.

In terms of acceleration, the 0-60mph dash is cut from 6.4 to 5.4 seconds. You can even time it using the performance measurement facility. Also included is a gauge display, adjustable shift light, data logger, fault code reader, zip-up case with associated wiring and the all-important M52 badge. 

If you want to give your GTI some growl to go with the added bite, M52 offers its X3 induction system. We sampled this on the company’s demo Golf R and it certainly added some throatiness to the EA888 engine’s soundtrack. 

Mountune M52 Golf GTI

“The Mk7.5 Golf GTI Stage One upgrade is the latest development to come from M52,” said Alec Pell-Johnson, director of Mountune and M52. 

“We are still relatively new to the world of VW performance upgrades, but using our knowledge and expertise gained from our time working with Ford vehicles, we have been able to produce a high-quality power upgrade that comes at an affordable price. We are looking forward to seeing the response from our ever-growing M52 community.”

California dreaming: Volkswagen bus updated with new tech

Volkswagen California update 2019

Volkswagen has updated its California camper for 2019. There’s a freshened face, living area upgrade, more safety tech and electric power steering.

Here’s what you need to know about the new bus.

Getting a grilling

On the outside, the new California gains Volkswagen’s corporate nose. There’s a large grille spanning the area between the angular headlights, plus a larger vent beneath.

Other than that, it’s business as usual. What matters most with a camper is what’s inside, after all.

Changing rooms

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New alloy handles on all cupboard doors join push-button opening for the sink, cooker and fridge. There are sliding doors in place of shutters for the rear cupboard and wood grain trim.

There are also new beds with a sprung base for better comfort. A ‘sunrise function’ uses individually selectable LEDs in the roof to slowly raise the brightness around wake-up time.

Digital revolution

Volkswagen California update 2019

This and many other functions can now be controlled by the new full-colour touchscreen instrument panel. Menu items include Camping, Cool Box, Light and Set-Up. 

The hydraulically deployable roof can be set on its way via the Pop-Up Roof menu, while there’s also a Level function, which acts as a spirit level for the bus. That should help when deciding where to park your California for a secure and comfortable night’s sleep.

The new overhead control panel joins upgraded infotainment, which comes with greater smartphone integration and connectivity – including the now-familiar VW Active Info Display as an option. Buyers can choose from 6.5-, 8- and 9.2-inch screens.

Turning electric

Volkswagen California update 2019

The new California switches from hydraulic to electric power steering. This allows for the integration of Lane Assist, Park Assist and Trailer Assist semi-autonomous driving functions.

The most innovative new feature is probably Cross Wind Assist, which helps stabilise the van when there are strong side winds.

Exclusive: VW Motorsport boss talks ID.R and how it relates to road cars

Volkswagen ID.RThis weekend at Goodwood Festival of Speed, the electric Volkswagen ID.R smashed a McLaren Formula 1 car’s 20-year-old hillclimb record, twice. All after less than two years of development.

For engineers like VW Motorsport director Sven Smeets, EVs are a new and near-unexplored frontier.

We caught up with him at Goodwood to talk ID.R, developing electric power and how this radical racer relates to what we’ll be driving in years to come.

The Goodwood hillclimb record

Just so we’re clear on the ID.R’s performance, that previous record was 41.6 seconds, set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld driving a McLaren MP4/13. The McLaren was fully prepared for the run, with custom gearing and tyre warmers keeping its rubber toasty for the start.

The ID.R, driven by Romain Dumas, posted a 41.1sec on Friday, a 39.9sec on Saturday and then a 42.3 during Sunday’s official shootout… in the wet.

Last year, the first variant of the ID.R took the Pikes Peak hillclimb record, and it’s since become the second fastest car around the Nurburgring. Let’s learn more from Sven Smeets…Sven Smeets

What were the biggest leaps forward with ID.R?

“If we went back to Pikes Peak, the car would be completely different. The battery could have serious weight reduction – and I’m not talking about 5kg – versus what we have now. Of course, the less weight we have, the less drag on the battery. Everything else follows.

“We already have some idea of how we would get more power. There are plenty of ‘next time’ ideas. If we went back now to the beginning, the car would look completely different.”

What have you learned from running at Goodwood?

“We have much fewer cells here, but we’re still asking for serious performance. We’ve learned about the balance between performance extraction and heat management. It’s interesting, how you regulate to optimise. You look after the battery like it’s your baby.”Volkswagen ID.R

Your thoughts on the ID.R’s record run?

“We were a little bit taken by surprise, to be honest. I spoke to Romain when we were testing and he was not super-optimistic. Because rain was forecast for Sunday, we had Friday and Saturday to give it a go.

“Of course, the record was our target, but we wanted to build up to it. Romain had a bad start, and a bad first corner because he was distracted by the start. Yet he still got 41 seconds. 

Will there be another ID.R?

“We have some ideas for the future, which we will be discussing with marketing and the board from August through September. Hopefully some of them will be taken up, including some that go in different directions from records and hillclimbs like this.

“Things that were not possible in 2017, we can do now. In 2016, the Nurburgring lap wouldn’t have been achieved.”

Romain DumasHow does the ID.R relate to road cars?

“On a certain level, we are interacting with the team behind the ID road cars. There is big work behind the scenes so that by 2022 there will be something properly presented. Many things are asked of us.

“We have a one-to-one connection with the performance people who build Volkswagen ‘R’ cars today. They will get our first electric test car. In terms of what we do, it’s very interesting for them to see what happens.” 

Volkswagen T-Cross review: a Polo with SUV attitude

Volkswagen T-Cross

Small and tall: that’s how increasing numbers of people like their cars. The market for supermini-sized SUVs is booming. And Volkswagen, with the new T-Cross, wants a slice of that crossover cake.

Nissan launched the Juke – arguably the car that popularised the compact crossover – back in 2010, so Volkswagen is late to the party. Its many rivals now include the Renault Captur, Ford Ecosport, Vauxhall Mokka X, Citroen C3 Aircross, Peugeot 2008, Seat Arona and new Skoda Kamiq.

The T-Cross is on sale from April 2019, with prices starting at £16,995. Can it stand out in such a crowded class?

It’s a pumped-up Polo

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen likes SUVs that start with a ‘T’. And it now offers five of them: T-Cross, T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg (in order of size, from little to large).

The T-Cross is based on the Polo hatchback, but is 54mm longer and a lofty 138mm taller. Its footprint is roughly the same size as Mk5 (2003-2009) VW Golf, so we use the word ‘little’ advisedly here.

Four vertically-unchallenged adults – five at a squeeze – can sit comfortably, and the boot holds 385 litres. That compares to 355 litres in a Polo.

The styling is chunky and funky

Volkswagen T-Cross

Whether owners acknowledge it or not, part of crossovers’ appeal is how they look. They compress the rugged style of an SUV into a smaller, more socially acceptable package.

The T-Cross isn’t as radical as some rivals, but it’s more than simply a high-riding hatchback. Pumped-up wheelarches, chunky sills and a stocky stance bestow a suitably ‘go-anywhere’ look. Never mind that most won’t venture further off-road than mounting a kerb.

Its most distinctive angle is the rear view, especially the full-width light bar. Trend-spotters will recognise this as the must-have styling feature for 2019, seen on the new Porsche 911, Peugeot 508, Audi A8 and others.

Volkswagen calls it an ‘urban SUV’

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross won’t be climbing any mountains, then – particularly as all versions are front-wheel drive. Customer demand for a 4×4 model simply isn’t there, we’re told. The Suzuki Jimny can breathe easy.

Volkswagen calls this an ‘urban SUV’, which sounds like an oxymoron. However, an elevated driving position and squared-off bodywork do help when manoeuvring and parking. Those beefier bumpers might be beneficial on city streets, too. Leaving the airport in Palma, Mallorca’s congested capital, the T-Cross felt instantly at home.

Visibility is further heightened (literally) for rear passengers, who benefit from theatre-style seating. They’re perched around 50mm higher than the driver and front passenger, allowing a good view of the road ahead.

There’s one engine, with two power outputs

Volkswagen T-Cross

Two engines are offered at launch. Actually, if we’re being pedantic, there’s just one – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol – but available in two states of tune.

The entry-level 95hp motor serves up 62mph in 11.5 seconds, with fuel consumption of 57.6mpg and 112g/km CO2. Trade up to the 115hp version and you’ll hit 62mph in 10.2 seconds, and economy and emissions are identical. Note these are NEDC figures, though; the more stringent WLTP stats, which become mandatory later in 2019, aren’t available yet.

In terms of transmissions, the 95hp car has a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the 115hp model offers a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic.

Other European markets get 150hp 1.5 petrol and 95hp 1.6 diesel engines. The former may come to the UK at a later date, depending on demand.

It’s practical enough for a small family

Volkswagen T-Cross

This car has the R-Line styling tweaks. Two 1.0-litre TSI petrol engines are available in the UK: 95hp and 115hp.

Not all crossovers are as capacious as they look, but the T-Cross is usefully more practical than a Polo. It would be perfectly adequate for a couple with one child.

One useful feature is the sliding rear seat. Move it fully forward and luggage space swells from 385 to 455 litres. The only downside is a large downward step in the boot floor. The front passenger seat backrest also flips down for loading long objects.

There’s plenty of stowage space for family detritus, plus up to four USB ports for charging phones, tablets and other devices. Cries of “Are we there yet?” should be a thing of the past.

The interior is packed with tech

Volkswagen T-Cross

Indeed, technology is a T-Cross strong suit. An intuitive eight-inch touchscreen media system is fitted to all models, and connects seamlessly to your smartphone via Apple Carplay or Android Auto.

Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is an option (standard on top-spec R-Line), replacing the traditional instruments with configurable digital dials. And you can download the Volkswagen Connect app for info specific to your car, such as average fuel economy and when the next service is due.

Other optional niceties include keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and a 300w Beats audio system with a large subwoofer in the boot.

But the lines between VW, Seat and Skoda are blurred

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross is less successful when it comes to perceived quality, specifically inside the cabin.

As you may know, it’s virtually identical to the Seat Arona and forthcoming Skoda Kamiq under the skin. Yet while Volkswagen has traditionally positioned itself as an ‘in-between’ brand – above the likes of Ford and Renault, and below Audi and BMW – the differences in feelgood factor here are marginal.

Nothing rattled, squeaked or fell off, of course. But the T-Cross feels built to a budget, with hard plastics that might make you think twice about paying a premium versus its VW Group cousins.

It tries to be down with the kids

Volkswagen T-Cross

Thankfully, you can jazz up your T-Cross to the extent that nobody will notice the minor details. Fancy Energetic Orange paint or Bamboo Garden Green alloys? Step this way.

Indeed, the T-Cross is a tad anonymous in silver, white or black, so we’d go for one of the brighter shades; Flash Red and Makena Turqoise look great. The latter is a minty-fresh shade last seen on modified hot hatches in the 1990s: we approve.

The interior can also be customised with tiger stripes on the dashboard and two-tone seats. A list of permitted colour combinations prevents you going too wild, however. Probably a good thing when it comes to resale value…

Yet the driving experience is very grown-up

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross feels pretty sensible on the road, too. It’s easy to drive, with the calm, measured maturity Volkswagen does so well.

As noted previously, the car feels in its element around town. Its light steering is direct, if a little lifeless, and its suspension is supple enough to soak up potholes and speed humps.

It also keeps its composure on faster roads, without the bounciness that afflicts some small SUVs. Body-roll is kept in check and the handling is safe and predictable at the limit. Yes, a Polo is slightly more agile and engaging, but few buyers will care.

The engines are peppy and refined

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you can afford it, the 115hp T-Cross is the one to go for. It’s the same engine used in the Up GTI, and feels fizzy and eager to rev.

The more powerful engine is mandatory if you want an automatic ’box, but the DSG does blunt performance. Unless you select Sport mode, it constantly tries to change up in the name of efficiency. Go for the snappy manual instead.

In either state of tune, the TSI is exceptionally smooth and refined. Rev it hard and you’ll hear a distinctive three-cylinder snarl, but most of the time it’s inaudible.

A sporty T-Cross R could be on the cards

Volkswagen T-Cross

Despite the Up engine transplant, a GTI version of the T-Cross seems unlikely. Volkswagen has always limited those three iconic letters to hot hatchbacks – perhaps rightly so.

We could, however, see a T-Cross R in the not-so-distant future. A precedent has been set by the recently launched T-Roc R, which borrows its 300hp engine from the flagship Golf. Stranger things have happened.

Possibly not so strange as a convertible, though. The T-Cross Breeze concept, a drop-top SUV in the mould of the Range Rover Evoque, actually previewed today’s production car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. Thankfully, there are no plans to build it.

Volkswagen T-Cross verdict: 4 stars

Volkswagen T-Cross

If you like how the T-Cross looks, it could be the pint-sized SUV for you. Volkswagen took its time, but the end result is a solid all-rounder that majors on practicality, comfort and connectivity.

It certainly has the edge over the dated Captur, Ecosport and Mokka X. Its in-house Arona and Kamiq rivals, however, are a sterner test. The Volkswagen is the most expensive of the trio, but a more upmarket image (and thus likely stronger residual values) could mean the monthly payments are almost identical.

Us? We’d stick with the Polo, or upgrade to a Golf – still perhaps the most solid all-rounder of all.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SE manual: specification

Price: £19,545

Engine: Three cylinder 999cc petrol

Drivetrain: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Wheels: 17 inches

Power: 115hp@5,000 rpm

Torque: 148lb ft@2,000rpm

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Top speed: 120mph

Fuel economy: 57.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 112g/km

Length/width/height: 4,235/1,799/1,584mm

Kerb weight: 1,655kg

Volkswagen T-Cross review: in pictures

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Volkswagen offers a £1,000 ‘thank you’ to van customers

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

As a thank-you for increased in sales in 2018, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is offering up to £1,000 off new vans and trucks.

There are Ts and Cs, mind. The caveat is that you have to be an existing customer, or the family member of an existing customer living at the same address. You must also order your vehicle in the first quarter of 2019, for delivery before the end of June. 

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

So what’s available in the VW Commercial vehicles range, and how much money do you save?

Unfortunately, the £1,000 isn’t a blanket discount across all models. We start at the bottom with the Caddy and Amarok pick-up, which are eligible for £500 off. The Caravelle and California can be had with a £750 discount. And the Transporter and Shuttle (and other derivatives thereof) attract the full £1,000 discount.

Volkswagen £1,000 off commercial vehicles

 

“We are kicking off 2019 with a big ‘thank you’ to our customers for their fantastic support over the years,” said James Douglas, head of sales operations at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

“The loyalty bonus is available across our fantastic range of vehicles. We look forward to welcoming our owners into a Van Centre soon to help them find the perfect vehicle for their business needs and lifestyle.”

Ford and Volkswagen to build pick-ups, vans together – and maybe electric cars

Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger pickup trucksVolkswagen and Ford have announced a global alliance that will lead to the introduction of a new dual-brand pick-up truck in 2022, quickly followed by a commercial van partnership.

The two automotive giants have also committed to explore potential collaborations on electric cars, along with autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Future vehicle collaborations may thus be announced in the future – potentially in a matter of months.

Both companies stressed it is purely an alliance; there is no cross-ownership between the two firms. Savings from the alliance are expected from 2023. 

Volkswagen Transporter

“Over time, this alliance will help both companies create value and meet the needs of our customers and society,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said.

“It will not only drive significant efficiencies and help both companies improve their fitness, but also gives us the opportunity to collaborate on shaping the next era of mobility.”

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said: “Volkswagen and Ford will harness our collective resources, innovation capabilities and complementary market positions to even better serve millions of customers around the world.

“At the same time, the alliance will be a cornerstone for our drive to improve competitiveness.” 

British boon?

2018 Ford Transit Custom

Both the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups will be due for replacement around 2022, which is why the first stage of the alliance is timely.

The next step, to develop replacements for the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Transporter, could be a boon for British automotive. In the announcement, it was confirmed Ford will take the lead to build new large commercial vans for European customers.

2019 Volkswagen Caddy

Volkswagen, in turn, will develop a city van for the two firms, replacing the current Volkswagen Caddy (above) and Ford Transit Connect.

The alliance will enable the companies to share development costs, leverage their respective manufacturing capacity, boost the capability and competitiveness of their vehicles and deliver cost efficiencies, while maintaining distinct brand characteristics.

Volkswagen is going to deploy mobile electric car charging stations

VW mobile charge points

VW has opened 2019 with a preview of its new mobile charging solution. It’s another example of how car makers are innovating to solve the challenge of how to eliminate electric car range anxiety for good.

What is it?

In simple terms, it’s a middle ground between having an extra onboard battery and being restricted to hard-wired charge points. Volkswagen’s compromise is essentially a power pack that can be set up almost anywhere.

VW describes it as a ‘flexible charging station’ that can be set up ‘independent of the power supply wherever it is needed’. Think along the lines of a mobile version of Tesla’s power wall – banks of batteries that Volkswagen can deploy wherever it sees fit.

It’s not a be-all solution to what many see as an under-prepared infrastructure. Rather, says VW, a temporary solution that allows electric cars, such as the upcoming ID. range of VW EVs, to charge wherever a charge is needed. Volkswagen cites pop-up events, parking lots and business premises as examples. A service can be deployed and provided quickly and easily, without the fundamental long-term structural changes needed for a permanent charge point.

What’s it made up of?

VW mobile charge points

The MEB (VW Modular Electric Toolkit) battery pack that forms ‘the energetic core of the charging station’ can store up to 360kWh of power and can charge up to 15 cars at once. The MEB is also used in Volkswagen electric cars. Batteries that need exchanging in cars can potentially be re-used in columns in future.

As you’d expect, it’s fully quick-charge capable. Up to 28kWh can be delivered in as little as 17 minutes – that’s 80 percent of the charge capacity of the current e-Golf. The power pack can be plugged in so that it doesn’t run down. If it is sat independent of mains power, the stations that get to less than 20 percent are to be exchanged for a charged one.

A temporary approach doesn’t mean you’ll be hard pressed to find one, however. You’ll be able to use apps to find your nearest VW charging station.

Other advantages of the charging stations? They’re capable of connecting directly to renewable sources of energy. Generating wind or solar power? You can store it in a Volkswagen mobile charge point. Say goodbye to dirty coal-made electricity and hello to genuinely carbon-neutral electric automotive power, potentially…

When can we expect to see them?

VW has no intention of slacking on this. The first mobile quick charging stations are to be deployed locally in Germany in the first half of this year as a pilot, before expanding to other locations in 2020.

Thomas Schmalz, Chairman of the Board of management of Volkswagen Group Components, highlights the long-term usefulness of the project. As well as plugging gaps in the infrastructure today, suitable points for permanent charging locations can be mooted for tomorrow.

VW mobile charge points

“Cities can, for example, find out the most suitable places for a permanent charging point before making major investments in developing the network.

“In addition, it will be possible to set up a large number of charging stations temporarily – exactly when and where they are needed”.

All in all, it sounds like a great temporary solution as well as a way to prepare for a more hard-wired electric car future.

Read more: