What is it?
This diesel version of the new Volkswagen T-Cross would have been the staple of the range had it emerged a few years ago, and we all know why it isn’t today.
Its maker has nevertheless added its 93bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine to the line-up of petrol T-Crosses – the smallest of the brand’s increasingly popular crossover models.
The 1.6 TDI is the most expensive engine option, but it also provides the lowest CO2 rating in the range at 140g/km on the WLTP testing regime. Its power output is the same as that of the 1.0 TSI three-cylinder turbo petrol, but of course there’s plenty more torque, namely 184lb ft, rather than 129lb ft, and this peak emerges 500rpm earlier, at 1500rpm.
This car should lug well, then, especially when laden with a family. The lugging is achieved in standard form via a five-speed manual gearbox, with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic available as a £1500 option.
What's it like?
It's impressively quiet. You barely hear any combustion clatter either at idle or when revving this engine, which issues a smooth tenor hum that’s not unpleasant and pleasingly unobtrusive.
That’s a good start, and so is the way this Volkswagen moves down the road, its suspension delivering a fine mix of roll control and absorbency. It’s quite firm but well damped, with body control over undulating B-roads impressive. It’s no high-riding sports hatch (the somewhat inert handling and dulled steering feel soon kill that thought), but there’s real polish to its competence.
These thoughts will strike you less swiftly than the T-Cross’s gearing, however, which is on the giraffe side of long-legged when you hit fourth. At 30mph, it will be revving just the wrong side of 1500rpm, and you’ll be reaching for third if the needle falls much below this, especially if there’s more than just you on board. At times it feels like the engine is being asked to lift a boulder with a toothpick.
The result is that, at urban speeds, you find yourself driving this car as if it has a peaky petrol twin-cam of thin low-rev torque. It never splutters, of course, but the engine sometimes sounds laboured, the turbocharger needing a moment to get stoking if you’ve sunk much below 1500rpm. At the other end of the scale, this diesel is impressively smooth and subdued. There’s not much point in revving far past 4000rpm, but it will run out to 5000rpm and keep quiet about it.
If the manual’s gearing puts you off, there’s always the DSG, which saves you exercising your left arm and leg. But as is so often the case with generously ratioed automatics, you’ll need to select Sport mode, paddle and act profligately with the throttle to get this T-Cross to travel briskly. Once you’re used to it, the manual is more effective, and Volkswagen reckons it will be the more popular choice.
Should I buy one?
If you’re less bothered about driving a diesel, want the best economy and don’t mind changing gear, the oil-burning version of the T-Cross is worth a look. It serves up plenty of the torque needed when effortlessly carrying loads, and its impressive refinement complements the general civility of the model. The T-Cross isn't an especially engaging compact SUV, but then none of them is, and Volkswagen’s take on the breed is more polished than most.