The Volkswagen T-Cross is a compact car with big aspirations. Pitched at image-conscious urban professionals, it is a fine example of VW’s expertise. However, when the history of the company’s role in 21st-century transportation comes to be written, much will be said about the engineering shenanigans that hastened the end of diesel propulsion as a high-end option. Inevitably, less space will be given to cars like this, for the T-Cross is very specifically about a certain time and place, making this compact, city-centric crossover the very definition of a ‘stop-gap’ that’s merely keeping time until the electric revolution kicks in.

This is not to say the T-Cross is a bad car – anything but. Volkswagen knows how to build small cars with a premium feel. The company practically invented the modern compact car sector and in the shape of its Up!, Polo and Golf models, it still has the best and most straightforward iterations of the conventionally-fuelled automobile. The T-Cross is an attempt at jazzing up that formula, skewed a little younger for a more dynamic and style-conscious audience, albeit those who don’t fancy getting a full fat, in your face SUV.

From the outside, the T-Cross presents itself as a likeably chunky iteration of VW’s chiselled family features. It is the first point on the scale in VW’s burgeoning range of Crossovers and SUVs, sitting beneath the T-Roc and Tiguan, and dwarfed by the hefty seven-seater Touareg. The T-Cross is actually a very similar size to the VW Golf, which remains the gold standard of small car packaging (although it actually shares some components with the Polo). But whereas the Golf is burdened slightly by its smart, sensible image, the T-Cross comes on the back of a Cara Delevingne-driven ad campaign and an emphasis on youth. Inside, there’s more of Volkswagen’s legendary technical efficiency, with quality materials and the option of plenty of tech, including lots of charge points and phone integration. This is finished off with optional ‘R-Line’ exterior enhancements that emphasise the high driving position and quasi-rugged image (despite which, there is no option for four wheel drive).

The T-Cross performs modestly and economically with a three-cylinder petrol engine. There is a diesel available, but electric option. Will there ever be an electric T-Cross? With the new VW ID electric car poised in the wings, it remains to be seen whether fast fashion and styling tweaks will be enough to keep cars like this in our affections, however well they’re made. §