Just last week, Volkswagen announced that a refreshed, turbocharged, and not U.S.-bound Up! subcompact would be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show along with a new SUV concept that would be “the beginning of a broad SUV offensive” for the brand. This is no small boast; for decades, Volkswagen has lagged behind in the crossover/SUV segments, and in the sales fiasco that’s followed Dieselgate, it needs a sales hit badly.
Following the GTE Active Concept, the CrossCoupe GTE, and even the retro BUDD-e concepts of the past year, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be a production-ready crossover. Instead, Volkswagen has decided to bring the idea behind Range Rover Evoque Convertible to the masses, unveiling the subcompact T-Cross Breeze, a drop-top crossover based on the Volkswagen Polo — a subcompact European model just smaller than the Golf.
Like the Up!, the Breeze is powered by a turbocharged 1.0 liter inline-three, but instead of the hatchback’s 89 new ponies, the Breeze pumps out 110. And while a ragtop SUV won’t be the first new SUV model out of the gate, really not that far-fetched either. Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen’s head of design says: “The T-Cross Breeze is a teaser for the most compact sport utility vehicle that Volkswagen plans to make – and the nucleus of a new SUV and convertible design in the compact sector.” But even more importantly, he adds:
The T-Cross Breeze reflects the new start for our brand … We want to stir enthusiasm for “New Volkswagen.” In this instance we are doing that with an unprecedented vehicle concept in this class; a completely redesigned cockpit and design that is equally crisp and expressive.
So the Breeze may not be coming to a dealership near you anytime soon, but something very similar might.
While the company is intent at establishing the the T-Cross Breeze as a milestone concept, it also made the important step of outlining its plans for an all-new crossover/SUV lineup. From Volkswagen:
In [the] future, Volkswagen aims to offer an exciting SUV in every relevant segment. It will start this ambitious product onslaught with the market launch of the new Tiguan, which begins at the end of April in Germany and in early May in the rest of Europe. On the major overseas markets the new Tiguan will also be available with an extended wheelbase. This will be followed by a new mid-size SUV for the US and China as well as the well-known premium segment Touareg sport utility vehicle. Below the Tiguan, two new SUV models will make their debut: in the Golf class there will be an SUV that is similar to the T-Roc concept car, while the T-Cross Breeze moves into the Polo size range.
While hearing Germans talk about “ambitious onslaughts” is still enough give us pause, Volkswagen’s commitment to people movers is a major step for the embattled brand.
For those who have shorter memories: The T-Roc was a three-door crossover that debuted at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and previewed design language that appeared on last year’s GTE crossover concepts. Perhaps tellingly, the T-Roc debuted as an open-topped cruiser too, albeit as a targa top, not a full convertible.
Inside, the company says “Touch-sensitive surfaces and newly developed “by-wire” solutions replace conventional switches and buttons” á la the recent BUDD-e concept, keeping it firmly planted in the land of concept cars. But Volkswagen is right; underneath the tech and top, there’s a lot to the T-Cross Breeze that will likely look familiar to Volkswagen owners in 10 years. And in our opinion, it’s not a bad looking place to start.