New Volkswagen Polo family to get SUV flagship

24 Feb, 2016 9:15am John McIlroy

Bold VW crossover will be based on MQB platform and is set to join next-generation Polo range in 2018

Volkswagen is planning a larger, more practical version of its Polo hatchback for 2018, and the range will be augmented by the introduction of a proper baby SUV version – revealed in our exclusive image – that’s likely to arrive soon after the regular car’s launch.

VW insiders told us that the next-generation Polo will be stretched, as the brand makes its own small car the first supermini in the VW Group to switch to the MQB platform. Unlike the current model and Skoda Fabia, which sit on older architecture, the next Polo will introduce the smallest version yet of the MQB platform, called A0.

Best crossovers on the market

Engineers have been fighting internally over the numerous wheelbases on offer throughout the MQB platform line-up. The A1 incarnation – which underpins everything from the Audi TT to the Golf SV – has a total of five different sizes; but in the interests of saving money, the A0 architecture will be fixed at just one wheelbase, used by the Polo and then followed by the next versions of the Audi A1, Fabia and SEAT Ibiza.

Auto Express understands the wheelbase is likely to measure 2,560mm – that’s a hefty 90mm increase over the existing Polo’s and less than two centimetres shorter than the Mk6 Golf’s. Expect VW engineers to use this gain to improve rear passenger space and boot capacity, although short overhangs front and rear should ensure that the hike in overall length is much more modest.

The styling will remain conservative, with cues from the facelifted version of the Golf, which is due before the end of this year. Interior quality will be improved slightly, but the biggest tweaks in the cabin are likely to be in connectivity. VW boss Herbert Diess is said to have targeted enhancements in this area for all the brand’s vehicles.

At the heart of the new Polo range will be revised versions of VW’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, and a switch from 1.4 petrol and 1.6 diesel units to fresh 1.5-litre units of both fuel types. The move to the MQB architecture also opens the possibility for the Polo to be offered as a plug-in hybrid, with either a petrol or diesel engine accompanying the electric motor. However,  the cost of this technology could prove an obstacle for such a small car.

That shouldn’t be such an issue for the more expensive SUV version, which is likely to be previewed by a concept called the T-Cross. It could also carry that name through to production, although VW has a number of other badges registered that would fit with its convention of naming its SUVs with ‘T’ names, including Teracor, Tribue and Terasun. A clear rival for the Nissan JukeRenault Captur and Mazda CX-3, the new model will share a platform and therefore a wheelbase with the next Polo, yet its design is said to be much more daring than the small hatchback’s.

“The baby SUV looks very sporty,” said one company insider. “You will wonder whether it’s a VW at all; you may recognise the grille, but it’s a very exciting design elsewhere.” As our exclusive image shows, the SUV is set to feature a longer rear overhang that will help to make it a larger car altogether – going some way to justifying pricing that’s likely to start at the middle of the Polo line-up.

The newcomer will be offered with four-wheel drive – again, a feature made possible by the MQB architecture – and a choice of manual or dual-clutch auto transmissions. Its engine line-up will skip the Polo’s naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrols and start with a turbocharged version of the same engine, which is set to deliver around 109bhp.

VW continues to experiment with the idea of a smaller SUV, based on the up! city car and previewed by the Taigun concept. While that particular project is said to have been frozen on the grounds of cost and potential profitability, the brand is reportedly exploring how it could develop it into a vehicle that could be sold as a cost-effective, ‘rugged’ vehicle in markets like Brazil – where the likes of the Dacia Duster and Ford EcoSport perform well.

What do you think of our exclusive image of the Volkswagen Polo SUV? Let us know in the comments section below...