New Volkswagen Polo SUV spotted testing

17 Aug, 2016 11:10am John McIlroy

Small VW crossover has been spied for the first time, ahead of its debut in 2018

Earlier this year, we revealed details of Volkswagen's larger, more practical Polo hatchback, due on sale in 2017. We also confirmed the stylish supermini would be joined by a jacked-up SUV version – and now our spy photographers have caught the crossover testing for the first time.

As we can see from these shots, the new Polo SUV will get a beefed-up body injected at the front and rear for a more rugged and sportier look. It'll get a raised ride-height, too, which will further distinguish the SUV from standard models in the range. It'll compete head-on with cars like the Nissan Juke, Citroen C4 Cactus and Peugeot 2008, and is expect to go on sale shortly after the conventional Polo arrives next year.

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.

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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. 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...