Plenty of people love the idea of travelling in a high-riding vehicle but don’t fancy negotiating crowded city streets in a big bulky beast of a car.

Recognising the rise in popularity of the SUV, Volkswagen was quick to provide options for buyers looking for something less large and altogether nippier.

The German carmaker now covers all the bases with a five-strong family of SUVs ranging from the luxurious hefty Touareg to the compact T-Cross, which shares much of its make-up with its super-successful sibling, the Polo.

Built like the Polo in the Spanish Volkswagen factory in Pamplona, what the T-Cross lacks in body weight it more than makes up for with bold colours, stylish interior trim and clever touches.

The platform that underpins the five-seater T-Cross moves the driven front axle well forward, clearing the way for plenty of interior space, both for passengers and luggage.

A sliding rear seat allows either an increase in the already generous boot space, or some extra legroom for rear seat passengers.

Power on the car driven here came from a 999cc turbocharged, three-cylinder petrol engine, which is ideally suited to its role as an economical, lightweight urban runaround.

On longer journeys and faster roads, you need to work the five-speed manual gearbox to get the best out of the 95 horsepower on tap.

A more powerful 115 horsepower version of the engine as seen in the up! GTI, linked to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox, is also available.

Despite its position as the baby of Volkswagen’s SUV range, standard equipment for the T-Cross includes a number of big-car driver assistance systems.

These range from a radar that scans the road ahead for pedestrians and can automatically brake in an emergency, to lane assist, hill start assist, blind spot detection and a warning of rear traffic approaching from the sides when you are reversing.

Also available as options are a driver alert system, automatic adaptive cruise control and park assist.

Priced from about £17,000, the T-Cross is also well on the pace with in-car technology, including wireless smartphone charging and up to four USB ports – two front and two rear.

The dashboard is dominated by an eight-inch colour touchscreen which controls everything from satellite navigation and the audio system to Bluetooth phone link.

All models above the entry-level S trim come equipped with Car-Net App Connect, which allows the ‘mirroring’ of a smartphone display on the touchscreen, through a USB connection.

Clever standard features on all models include an analysis of driving style with a series of in-built challenges to set yourself efficiency and driving style targets and a fuel monitor that calculates both consumption and cost. Also standard is a direct dial system to Volkswagen’s 24-hour customer service helpline, with the ability to send the vehicle’s location.

The original petrol engine line-up for the T-Cross was extended last year with the addition of a frugal 1.6-litre, 95 horsepower diesel version, available with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

And last month, a 1.5-litre TSI 150 horsepower petrol engine was added, to produce the swiftest T-Cross available. The new engine will be offered on the upmarket SEL and R-Line trims and comes exclusively with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Auto facts

Model: Volkswagen T-Cross SE 1.0 TSI 95 PS

Price: £21,210 as tested

Insurance group: 8E

Fuel consumption (combined): 47.4mpg

Top speed: 112mph

Length: 423.5cm/166.3in

Width: 180cm/70.7in

Luggage capacity: 385 litres/13.6 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 8.8 gallons/40 litres

CO2 emissions: 116g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles