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Volkswagen's T-Cross concept is about more than that convertible top

Just like the Ugly Duckling (no, we're not saying it's ugly), it's what's inside that counts.

Volkswagen's headlights continue to melt into the front grille. They're pretty well meshed together on the Passat, but here, they're practically integrated into one another.

Volkswagen

At first glance, it's easy to look at Volkswagen's new T-Cross concept and notice the convertible top. After all, there aren't that many drop-top crossovers on the market -- in fact, there's just one. But this is just a concept, and after Geneva, what matters won't be the ragtop.

In fact, the most important part of the T-Cross isn't its top -- it's the body underneath. What you see here will go on to underpin a brand new subcompact VW crossover, part of Volkswagen's efforts to bring more crossovers to market.

Part of this ute's cuteness lies with its diminutive motor -- a 1.0-liter gas engine. good for 108 horsepower and a pokey 10.3-second hustle to 62 mph. But, again, that's not what's important -- it's the car's 47-mpg Euro cycle fuel economy and its 500-mile range with just a 10.6-gallon tank.

Along with the underpinnings, the body panels themselves point to a new direction in VW styling. The headlights further blend into the grille, and the Phideon-like strong character line appears just below the T-Cross' beltline. This is the way VW is heading, folks.

It's also slowly doing away with interior switchgear, as evidenced by the crossover's innards. The only physical controls are the control stalks, the window switches and the transmission controls. Otherwise, you're looking at touch-sensitive buttons and two massive screens that put every inch of the vehicle's systems right in front of your face. Consider it a hopped-up version of Audi's virtual cockpit.

The infotainment system and what lies behind it are quite impressive, actually. On-screen information can be shuffled around, a bit like a smartphone. VW has a system called a "predictive driving profile" that ties into the navigation system and is capable of setting up the car's adaptive dampers and drivetrain to identify terrain and adjust on the fly. When it notices you going off road, it'll even pull up topographic maps to help you navigate that terrain.

So what is there to take away from this car? First up, we've got an all-new subcompact VW crossover on the horizon. Next, Volkswagen plans to do away with physical switchgear -- and it's not limited to VW's lineup. Finally, the company's efforts with small gas engines proves that it can still achieve great mileage without relying on the diesels that got the company in plenty of trouble last year with dieselgate.

Can you see the air vents? They're hidden inside the various dashboard shapes.

Volkswagen
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