Volkswagen T-Cross Review
The T-Cross is an excellent example of a practical small SUV that will appeal to plenty
- Capable and competent
- Spacious and accommodating
- Well equipped and refined
- Interior finish
- Not as exciting as T-Roc
- Only one engine choice (for now)
Volkswagen’s range of SUVs continues to expand, with this new T-Cross joining the similarly sized T-Roc, as well as the larger Tiguan and gargantuan Touareg. Two small SUVs is one more than most manufacturers make, but Volkswagen are pushing the T-Cross as the sensible sibling to the cooler, fashion-conscious T-Roc. So that’s clear.
What we have then is a Polo-based SUV that’s sensibly proportioned and practical enough to be put to daily use as a family car. It’s young families that will be drawn to the T-Cross, and they're unlikely to care that it’s front-wheel drive (so no off-road shenanigans here) or that there’s just a 1.0-litre petrol engine available.
Prices start at £16,995, rising to £25,055 for a sporty-spec R-Line with DSG automatic gearbox. This SE-spec test car sits right in the middle of the range, offering decent levels of equipment without adding too much cost.
On the Road
There’s just one engine available in the T-Cross, and that’s a tiny three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s available in two states of tune though, with 95hp to start with, rising to a more useable 115hp.
Fitted with the more powerful option, this test car can hit 62mph in 10.2 seconds, before cruising along at 120mph. You sacrifice little by opting for the lower output model, the T-Cross taking just 1.3 seconds longer to hit motorway speeds.
Neither will set the pulse racing, but the relatively lightweight and a DSG automatic gearbox that seems quite enthusiastic means the car feels livelier than the figures suggest, even at higher speeds. There’s a certain delay in power delivery while the computer chats to the gearbox and decides which gear to be in, but once it’s been selected the T-Cross can hold its own against most other vehicles on the road.
For a small car that rides quite high, the T-Cross does a remarkable job of covering motorway miles, feeling solid and stable even when passing huge trucks. The ride quality is generally good there too, with a suppleness that accommodates most undulations.
Head into the urban environment and it’s equally at home, although the suspension feels a little firmer there and lets rutted road surfaces make their presence known a little easier. Still, sensible 17-inch wheels and tall tyres mask most problems. The entry-level S model has smaller wheels, which may improve urban ride quality a little, while the 18-inch wheels on the R-Line are likely to have the opposite effect.
Corners are dispatched without any drama, although there is a little more body roll than you might find in a SEAT Arona. It’s not short of grip though and, it handles with utterly predictable reactions and remains permanently safe.
A tiny three-cylinder engine, working hard to pull a tonne and a quarter of metal around, is usually a recipe for noise and vibration. Volkswagen bucks that trend with an engine that’s remarkably quiet, even under load, and keeps most shaking at bay.
It rocks around a bit when it turns off and on at traffic lights and the like, but it’s not obtrusive at any other point.
The automatic gearbox isn’t quite so slick, making sure that gear changes are felt in the car, especially when accelerating quite hard. Still, it’s probably smoother than most drivers could manage with a manual gearbox, so it’s easy enough to live with.
Wind noise is kept well in check, but there is a bit of tyre roar that comes up from the road surface.
In the car
If you’ve sat in a Polo, then you’ll be familiar with the innards of a T-Cross. It’s all a little dull initially, with grey plastics, straight lines and little flair, but as you live with it you come to appreciate the excellent ergonomics and usability.
Everything seems to have been covered in a brittle-feeling plastic, including the door panels, which seems a tad cheap on a car costing around twenty grand. Still, optional packs can spice things up, including an Energetic Orange design pack that introduces some Day-Glo shades to the interior (and exterior, if you’re brave.)
There’s plenty of equipment to keep you distracted from the trim though. Even the entry model gets an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, double Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning. The SE adds tested here adds fog lights, a leather-covered steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
While most controls end up on the touchscreen, rather than on physical buttons, there’s one old-school feature that remains very analogue - a proper handbrake!
Volkswagen has worked wonders on extracting a lot from not much, with the T-Cross easily able to accommodate four six-footers. The centre rear seat is tight, as it would be on any of its rivals, so that’s best saved for occasional child-ferrying jobs.
That rear seat does slide back and forth though, by as much as 14cm. That means you can extend the boot space, initially measured at 385 litres, to as much as 445 litres, and still just about have room for passengers. That’s as much as you’ll find in the T-Roc, and more than the Golf can provide.
Fold the seats down and a reasonably flat floor will swallow as much as 1,281 litres. Longer loads can be squeezed in thanks to a clever front seat that folds flat.
Official economy figures suggest T-Cross owners could get as much as 45.6mpg out of their DSG-equipped T-Cross and, anecdotally, that’s entirely possible. Cruising the nation’s roads for a week, this test car displayed an average figure of 43.0mpg on its trip computer, and was well above that at times. Even allowing for a margin of error in the (usually optimistic) computer, that’s pretty close to the lab figures.
That translates to a CO2 figure of 111g/km, the most efficient in the range. The R-Line rises to 115g/km thanks to bigger wheels and tyres, but no model is particularly polluting. That bodes well for company car drivers, who will attract a BIK rate of just 26%.
Servicing is carried out once a year, like most other cars on the market, with service packs available to cover future needs at a set rate.
Volkswagen’s success continues with the Golf and Polo being in the top ten best selling cars in the UK. The larger Tiguan SUV is also a very popular choice for buyers, so watch this space to see if the T-Cross can follow in it's siblings footsteps? The latest JD Power Dependability Study, Volkswagen finished above the average.
The T-Cross is too new to know what issues may come up, but it’s backed up by a comprehensive three-year or 60,000-mile warranty. It’s possible to extend that warranty, for a fee of course.
EuroNCAP testing has given the T-Cross a full five-star rating for crash safety, with particularly high scores for adult occupant protection.
Based on the same MQB platform that sits underneath the Golf, Passat, and much of the Volkswagen range, there’s a lot of safety equipment included with the T-Cross. The entry-level S model gets a radar-sensor controlled distance monitoring system, an automatic emergency braking system that can pick up pedestrians and cyclists, lane-keeping assist, airbags all around, and Isofix preparation for two child seats.
Higher models add speed limiters, a speed limit display, parking sensors, and a driver alertness sensor, amongst other things. A reversing camera is optional.