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Volkswagen T-Cross review

For Easy to drive Great infotainment Practical interior Our Rating 3.5 Against Pricey compared to rivals Not much fun to drive Low-quality interior plastics 2019

The Volkswagen T-Cross is a competent small SUV, but others offer better value

The T-Cross is among the most accomplished compact crossovers in its class. Its strong points include a versatile cabin complete with a sliding rear bench seat; and an engine lineup which, while small, manages to combine more than adequate performance with decent fuel economy.

However, in a class where eye-catching design really helps rivals stand out, the T-Cross is perhaps a little too sensible – particularly inside. It just doesn’t feel as special as some of the alternatives. Refinement is good, but the T-Cross is neither the sharpest car of its type to drive nor the most comfortable.

It’s a similar story on price with the best of the VW’s rivals undercutting it. So, overall, while the T-Cross enters the small SUV category as one of the strongest competitors, it’s not quite capable of hitting the top of the class.

Best small SUVs and crossover to buy

13 May, 2019 4.5

According to Volkswagen, the T-Cross is intended to sport a more funky design than the brand’s larger SUVs. There are elements inspired by the rest of the VW family – the side crease is reminiscent of the Polo, while the fog light surrounds mimic those of the T-Roc – while a full-width reflector around the back is designed to emphasise the car’s width. In a class that’s full of quirky, colourful and interesting designs, it’s arguably not the most eye-catching (though the optional Energetic Orange and Mekena Turquoise paints when paired with matching alloy wheel highlights certainly do their best to liven things up a bit) but it looks smart in a way that is sure to appeal to Volkswagen’s fan base.

Inside, the dashboard layout is almost identical to that of the Polo supermini. That means there’s a large infotainment display sitting above a pair of central air vents, simple, logical control layouts and an attractive steering wheel. As with the outside it’s possible to liven up the largely grey decor with some contrasting colour finishes.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - dash

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S and SE models come as standard with traditional analogue dials, while higher up the range it’s possible to add a 10.25-inch digital readout instead. This allows the driver to customise the information presented, choosing a regular looking speedometer and rev counter or prioritising trip or navigation readouts. The graphics are sharp, and while it isn’t completely essential, it does make the cabin feel more high-tech than those of many rivals.

Everything feels nicely screwed together inside the T-Cross, though there’s little in the way of soft touch plastics – the large expanse along the top of the dash is hard and scratchy, unlike the Polo where it’s made of a softer, rubberised material.

While the dash design is pretty much the same as the Polo’s, the driver gets a better view of the road ahead, thanks to a hip point located 100mm higher than in the supermini.

The similarities between the Polo and the T-Cross shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the pair share Volkswagen’s MQB A0 platform. The T-Cross is 54mm longer overall, but that’s still comfortably shorter than a Golf, so it’s an ideal size for city driving.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Every model in the T-Cross range comes with an eight-inch touchscreen as standard. In S and SE models, this includes Bluetooth and a DAB radio, but no built-in satellite navigation, which is a £725 option unless you stretch to an SEL or R line model. If you’re happy to make use of your smartphone, the SE cars and above have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included.

The infotainment system itself is one of the best in its class to use. The graphics look clear and sharp, while the touch sensitive shortcut buttons which surround the display are big enough to not be distracting on the move. The two physical dials – one for volume, one to adjust the navigation zoom – are quite small and fiddly though.

Programming the navigation system is easy, thanks to a large on screen keyboard. Loading times are quick enough, and it’s possible to pinch and swipe on the display if you want to preview a route. The eight-inch screen also houses the reversing camera, which is a £260 option.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - sat-nav

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The R-Line also features a 10.25 inch Active Info Display as standard. It’s a £375 option on SE and SEL models, but as pretty as it is, it isn’t a must-have option.

The audio experience is the one area of the VW infotainment system that lets the side down. Sound quality from the standard speakers is nothing better than okay; the speakers lack clarity and punch. The optional Beats system, complete with a 300-watt output, fixes the latter, but doesn’t really add anything in terms of quality, so it isn’t worth the extra £430.

3.9

As with most new Volkswagen models, the T-Cross is a car that you can just get into and instantly feel comfortable with. All of the control weights are nicely matched to one another; the clutch engages smoothly when you press the pedal, the throttle response is linear, and the steering is light and precise. Throw in the compact dimensions, and the T-Cross causes little stress when driving around town.

Head out onto the open road, and the handling is safe rather than thrilling. There’s plenty of grip and the balance is neutral, but the steering offers little in the way of feedback. The higher centre of gravity is noticeable when compared to the Polo on which the T-Cross is based, but this is more than balanced out by the fact that the high driving position gives improved visibility.

The ride is smoother than in a SEAT Arona, but the 18-inch wheels of R-Line models make the T-Cross fidget over low speed bumps more than the smaller wheel sizes. The big wheels increase road noise too, so while it’s not bad for the class, refinement is better with the 17-inch wheels on a motorway cruise. The brakes, meanwhile, feel strong and inspire plenty of confidence for emergency stops.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The T-Cross engine lineup is simple: there’s just one 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine offered in two power outputs. The entry level 94bhp model is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 113bhp version comes with a choice of six-speed manual or, for an extra £1,500, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - front cornering

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For the most part, the lesser model is okay – particularly if you only intend to drive around town. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds, and pulls smoothly from around 2,000rpm, even in fifth gear. It will struggle below that point, so steep uphill sections on a country road may need a downshift. Officially, top speed stands at 112mph.

For most people, we’d recommend the more powerful unit. At 200Nm, its torque maximum is 25Nm higher than the cheaper model, and is available across the same rev range. It’s a similar story when it comes to power: both variants hit their power peak at 5,000rpm, but the 113bhp unit can maintain its figure for a further 500 revs. As a result, the “bigger” engine feels stronger at any speed, as shown by its 10.2-second 0-62mph time and 120mph maximum. That acceleration time is the same whether you choose the manual or the auto gearbox.

We recommend the former. Both the five and six-speed manual boxes shift smoothly and are paired to a light clutch pedal which makes traffic driving easy. The DSG, on the other hand, isn’t the best in the business: it can be jerky when parking, and is often slow to kick down when accelerating out of a corner.

3.3

All Polos come with airbags for the driver and front passenger, side impact airbags and curtain airbags front and rear. Extra safety kit includes a tyre pressure loss warning system, ‘PreCrash’ preventive occupant protection – which tenses the seatbelts and closes the windows in the event of an imminent collision – and a post-collision braking system which prevents the car from rolling into the path of another vehicle after an initial crash.

Further up the range, SE models add adaptive cruise control and an emergency braking system, while SEL models gain front and rear parking sensors.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - rear detail

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While the T-Cross hasn’t yet been tested by Euro NCAP, the Polo on which it is based scored the maximum five stars when it was tested in 2017. Its adult occupant safety rating of 96 percent was one of the best in all that year’s assessments.

The T-Cross hasn’t yet featured in any Driver Power rankings, though the Polo, with which it shares much of its mechanical make-up, finished a disappointing 84th out of 100. Volkswagen finished a middling 17th out of 30th in the brand category. At least on the face of things, the T-Cross seems solidly built.

Warranty

The T-Cross, like all other new Volkswagens, comes as standard with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. There’s also a three-year paintwork warranty and 12 years of cover against corrosion from the inside out. Most rivals come with similar warranty periods, though the Hyundai Kona (five years) and the Kia Stonic (seven) have longer protection.

Servicing

Buyers can choose between Volkswagen’s fixed or flexible service packages. The former is recommended for lower-mileage cars, typically covering less than 10,000 miles per year. Those using their T-Cross for daily mileages of over 25 miles are better served by the latter.

The car uses a range of sensors to determine when it needs servicing, but Volkswagen claims that the T-Cross can cover anything between 10,000 and 20,000 miles between oil changes on the flexible service package.

4

When it comes to practicality, the T-Cross is competitive within its class. Available in just the one five-door compact crossover bodystyle, the car’s boxy dimensions and high roof translate into plenty of cabin space.

It scores big points for versatility, too, thanks in no small part to the sliding rear seat bench that’s standard across the range. Up front it’s just as impressive, thanks to a comfortable driving position with enough adjustment to cater for drivers of all shapes and sizes.

In addition to the roomy boot, there’s plenty of space to keep oddoments up front. A rubberised tray on top of the dash is ideal for small, lightweight items, while the huge cubby ahead of the gear lever has space for big smartphones and USB cables. The door bins are deep and wide enough to hold a large bottle of water, and there’s a further storage space beneath the centre armrest. Passengers in the back can make use of similarly generous door bins and a pair of USB ports (from SE models and above).

Size

The T-Cross measures 4,235mm long, 1,799mm wide (including its door mirrors) and 1,584mm tall. That makes it very slightly longer and wider than the Citroen C3 Aircross, though at 1,637mm, the C3 is taller.

The boxy shape is fairly typical of the compact SUV class, though rivals like the angular Nissan Juke and curvy C3 Aircross take a different approach.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Up front, the T-Cross feels very spacious. Headroom is generous, and the seat offers a wide range of adjustment (the height adjustment, in particular, can be varied by a huge amount.)

Headroom is equally good for back seat passengers, while there’s more than enough foot room beneath the front seats. Legroom depends entirely on the positions of the sliding rear bench: in its rearmost position, the T-Cross is among the most spacious in its class. However, slide the bench forward to its 140mm limit, and any driver of average height or more will leave no legroom whatsoever for people behind.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - rear seats

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The T-Cross is offered with Isofix mounting points both in the outer two rear seats and the front passenger seat.

Boot

The sliding rear bench allows for a choice between boot space and rear leg room. Even in its most rearward position, the 385-litre volume is more than you get from a Volkswagen Golf, and sliding the seat forward all the way opens up the volume to 455 litres. This does, however, leave a huge gap which smaller items could fall into.

The T-Cross comes with an adjustable boot floor as standard from SE level upwards. In its raised position, there’s no load lip to lift items over, and should you need to, there’s space to store the parcel shelf beneath it.

The rear seat bench splits 60:40, and leaves a completely flat load area. This expands the total storage area to 1,281 litres, which is 46 litres more than you get in a Renault Captur.

3.9

Running costs are a major consideration for the majority of small SUV buyers, so it’s good news that regardless of which engine or gearbox you choose, mid-forties mpg is perfectly achievable in the real world at the wheel of a VW T-Cross. A start-stop system is standard on all models, as is a brake energy regeneration system which keeps the battery topped with electricity recovered during braking.

The most economical choice is the five-speed S model with the lower-powered 94bhp petrol engine. It returns a claimed 48.7mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. The thirstiest, meanwhile, are those higher-powered 113bhp models with seven-speed DSG gearboxes, with claimed 45.6mpg WLTP combined economy.

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Volkswagen T-Cross - side

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CO2 emissions range from 131g/km in the five-speed to 140g/km in the seven-speed DSG models on the WLTP tests. Road tax is still calculated on NEDC-adjusted figures, however, which are quoted as 111-115g/km depending on model and specification. This equates to a 26 to 27 per cent Benefit-in-Kind rating, so company car tax shouldn’t be unduly expensive.

Insurance Groups

The Volkswagen T-Cross will be relatively cheap to insure, much like the majority of its rivals. SE models with the lower-powered engine sit in group 8, while an SE model with the 113bhp engine sits in group 10. An R-Line model with the most powerful engine and automatic gearbox tops out at group 13. Equivalent versions of the SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross sit in similar insurance groups.

Depreciation

Our experts predict that the T-Cross will hold to around 49 to 55 per cent of its value after 36,000 miles or three years, with the entry-level S model expected to retain the most.

These figures are above average for the class – most likely thanks to the cachet of the VW badge. By contrast, the Citroen C3 Aircross is expected to retain around 39 to 44 per cent of its value; the Mazda CX-3 fares better with residuals of 44 to 52 per cent predicted.

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