Volkswagen T-Cross SUV (2019 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5

There’s a vast array of models to choose from in this segment, but the Volkswagen T-Cross is undoubtedly one of the best. It blends appealing design and compact dimensions with generous cabin space and a high driving position, and that’s pretty much every box ticked for a small SUV buyer. Chuck in its desirable image and sophisticated driving experience, and the comparatively lofty price starts to look a lot more justifiable. Thoroughly recommended.

Reasons to buy

  • Stylish design
  • High driving position
  • Quiet and comfortable to drive
Pick of the range
T-Cross SEL 1.0 TSI 115 DSG
The best engine and gearbox combo, well-equipped
Most economical
T-Cross SE 1.0 TSI 115 DSG
Smaller wheels and the automatic gearbox help fuel economy
Blow the budget
T-Cross S 1.0 TSI 95
Least powerful version will be fine for pootling around town

Interested in buying a Volkswagen T-Cross?

How good does it look? 4/5

The squared-off silhouette of the T-Cross benefits interior space and adds to its SUV image. Volkswagen offers four specification grades, which affects how stylish the T-Cross is. The entry-level S version gets 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers and LED daytime running lights. The SE model gains black roof rails, front fog lights and 17-inch alloys. A more upmarket look comes with the SEL, as it gets silver roof rails, LED headlights and rear privacy glass. If you’re looking for a sporty appearance, the range-topping R-line T-Cross may be for you, with unique front and rear bumpers, black wheel arch extensions and 18-inch alloy wheels.

What's the interior like? 4/5

The Volkswagen T-Cross has a bright and airy cabin that can be customised with optional colour panels for the dashboard. The materials from which the rest of the dashboard is made look reasonably smart at first glance, but further investigation with the fingertips reveals a hard finish rather than a cushioned one, which some drivers will find less appealing, especially given the T-Cross’s comparatively high price compared with rivals. That said, getting into a comfortable driving position is helped by a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that can be set for height and reach, and the high-set seat helps give you good visibility in all directions. All the controls are easy to identify and use, and the touchscreen infotainment system is fairly self-explanatory, too.

How practical is it? 4/5

Considering its compact exterior dimensions, there’s ample room inside the T-Cross and plenty of places to store things. A decently sized glovebox and door pockets that can easily fit larger drinks bottles are useful, plus there’s a deep groove on top of the dashboard for smaller items. Sadly, in the back there’s a raised centre section in the floor, restricting foot space for the person in the middle seat. They also get slightly less headroom than those in the outer seats. However, rear legroom is good for the segment, and the rear bench can slide forwards and backwards to alter boot volume or increase passenger space as required. The boot holds 385 litres of stuff in its standard configuration, and this can grow to 455 litres. The rear seats also have a 60:40 split and, when tumbled forward, they lie more or less flush with the boot floor, with only a small lip to get heavy items over.

What's it like to drive? 5/5

The T-Cross strikes a really good balance of abilities on the road, and as that’s pretty rare with small SUVs, it’s undoubtedly one of the best cars of its type to drive. Perhaps most importantly, it does a good job of keeping you comfortable, mopping up lumps and bumps really effectively while having enough control to stop the body bouncing around on undulating roads. That control also helps keep body roll in check through bends; it leans over a shade more than a Polo does due to its more top-heavy design, but it still feels impressively tidy and secure. The light steering and tight turning circle is handy around town, and although you don’t get much in the way of feedback, you do at least feel more weight through the wheel when you’re going faster to give you a shade more confidence. To top off an impressively relaxed driving experience, the T-Cross is also pretty good at keeping exterior noises out, helping keep life calm and serene.

How powerful is it? 3/5

The T-Cross is only available with 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines. There are two versions, the first with 95 horsepower in conjunction with a five-speed manual gearbox. This will be fine for most people most of the time. It’s best-suited to slower urban driving, but it can handle motorway pace if need be. However, it is true that it can start to feel a fraction overwhelmed if you’re loaded up with passengers. That’s why upgrading to the 115 horsepower engine is worthwhile if you can afford to. It feels more responsive when pulling away and feels more relaxed and eager when picking up speed on the move, especially on the motorway. It also comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s nicer to use than the five-speeder, but if you’re prepared to spend extra, you can also specify it with a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

Compared with other cars in the small SUV segment, the Volkswagen T-Cross isn’t the cheapest to buy, but strong residual values should help to balance out the total cost of ownership. And, with four specification grades, there is something to suit most budgets. Purchase price aside, there’s little else to separate the two petrol engines, because CO2 emissions, fuel economy and insurance groupings are very similar. So, we’d advise going for the more powerful of the two if you can afford the initial outlay. If choosing the automatic gearbox, however, do factor in that this will probably cost you a wee bit more in servicing over time.

How reliable is it? 3/5

As this is Volkswagen’s first T-Cross model, there isn’t any significant reliability data as yet, but it does share its electronics and other parts with other models in the Volkswagen Group. The turbocharged petrol engine also features in several other Volkswagen Group cars from the Skoda Octavia and Karoq to the Seat Arona and Volkswagen Polo. Owner reviews of these cars on Auto Trader are generally full of praise for the engine. Volkswagen provides all new models with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty and roadside assistance.

How safe is it? 5/5

The T-Cross scored the maximum five stars when crash-tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP. All versions come with six airbags, including curtain airbags for rear passengers. The two outer rear seats come with Isofix child seat mounting points. At slower speeds, if the car detects a potential collision with an object in front, it will automatically apply the brakes. In the event of a more severe collision, the car will hold the brakes on to prevent further impacts. A lane assist system will detect if the car is straying over your lane markings and will alert you. From SE grade up, the T-Cross gains adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a set distance to the car in front even if it slows down. From this spec level up, there is also a driver monitoring system that can detect tiredness and prompt you to take a break if you've been driving for an extended period.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

The T-Cross comes with good levels of standard kit, even in the entry-grade S trim. It features 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, front and rear electric windows and electric folding door mirrors. The inclusion of an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and DAB radio means that it doesn’t look or feel like the budget model inside. The SE-spec T-Cross gets 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, front fog lights with a cornering function, better smartphone connectivity and adaptive cruise control. The SEL model gets styling upgrades, along with more useful features such as European mapping for the satellite-navigation and speed limit display, along with front and rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate-control. If you’re more image-conscious, the range-topping R-Line model might pique your interest. It receives more distinctive styling by way of unique front and rear bumpers, a roof spoiler and 18-inch wheels. When fitted with the automatic gearbox, R-Line versions include paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel, too. Sports seats in the front are embossed with R-Line logos as well and, instead of the analogue instrument dials, there is a 10.25-inch digital display. Volkswagen offers a range of design packs that allow buyers to further customise the exterior and interior look of the T-Cross through coloured alloy wheels, dashboard panels and upholstery.

Why buy? 5/5

In all likelihood, you’ll buy the T-Cross because it has a desirable badge and good looks, which is critically important in such and image-conscious sector of the market. However, you’ll be getting a car that delivers much more besides. It’s fun, comfortable and civilised to drive, it’s roomy inside and it has one of the biggest boots in the class. A bit pricey compared with rivals, but worth it.

Interested in buying a Volkswagen T-Cross?