Volkswagen T-Cross SUV (2019 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The T-Cross is Volkswagen’s smallest SUV model, but it doesn't want for overall space or quality. It’s ideal for navigating urban areas yet it feels surefooted and comfortable on longer motorway journeys, too. The T-Cross features lots of the latest in-car technology and comes with a good level of safety equipment as standard, which goes some way to justifying the comparatively high asking price.

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • High driving position
  • Quiet and comfortable to drive

Cons

  • More expensive than many rivals
  • No diesel option
  • Weakest engine feels slightly underpowered
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
Best avoided
T-Cross S 1.0 TSI 95
Least powerful and only gets a five-speed gearbox

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 packs for the dashboard. 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. The high-set seat lets you see right over the bonnet while rearward visibility isn’t too bad. All of the controls are easy to identify and use, and the materials throughout the interior look and feel of high quality. There are several useful storage areas dotted throughout for placing items like water bottles and mobile phones, 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? 4/5

As you might expect from a pint-sized SUV, the T-Cross is fun to drive around town. The light steering works well with the peppy nature of the turbocharged petrol engine. It’s very easy to manoeuvre in tighter confines, or when parking, thanks to speed-sensitive steering that requires less effort at low speeds. The turning circle is nice and tight, too. Despite the SUV styling, the T-Cross is only available with front-wheel drive, which won’t bother many buyers, but pulling quickly out of junctions can result in the front wheels sometimes scrabbling for traction. Away from town, the T-Cross is composed at higher speeds. Due to it being taller than a traditional hatchback it does lean a bit when taking corners a little faster, but it remains surefooted and predictable in how it handles. As the speed increases, the steering feels nicely weighted and provides accurate feedback, so you are always confident. Poorer road surfaces are well absorbed, and larger wheels don’t massively detract from the overall ride comfort. There is some wind noise at motorway speeds, though it isn’t intrusive and is about normal for the sector.

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 is best-suited to slower urban driving, as, with passengers onboard, it can feel a bit underpowered. Upgrading to the 115 horsepower engine is worthwhile as it feels more responsive when pulling away. It may only have an additional 20 horsepower, but in a car this size, that makes an appreciable difference, especially if you’re doing lots of motorway driving. The six-speed manual gearbox to which the more powerful engine is mated is nicer to use than the five-speed version, but if you can stretch your budget to the seven-speed automatic, it is worthwhile, especially if you typically do a lot of driving in traffic.

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. With four specification grades, there is something to suit most budgets, and even the cheapest model comes with a fair level of standard equipment. Purchase price aside, with little else to separate the two petrol engines we’d advise going for the more powerful of the two, as it’s not likely to mean noticeably higher fuel bills. If choosing the automatic gearbox, do factor in the additional servicing costs for this 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? 4/5

There’s a vast array of models to choose from in this segment, but the Volkswagen T-Cross strikes a great balance of good design, compact dimensions, generous cabin space and more boot space than in many rivals. The T-Cross also features the high driving position that is important to many SUV buyers, and it is also fun to drive. However, it’s probably the car’s desirable image that filk will find most appealing.

Interested in buying a Volkswagen T-Cross?