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VW T-Cross review: new Polo on stilts tested

Published:11 March 2019

The new 2019 VW T-Cross: CAR magazine's full review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

► New Volkswagen T-Cross tested
► Latest VW crossover, Polo underpinnings
► Sibling to Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq

This is the new Volkswagen T-Cross, joining the T-Roc, Tiguan and Touareg in VW’s ever-expanding T-themed SUV line-up. 

I’m confused. Where does this one fit in?

The T-Cross is the littlest Volkswagen SUV in the line-up, borrowing its floorpan from the VW Polo. It’s built on the same platform (MQB A0, code fans) as the Seat Ibiza and Audi A1, and it’s a sister car to the Seat Arona and the upcoming Skoda Kamiq.

Although the T-Cross is actually very similar in size to the T-Roc (that one’s built on a platform related to the Golf), VW is marketing the T-Cross as the more practical, family-oriented car of the two. The T-Roc, meanwhile, is positioned as a more fashion-conscious, youthful proposition, although to these eyes the T-Cross is the bolder looking car. Volkswagen expects the T-Cross to appeal to young families as well as a few older customers, due to its tall-ish roof and elevated driving position.

All T-Cross variants will be front-wheel drive; its Polo-sourced underpinnings don’t allow for all-wheel drive and besides, this is very much an urban crossover, not an off-roader.

VW T-Cross review by CAR magazine UK

Compared with the Polo, the T-Cross costs several thousand pounds more depending on trim and spec, and it’s broadly comparable with the T-Roc – although the T-Roc is available with a wider range of engines. 

At launch, the T-Cross starts at £16,995, and tops £25k for a flagship R-Line trim with a DSG gearbox.

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What’s the VW T-Cross like to drive?

You sit higher than in the Seat Arona, and it feels more like an SUV than a tall hatchback.

Predictably, its handling feels otherwise similar to the Arona, although there’s perhaps a touch more body roll. It’s planted and grippy, and feels very stable on the motorway too, with an unusually assured, tied-down feel for a small-ish, high-ish car. 

VW T-Cross 2019

That’s partly due to suspension that feels like it’s been given a relatively firm set-up. Ride quality is largely smooth, but a little bit tremulous on bumpy roads, something you feel more as a passenger than as a driver. This car was in top R-Line trim and rode on 18-inch wheels (entry-level S models are on 16-inch wheels and mid-spec SE and SEL cars on 17s), with relatively high-profile tyres. All cars ride on passive dampers; adaptives aren’t available.

Refinement impresses. There’s little road noise, and the engine is remarkably quiet, especially for a three-cylinder. 

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Yes, engines. What are the choices?

From launch in the UK the T-Cross is available with just one 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine (as seen in various other VW Group cars including the Polo and Ibiza), with a choice of two power outputs: 94bhp or 113bhp.

The former is available with a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the 113bhp version can be had with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG auto. 

VW T-Cross engines and specs

Although not yet confirmed, VW’s 1.5-litre ‘Evo’ petrol engine with active cylinder shutoff may join the range later. A 1.6 TDI diesel is available in other markets but isn’t planned to come to the UK. 

We’ve tested the 1.0 113bhp version, which feels just ample enough in performance for the car’s size. One suspects the 94bhp version might feel a bit flat. It’s a quiet engine, however, especially at a cruise, and very smooth for a three-pot. 

We tested both gearbox options; the DSG feels well-calibrated, with progressive take-up around town and a leggy top gear for the motorway, while the six-speed manual has the slick, well-damped feel that characterises most modern Volkswagen products. 

What’s the interior like?

Unsurprisingly, very similar to the Polo in most regards, with eminently sensible ergonomics and an angular styling theme. It’s all quite sober, although some jazzily coloured panels are available to liven it up.

The elevated hip-point makes it feel bigger than a supermini, and there’s a relatively upmarket ambience overall but the quality of plastics disappoints. 

The dashboard top surface and A-pillar cladding are scratchier than Grandmaster Flash, and sound hollow when you tap them. The door cards are made from the same material, without any fabric trim, even on top-level R-Line models, which is perhaps a little disappointing for a car which is priced in the mid-£20k bracket in its plushest guise. 

VW T-Cross review by CAR magazine UK

It’s well-appointed otherwise, though. Ambient lighting is standard – a mod-con that’s starting to filter down from higher-end models to smaller mainstream cars across the market – and a gut-shaking Beats audio system is an option.

In all trim levels the seats are attractive and comfortable but could do with a touch more side support; tackle a roundabout in a hurry and you’ll need to brace yourself to avoid rubbing shoulders with passengers, for whom there aren’t any handles fitted along the roof rails.

The top two trim levels get an eight-inch touchscreen mid-dash with smartphone compatibility, and R-Line versions get the clear, configurable Active Info Display digital instrument panel. A gloss-black plastic surround helps the two screens gel visually, and there’s still a sensible smattering of physical switchgear below the middle screen for the air-con controls. For ease of use, it’s one of the most intuitively laid out cockpits currently on sale. 

Traditionalists rejoice: there’s a proper physical handbrake lever with either gearbox option, and still space for two cupholders alongside and a storage cubby box behind.

How practical is the VW T-Cross?

It might be related to the Polo, but the T-Cross feels considerably larger. 

At 4.1m long the T-Roc is 55mm longer than a Polo and its modular platform has allowed the front axle to be moved notably far forward, freeing up greater interior space. 

The T-Cross’s 2.5m wheelbase is large in relation to overall length and a six-foot passenger can sit behind a six-foot driver. Middle rear seat space is tight, however, as per the Polo and Ibiza. It’s best saved for occasional use only, and the T-Cross feels best suited for use as a four-seater than a five.

VW T-Cross boot

Its party piece is a sliding rear seat bench fitted as standard throughout the range, adapted from the VW Tiguan. With 14cm of slidability it can free up extra boot space to the tune of 445 litres total volume with the bench slid all the way forwards, and 385 litres with it all the way back. The T-Roc, for context, is a fixed 445 litres. 

The rear seats fold flat in a 40:60 split and a fold-flat front passenger seat is an option to help load longer items. A variable-height boot floot is fitted on all but base S models

And there are USB points galore; two for front passengers, and two for the rear. 

Anything else I should know?

The MQB A0 platform brings with it a variety of active safety systems. There are some improvements over the similar systems fitted to the Polo; the Front Assist radar/camera system can detect cyclists as well as cars and pedestrians, for instance.

Lane Assist and Light Assist (auto high beam) both use the same forward-facing camera in the windscreen. The former isn’t quite the same as the lane-keeping aid in the Passat, auto-steering the car on a constant trajectory; instead it only intervenes if a lane departure is imminent. To keep Euro NCAP happy it’s always switched on automatically every time you start the car, but it can be quickly disabled by a couple of button presses on the steering wheel. 

VW T-Cross UK prices from £16,995

The T-Cross is available in 12 colours, some of them decidedly jaunty, and matching hues for the wheels and dashboard are available as an option. 

A global car, European-market cars will be built in Pamplona, and South American and Chinese production is also being readied. 

Verdict

The T-Cross is entirely unexciting and brings little new to the field, but its appeal is clear. 

It’s entirely easy and intuitive to drive, practical for its size and styled with more character than many other VW group crossovers, while also portraying more grown up vibe than a more outré-looking Nissan Juke or Renault Captur, for example.

If its name is confusingly similar to that of the T-Roc, so is its size and design. But if at first glance it seems at risk of cannibalising VW’s own patch, the company estimates the compact SUV segment will double in size in the next 10 years. The T-Cross has enough substance to make it a very convincing option for buyers joining the fold.

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Specs

Price when new: £16,995
On sale in the UK: Orders open March 2019, in dealer network from April 2019
Engine: 999cc 12v 3-cyl turbocharged, 94bhp/129lb ft or 113bhp/148lb ft @ 2000-3500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch, front-wheel drive
Performance: 10.2sec 0-62mph, 120mph, 55.4-57.6mpg, 112-115g/km CO2 (with manual gearbox,) 57.6mpg, 111-112g/km (with DSG gearbox)
Weight / material: 1250kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4235/1782/1584

Rivals

Volkswagen T-Cross Cars for Sale

Photo Gallery

  • Volkswagen's brother to the Seat Arona and Skoda Kamiq
  • VW T-Cross side profile
  • VW T-Cross interior
  • VW T-Cross SUV on sale in UK from April 2019
  • Back seats in VW T-Cross: a five-seater, but a bit tight on rear room
  • VW T-Cross: prices in the UK from £16,995

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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