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Latest update bolsters the strengths of VW’s versatile if slightly strait-laced crossover supermini

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Independent design houses, I was once told, are sometimes involved in the kind of exterior-design-centric mid-life facelift that the Volkswagen T-Cross has just had. They’re a fresh set of eyes, I suppose, capable of the detachment that can address what’s lacking in the visual appeal of a car without dispensing with its strengths.

You wouldn’t imagine a third party had been at the table in this particular case, though – and perhaps one should have been. Because, while it appeared back in 2019 as exactly the sort of rounded, practical, grown-up crossover supermini you might expect from Volkswagen, the T-Cross has never really laid a glove on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka or Ford Puma for kerbside appeal. And, despite having some new bumpers and headlights, a palette of new colours, and a refreshed interior, guess what: it still doesn’t.

While the T-Cross driving experience is a little less vigorous for the inclusion of the 94bhp 1.0 TSI engine, it’s not one that seems particularly slow or frustrating

Technical specs

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 95 Life. Price: £23,975. Engine: 3 cyls in line, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol. Power: 94bhp at 5500rpm. Torque: 129lb ft at 1600-3500rpm. Gearbox: 5-spd manual, front-wheel drive. Kerb weight: 1254kg. 0-62mph: 11.2sec. Top speed: 112mph. Economy: 49.8mpg. CO2, BIK tax band: 128g/km, 30%




vw t cross review 2024 02 panning

The boldest thing about the look of the updated T-Cross, in fact, is the new shade of yellow you can buy one in. (This has been redubbed, rather endearingly, Rubber Ducky Yellow by Volkswagen UK after the results of a social media customer poll, but it’s the same colour that other Europeans call Grape Yellow.) The new headlights and fascia panels do little to lift the sense of style of a car that continues to look square and slightly dowdy next to its peers.

Of all the SUV-shaped cars that Volkswagen produces, the T-Cross is the smallest. And although the Wolfsburg-based firm originally kept the derivative line-up relatively simple from its launch in 2019, with just one petrol and one diesel engine available, the range has since grown to offer the car's typically younger, lifestyle-type buyers a much more comprehensive list of derivatives.

A 94bhp 1.6-litre diesel model was available for a while with a choice of five-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions but has now long been discontinued. In 2020, Volkswagen decided to introduce its more powerful 1.5 TSI Evo engine to the T-Cross line-up, paired exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch ’box. With 148bhp on tap, this engine lends the compact crossover a healthy performance boost, but our testers agree that the T-Cross remains at its most appealing with the VW Group’s 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot under the bonnet.

It’s this engine that continues to represent the meat of the range. It's available in several states of tune and with a choice of gearboxes. The most powerful, 113bhp unit – fitted with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch auto ’boxes – proved to be a highly polished performer when we drove it in Majorca in 2019. Here, though, we’re focusing mainly on the 94bhp version, which continues to come with a five-speed manual transmission.

All T-Crosses are front-wheel drive and suspension is via a class-typical blend of struts at the front axle and a torsion beam at the rear.


vw t cross review 2024 08 dash

Although it’s pricier than some rivals, the T-Cross has plenty besides visual appeal to seal the deal.

The facelifted car's cabin has an entirely new dashboard design that’s intended to deliver a more materially upmarket ambience. Thanks to some more technical-looking trims, I guess it achieves that moderately well. Some more colourful choices might have brought a bit more vibrancy, but perhaps wouldn't have been so ‘Volkswagen’. Moreover, VW tried some of these in the form of optional design packs when it first introduced the car in 2019 - and if it couldn’t sell them then with the help of an advertising campaign that featured fashionista Cara Delevingne, it’s probably given up hope now. 

It’s not often you see rear seats that slide as a one-piece bench. To me, split-sliding ones would be better, so you could leave leg room for one rear passenger if needed. Then again, some extra load bay flexibility is better than none.

Aside from all that, there’s impressive passenger space in the car in both rows; a comfortable driving position; a back-seat bench that slides fore and aft to boost boot capacity or rear leg room as preferred; and a boot floor than you can either lower when you need to, or take out altogether when there’s one of those tallish house plants to take home from the garden centre (the Ford Puma offers something similar).

Volkswagen now fits a digital instrument pack to all trim levels as standard, but it’s a fairly small screen that only has room for either an analogue-style rev counter or speedo, but not both, a little annoyingly. Likewise, digital blob-style fuel and engine temperature gauges don’t feel much like technological progress, though they’re unlikely to put many buyers off.

There’s plenty of scope for adjustment in the driver’s seat, which is comfortable and of a good size even for the bigger of build, and there’s plenty of space for heads, limbs and feet. 

Perceived quality, meanwhile, continues to be good, rather than great. If you’re giving up a lower-end Golf for this car, there’s just a chance you might notice the shortfall, although it’s unlikely that you’d be offended by it.


vw t cross review 2024 18 engine

We tested an entry-level 94bhp 1.0-litre TSI model, above which sit a couple of more powerful alternatives - but most drivers won’t miss the extra grunt. This three-cylinder engine offers lots of accessible torque, is well mannered for a triple and revs freely enough when you need it to. 

It hauls through the longish intermediate gears of the standard five-speed manual ’box easily enough too. So those who trade up to the 113bhp 1.0-litre alternative will more likely be after the dual-clutch automatic gearbox than the extra performance on offer.

The controls are lightish of weight but consistent in their filtered feel, and all are easy to interact with. As a result, changing gears yourself is no particular chore and bringing the car to a halt smoothly is agreeably easy.


vw t cross review 2024 19 tracking front

The 16in alloy wheels of our test car delivered a quiet, supple, buoyant-feeling ride that dealt with broken urban surfaces well. 

The car didn’t run out of body control at out-of-town speeds, though, and is decently wieldy at junctions and around tight bends, with contained handling and a secure grip level at speed. 

It remains more boxy and upright than some cars in this class but no longer feels particularly softly sprung - so the hint of floatiness about the body control of the pre-facelift car when dealing with bigger lumps and bumps around the national speed limit seems to have been dialled out.


vw t cross review 2024 23 front static

If you’ve already decided you want a compact crossover and you like a car of substance and maturity, you should absolutely consider the T-Cross. For those after that dash of extra style who still want a VW, there is also the mildly coupé-ish Volkswagen Taigo.

The T-Cross has the measured, grown-up aura we expect of a Volkswagen, with fine space and versatility. Even at its cheapest, it offers a lot of stout, commendable qualities. 

For youthful, exuberant style and fun factor, you might say it continues to be a little bit rubber-ducked in a critically different sense, though, compared with more stylish rivals. But as one of the B-SUV segment’s more rational, practical and comfortable all-rounders, it deserves a good hearing in any case.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Volkswagen T-Cross First drives