It’s absolutely no reflection on its expectations of the customer base, as I’m sure it would be at pains to point out, but Volkswagen has elected to keep things simple when it comes to the derivative line-up of its new compact crossover, the T-Cross.
Technically, there are two engines to choose from, but honestly, there’s really only one, at least for now: the Group’s 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot. It's available in two states of tune and with a choice of gearboxes. We drove the higher-output 113bhp version, fitted with a six-speed manual, in Majorca recently. And while that can be had with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, now’s our chance to try the cheaper, less powerful 94bhp engine with its five-speed manual.
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
If you’d prefer a diesel (and Volkswagen’s market research suggests that only 5% of compact crossover buyers do these days), the 94bhp 1.6 TDI version of the car available in other markets is likely to be added to the UK range later this year. However, Volkswagen UK currently has no plans to let the T-Cross wander too far into T-Roc territory on price by offering us the 148bhp 1.5 TSI.
This car is pretty pleasant, spacious, comfortable and easy to drive – just like we reported earlier of the 113bhp 1.0 TSI SEL. The T-Cross strikes the same mature and rounded impression on UK roads as it did earlier, too, and while its 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.
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Likely to be the most popular in the range, mid-level SE trim gets you a fair bit of extra kit, but it’s the roof rails, variable-height boot floor, adaptive cruise control, Front Assist electronic safety aid and App-Connect infotainment function (which adds smartphone mirroring) that will probably justify the additional £1810 over the entry-level S.
What's the T-Cross like inside the cabin?
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 of heads, limbs and feet. A sliding second-row bench is fitted as standard, which means you can trade off a bit of space in the good-size boot for extra leg room or vice versa. You’re unlikely to need to except in occasional circumstances, though, because there’s enough space in the back for average-sized adults or teenagers to ride comfortably, and that variable boot floor makes for every bit as much cargo space as you’d expect in a small car.
SE spec cars do without VW's Active Info Display digital instrument cluster, although it can be added as an optional extra. It comes as standard on R-Line cars, and helps give elevate the cabin's already modern feel.
Volkswagen's standard interior treatment is still bit monotonous, but there’s scope to add a bit of colour and life with one of the optional Design packs – particularly if you happen to like orange things. Perceived quality, meanwhile, is 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.
How does the T-Cross perform on the road?
The 1.0-litre engine is just vocal enough when it’s working hard that you won’t confuse it for a four-pot, but it seems generally smooth and well-mannered at cruising revs. It feels a little bit laggy when picking up from below 2000rpm (a problem exacerbated by the longer intermediate gears of the five-speed gearbox) but responds well from there on upwards and gives the car a performance level somewhere between adequate and ample. Driveability is generally good, and the engine will spin up to 6000rpm for overtaking quite freely and without protesting too hard.
The T-Cross is more boxy and upright than some cars in this class, and because it’s also a touch softer-sprung than some, there’s just a hint of floatiness about its body control when dealing with bigger lumps and bumps around the national speed limit. That's a price most owners will very happily pay, however, in return for a quiet and absorbent low speed ride and good absorbency at trunk road pace, and it doesn’t adversely affect handling precision or high-speed stability.
The T-Cross corners with a touch of roll but still good chassis response. It has a very secure and dependable mid-corner feel, and it doesn’t get knocked off path easily by bumps or crosswinds at motorway speeds.
Is the T-Cross the compact crossover to go for?
If you’ve decided on the compact crossover segment already and like a car of substance as well as style, you should absolutely consider the T-Cross.
You certainly don’t lose out on refinement or well-furnished functionality as a consequence of plumping for the lesser engine or SE trim, and if there’s a penalty on driveability, it’s a minor one.
The T-Cross has the measured, grown-up aura we expect of a Volkswagen, fine space and versatility and just enough visual distinctiveness to catch your eye but not a hint more. That should play well against much of the established compact crossover set, above which it now rises for recommendation pretty clearly.
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