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VW’s new smallest SUV has refinement, versatility, maturity and polish – all the brand’s familiar qualities. Short on fun factor, perhaps, but not on substance

Our Verdict

Volkswagen T-Cross 2019 review - hero front

VW's new compact crossover retains its classy, substantial feel on UK roads, even in mid-range, lower-powered form

  • First Drive

    Volkswagen T-Cross 2019 review

    VW’s new smallest SUV has refinement, versatility, maturity and polish – all the brand’s familiar qualities. Short on fun factor, perhaps, but not on substance
Volkswagen T-Cross 2019

What is it?

It’s a strange truth at the moment that making a success of producing small cars actually seems to mean turning them into slightly bigger, taller ones. If a car maker wants profitability out of his global supermini line today, in other words, he’d better have a downsized crossover somewhere within it.

The European market for these high-rise five-doors has doubled in size over the past five years, and is set to double again in the same time frame; and even if you're the biggest car maker in the world, you simply can’t afford to continue to pass on a share of a growing segment like that. And so, having watched as its rivals made all the money, Volkswagen has, in its usual style, carefully considered what its product positioning should be; laser-targeted the juicy middle of the market on price, size and specific role; and then taken its shot.

So enters the new Volkswagen T-Cross. A couple of inches longer and just under six inches taller than a Polo, the T-Cross is still smaller at the kerb than its main crossover-class rivals. VW dubs it ‘an urban SUV’ rather than an off-roader; there’s certainly no four-wheel-drive version.

At launch, you can choose between a pair of 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engines, which drive the front wheels through either manual or seven-speed twin-clutch gearboxes. Neither develops more than 113bhp. Our first taste of the car came in the more powerful 1.0 TSI 115 - in SEL trim.

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What's it like?

A compact crossover doesn’t get out of the starting blocks, for this tester, if it doesn’t offer discernibly better space and convenience than a regular supermini – and plenty don’t. The T-Cross does.

Its cabin feels wider than many in the class, with good knee and elbow room up front and enough second-row space for six-foot adults to sit comfortably line astern. Boot space isn’t massive: 385 litres is only 10% bigger than in a Polo, but that’s with the standard-fit sliding back seats set aft (it rises to 455 litres otherwise).

The T-Cross’s cabin struggles just a little bit to exude the superior aura of perceived quality you expect from a Volkswagen. It’s one plainly built to a price, and made predominantly of mouldings that are hard to the touch - though they’re generally robust, securely fixed and pleasant enough.

So instead of with material plushness, it’s with the technological ritz of VW’s digital ‘Active Info’ instruments and some impressive infotainment features that the T-Cross seeks to raise itself up on ambient allure. In our SEL-spec test car, the effort was just about successful.

There’s an even more distinguishing, highly polished sheen about the car’s driving experience, though. Our 113bhp 1.0 TSI test car rode with an abiding sense of settled comfort and isolation that you don’t typically find in cars its size, and handled with the predictability and measure so typical of Wolfsburg.

This isn’t a car preoccupied with a contrived sense of thrusting, youthful energy. It’ll be driven by a great deal more retired couples en route to the garden centre than twenty-somethings on their way to the surf shop – and it behaves like a car well-reconciled to that reality. It’s absorbent and quiet in town; is wieldy and agile enough around bends and car parks, while still feeling natural; but, above all else, is entirely intuitive and easy to drive.

VW’s 1.0-litre engine develops a useful hit of torque and makes performance feel strong enough and fairly flexible. It doesn’t like to rev like the best turbo triples, though; it can feel slightly unresponsive at times; and it’s a little bit prone to a stall when manoeuvring. Refinement is very good, though, and economy seems more than respectable as it approaches 50mpg at a moderate cruise.

Should I buy one?

A competitive showing on value for money will be key to the T-Cross’s UK market success, so we’ll wait to confirm the car’s ultimate status among its peers until we’ve driven a mid-spec car on British roads, and had a closer look at the car's ownership credentials.

It’s a shame VW hasn’t quite reproduced Golf-level quality on Polo underpinnings here, but in most other ways you could give up a Golf for this car without regretting it. Suffice it to say for now, if this isn’t a class-leading car, it won’t miss the mark by much.

The T-Cross may not be as funky, flashy or sporty as some in the crossover niche, but neither is it flaky, flimsy or frivolous. It’s a mature, considered and very complete product: a properly executed VW of substance, and a car to be taken seriously. Which, it seems to me, is exactly what the segment has been missing.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SEL specification

Where Majorca Price £21,650 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls in line, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm Torque 148lb ft at 2000-3500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1250kg Top speed 120mph 0-62mph 10.2sec Fuel economy 48.2mpg (WLTP Combined) CO2 132g/km (WLTP Combined) Rivals Citroën C3 Aircross, Seat Arona

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Comments
24

8 March 2019

A car so fundamentally utterly lacking in visual flair that it felt the need to use orange (or any colour) highlight on the dashboard. 

It speaks of exhaustion of ideas. VW & Audi, once known for their purity of styling, having nothing more to say, decide to add irrelevant details in order to attract attention. On the other hand Skoda, once known for its quirky individual styling, is becoming more and more bland and cautious.

The design department isn't looking well in the VW group.

8 March 2019

I actually like SUVs as a principle, but this is a perfect illustration of how manufacturers have ruined them. A silly, childish looking bubble car, I dont know how you really call this an SUV. What is also silly is that people buy the things.

8 March 2019
I like it. I doubt that I'd ever own one but styling wide it's like a mini toureg. I'd. Certainly take it over one of those small jeep fiat things.

8 March 2019

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8 March 2019

the interior quality is shocking, its full of hard plastic that wolud have looked out of place in a 70's Lada, never mind in what is supposed to be a "semi-premium" brand, and the same goes for its sister vehicle the Q2.

8 March 2019
Really wish this stupid suv craze would end, they look boring and obviously drive worse then a normal car and they aren't as economical due to the raised ride height and brick like shape. stupid useless vehicles (SUV)

8 March 2019

a small cross over, the latest Ford ecosport, is head and shoulders above this, and that not exactly a great vehicle, but at least its honest and significantly cheaper. 

8 March 2019
I'm no SUV fan either finding them dynamically compromised and inefficient relative to conventional hatchbacks and saloons, but you have to admit that they offer more space for a given length, are easier to get in and out of and offer better visibility. My biggest gripe is how difficult they are to see past when emerging from junctions beside them or when following them on the motorway (seriously inhibits anticipation of traffic flow ahead).

8 March 2019
jameshobiecat wrote:

I'm no SUV fan either finding them dynamically compromised and inefficient relative to conventional hatchbacks and saloons, but you have to admit that they offer more space for a given length, are easier to get in and out of and offer better visibility. My biggest gripe is how difficult they are to see past when emerging from junctions beside them or when following them on the motorway (seriously inhibits anticipation of traffic flow ahead).

 

How do they offer more space for a given legnth ? They dont offer anymore space than a normal car.

8 March 2019

The orange bling on the T-Cross in the photos only seems to emphasise how uninspired the basic box-like design of this car is. And the interior is pretty ordinary and has VW's cynical new scratchy plastic theme. I've watched a detailed video of the Skoda Kamiq and its interior looks nicer and has more soft touch plastics. The Skoda looks just as dull really but is at least honest about it. And it has rear passenger air vents. Not sure the VW does, though I could be wrong. Golf prices for the T-Cross are offputting too. 

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