Volkswagen T-Cross SUV review
“The Volkswagen T-Cross is one of the class leaders in the small SUV sector”
- Desirable badge
- Expensive top models
- Polo costs less
- No hybrid model
The Volkswagen T-Cross is the company’s fifth SUV, and it’s the smallest of a collection that now includes the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and the flagship Touareg. It aims to capitalise on the current demand for compact yet practical SUVs, and joins a class saturated with excellent rivals, including the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross.
Volkswagen’s first SUV as we know it now was the original Touareg. The company did make four-wheel-drive vehicles during World War 2 using the Beetle’s underpinnings, but its first luxury SUV that arrived in 2002 was a world away from these. Since then, the Touareg has been joined by the mid-size Tiguan, with the seven-seat Tiguan Allspace and smaller T-Roc bringing even more choice when they arrived in 2017.
The T-Cross is an all-new model, but under the skin it's very similar to the SEAT Arona, Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia. It borrows some of its styling cues from the T-Roc, and looks to imitate the Touareg with its wide grille. Whichever angle you approach it from, the T-Cross is clearly from the VW stable, and does just enough to stand out in a sea of similarly sized rivals. Volkswagen concentrates on making smart-looking, well built, practical cars, and the T-Cross is simply the latest product of that approach.
For its first foray into the hotly contested small SUV class, VW has given the T-Cross some bold details. Its rear lights are surrounded by a thick, black swathe of trim, while the headlights are joined by a chrome strip that goes straight across the middle of the grille. Underneath, there are fog lights and daytime running lights, which look similar to those on the T-Roc, while T-Cross lettering stretches across the bootlid. Roof rails and black plastic wheel arch extensions give the T-Cross a rugged look.
Small SUVs have already been available for a few years now, but the T-Cross is looking to take top honours - thanks in part to the badge on the front. That alone will sell the car to many buyers, although it’s clear throughout that the T-Cross is aimed at the premium end of the class.
It combines VW’s typical sturdiness and planted feel with light steering that’s perfect in tight city streets. The T-Cross continues to drive well at speed without feeling too twitchy, which can be a side effect of light steering. It’s refined even up to motorway speeds, and keeps its composure over most bumps and small potholes. VW has certainly prioritised comfort over sportiness, which is what most small SUV buyers will prefer.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine can occasionally feel sluggish below 2,500rpm, which means you’ll have to rev it hard sometimes - when joining a motorway, for example. Volkswagen introduced a punchier 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine at the start of 2020, but in truth the 113bhp 1.0-litre engine will suit most buyers. The T-Cross has the option of a smooth DSG automatic gearbox - it’s a bit more expensive, but could be a great choice if you do most of your journeys in stop-start traffic.
The 1.0-litre petrol engine is offered with either 94 or 113bhp, and whichever you pick will return around 47mpg. This is pretty similar to most of its rivals, but the DSG automatic does increase fuel consumption to 44.8mpg. You’ll get a similar figure from the 148bhp petrol engine. The single diesel is most economical at up to 54.3mpg, but it’s more expensive to buy and only necessary for high-mileage drivers.
Despite its size, the T-Cross offers space for five, and adults should be comfy in the outer rear seats thanks to lots more headroom than in the Polo. The rear seats slide forwards and backwards, so you can choose whether you want more space for passengers or luggage. It has a big boot, regardless of where you have the back seats, while those in the front will enjoy a classy dashboard with a standard eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The Volkswagen T-Cross certainly isn’t the first small SUV, but it’s now one of the ones to beat. It offers an impressive blend of style, comfort and peppy engines.