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
Verdict - is the Volkswagen T-Cross a good car?
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. The fact it’s based on the Volkswagen Polo is easy to detect from behind the wheel – there’s a similar relaxed nature to its road manners, and the T-Cross behaves better on the motorway than you might expect for a small crossover. The latest Move trim means it’s also more affordable.
Volkswagen T-Cross models, specs and alternatives
Volkswagen offers a wider choice of SUVs than most manufacturers, with numerous different high-riding models and more in the pipeline. The T-Cross is the smallest and cheapest, sitting below the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace, the electric ID.4 and the flagship Touareg. It aims to capitalise on the current demand for compact yet practical SUVs, and sits in a class saturated with excellent rivals, including the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Hyundai Bayon and Citroen C3 Aircross.
The Volkswagen T-Cross was 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 108bhp 1.0-litre engine will suit most buyers, and the larger engine is only available with top trim levels. 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 returns around 49mpg. This is pretty similar to most of its rivals but the DSG automatic does increase fuel consumption to around 45mpg. You’ll get a similar figure from the 148bhp petrol engine. A diesel engine was briefly available but it was expensive and wasn’t much more economical than the smaller petrol options.
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.
2024 Volkswagen T-Cross facelift announced
As part of a wider refresh of its SUV lineup, the Volkswagen T-Cross will be getting a significant facelift in late 2023, ahead of the updated crossover reaching customers early next year. While there are plenty of changes, we don’t expect pricing to change dramatically from its current starting point of just over £26,000.
Like any good facelift, quite a few differences can be spotted at the front of the car. The T-Cross will get new bumpers with vertical foglights integrated within the lower air intakes, along with Volkswagen’s latest matrix LED headlight technology. There are similar changes at the rear, where the light clusters get a distinctive new pattern, and there’s a honeycomb bumper insert flanked by red reflectors.
Customers will also be able to pick from a palette including three new colours: Grape Yellow, Clear Blue Metallic and Kings Red Metallic.
There are noticeable changes inside too, starting with new soft-touch trim for the dash panel, revised door trims and ‘significantly higher-quality surface materials’, bringing the T-Cross up to par with larger Volkswagen SUVs. There’s an eight-inch touchscreen as standard, which is increased to a 9.2-inch version in top trim levels, while a digital instrument cluster is fitted free of charge. Manual air conditioning controls will be used across all versions, but automatic controls with backlit touch sliders will be offered optionally.
All trim levels will also include features like LED headlights as standard, with Life getting 16-inch alloy wheels and a leather multifunction steering wheel. Style adds “more elegance” and R-Line brings a sporting aesthetic.
With power confirmed as coming from ‘well-known, efficient TSI engines’, we aren’t expecting many changes to the powertrains on offer. It’s likely the same 1.0-litre petrol engines with 94bhp or 109bhp or a 1.5-litre with a more substantial 148bhp will be on Volkswagen’s configurator, all returning more than 45mpg.