Volkswagen’s newest city-focussed SUV has just landed, and it’s got the looks, but does it have the goods to back it up?
+ Exterior styling
+ Super comfortable seats
+ Highway manners
+ Clever interior
+ Loads of gadgets
Watch out for:
– DSG gearbox can be jerky in traffic
– Underpowered engine in the 85TSI
– Interior plastics could be nicer for the price
What is it?
Many people nowadays are looking for the car that does it all. Not too big, not too small, us consumers are looking for goldilocks on four wheels, and the T-Cross might just be that ‘just right’. With SUV’s all the rage at the moment, and 90% of them never seeing dirt, the T-Cross is the latest small, lifestyle-focussed offering from the German manufacturer and is basically the super-popular Polo micro-hatch wrapped in a butch, faux 4×4 exterior. The T-Cross represents the new entry point into the VW SUV stable and has the ride-height and seating position to take on any stray kerb or speed hump that might come your way. Smaller than a Golf its high seating position (on especially comfy chairs might I add) and square edges make it an absolute doddle to park and thread through inner-city streets.
All about the looks: Design
Volkswagen places the T-Cross in the market as a vehicle that bridges the gap between mass-market and prestige brands, and in terms of exterior styling and design, this writer feels they’ve nailed the brief. There’s no tinniness that is commonly associated with cars of this stature, and the bluff ends with super funky lights (LED in the higher models) meant that among the grey monotony of carparks, the little vee-dub stood out. Neither particularly masculine nor feminine even the base ‘Life’ model we were testing had features light fog lights, automatic headlights, parking sensors front and rear and fantastic looking 16-inch Rochester alloys.
Think smarter not harder: Interior
Once you step inside the T-Cross it’s not hard to see its VW Polo roots. Almost identical dashboard, centre console and driving instruments are paired with two incredibly comfortable front seats and a driving position that allows you to sit high up in the traffic. Once your inside you will not be left wanting for gadgets and tech. Front and centre is an 8-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, you can also juggle between the radio functions, and car settings as well. It’s brilliantly easy to use but fingerprints will be left behind on the shiny surface. Once settled and behind the wheel it’s very easy to get acquainted with the rest of the interior; in the little pocket under the air conditioning controls is a cubby that supports wireless smartphone charging as well as a grand total of four USB points which covers almost any battery emergency imaginable.
The back seats are clever and have a clever sliding second-row seat that allows you to either prioritise back seat room, or boot size depending on what you need. The only downside to the interior is the plastic, for a car heading towards 30K the scratchy hard touchpoints are a disappointing blemish to an otherwise brilliant small-car interior.
On the road again: Driving
From the wheel the little vee-dub has the high-up seating position of an SUV and the nimbleness of a small hatchback, which combined make it an epic little city car. That seating position as well as great visibility and easily placed corners mean that tackling inner city laneways and carparks are very easy. Once on the open road and the T-Cross is quiet and comfortable, a real surprise for a car of its stature. However, when you go to put your foot down in this 85kW 3-cylinder Life model, it feels like it lacks the oomph necessary for a highway or uphill takeover. The little engine is peppy and does its best but for those who plan on doing longer journeys, this writer would recommend opting for the more powerful (and more expensive) 110kW 110TSI T-Cross Style. Out on the open road is where VW’s 7-speed DSG really shines with almost imperceptible shifts and the ability to do things the ‘old school’ manual way. In the city it has a tendency to hesitate when leaving traffic lights and takes a little bit of getting used to in order to drive smoothly. The T-Cross is also front wheel drive only, so that means that the extra ride-height (180mm) is best suited to supermarket kerbs and gravel driveways rather than bush-bashing, and at the snow you’ll still need chains. During a week of testing this writer took the T-Cross on a round trip to the Central coast as well as daily commuter journeys and the fuel consumption was impressive. The official rating from VW is at 5.4L/100km and after a week of combined driving we were sitting very close to that at 5.6L/100km.
Verdict: Are We Addicted?
Volkswagen is late to the small SUV game but the T-Cross is a worthy first attempt. Many will be won over on appearance alone but scratch a little deeper and there’s much more than first meets the eye. The clever and flexible interior with its sliding rear bench and USB points for almost every passenger will keep occupants happy and charged. The comfortable and quiet drive while still being small enough to thread through suburban streets will suit most buyers and only those who hit the open road more often will need to look at a bigger options in the range in the form of the brand-new T-Roc, the Tiguan and the massive Touareg. Overall a nice little vehicle with plenty of options and accessories to keep all but the fussiest buyer happy.
Tech Addict Rating: 6.5/10
Volkswagen T-Cross 2020: 85TSI Life (as tested)
Safety rating: 5 STARS (ANCAP)
Engine Type: 1.0L turbo
Fuel Type: Premium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency: 5.4L/100km
Seating: 5 seats
Price from: $27,990