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A competent choice among a sea of small family SUVs

Volkswagen T-Cross SUV (19 on)
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At a glance

New price £18,360 - £27,785
Lease from new From £218 p/m View lease deals
Used price £12,455 - £22,920
Used monthly cost £311 - £572
Fuel Economy 42.8 - 54.3 mpg
Road tax cost £150
Insurance group 8 - 17 How much is it to insure?
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PROS

  • Tough-looking styling
  • Efficient, peppy range of engines
  • Wealth of personalisation options
  • Plenty of interior flexibility

CONS

  • Interior plastics feel hard and inexpensive
  • Ride quality feels unsettled on larger wheels
  • Cabin will be a squeeze for five adults
  • A little dull compared with many rivals

Volkswagen T-Cross SUV rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

In this review

  1. Introduction 
  2. Practicality
  3. Interior
  4. Comfort
  5. Running costs and mpg
  6. Engines and driving
  7. Handling
  8. Safety
  9. Verdict

The Volkswagen T-Cross was launched in 2019 and has established itself as a popular small family car for those who want something chunkier than a Polo or Golf. It's the entry-level SUV in Volkswagen's range, fitting in below the popular T-Roc and bestselling Tiguan, with a choice of smaller engines and more basic equipment packages.

The T-Cross is based on the same underpinnings as the Polo – Volkswagen’s MQB A0 platform if you’re into the detail – so you know what you're buying. And it's closely related to the other Volkswagen Group cars, the SEAT Ibiza and its SUV stablemate the Arona as well as the popular Skoda Kamiq, although the current (still brilliant) Fabia is still based on older technology.

As with so many small SUVs, the T-Cross is not a hardcore off-roader that will have you traversing tricky terrain. It makes no pretence of this – instead, it's front-wheel drive-only, and is really a ruggedised small hatchback for families.

Small SUVs – there are plenty to choose from

Like all small SUVs, the T-Cross has a raised ride height, roof bars and tough, city-friendly bumpers and wheelarch cladding. And for those looking at a Polo, it offers a higher, more commanding seating position and chunky, on-trend styling. It's none the worse for that – because this is exactly the sort of car that people want right now.

Small SUVs are definitely in vogue, with so many carmakers selling some very impressive offerings. So, not only is the likely T-Cross buyer going to compare it with the Polo hatchback, but with rival small SUVs, which are selling by the truckload. The brightest and best include the Citroen C3 Aircross, Ford Puma, Hyundai Kona, Kia Stonic, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur to name but a handful of the popular alternatives.

What trim levels are available?

The T-Cross line-up follows VW’s standard-issue trim hierarchy of S, SE and SEL with a sportier looking R-Line crowning the range. Before those models arrived in showrooms was the special T-Cross First Edition, a gussied-up version limited to just 250 examples in the UK, and set apart by a high level of equipment and distinctive bodywork graphics – well worth looking for secondhand.

Connectivity technology is standard higher up the T-Cross range, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, plus up to four USB sockets to keep everyone’s devices topped-up. Importantly, Volkswagen’s allowing buyers with a sense of adventure to personalise their T-Crosses with a suite of bold paint choices, with matching interior dashboard panels and alloy wheels.

One note about those eye-popping dashboard finishes: although they offer the cabin a visual lift, they feel disappointingly downmarket with a swathe of hard plastics and a lack of fabric on the door panels. Given Volkswagen's reputation for quality, these jar, although they seem rugged enough.

Volkswagen T-Cross practicality

  • Plenty of room for four
  • Flexible use of space
  • Compact dimensions for town use

For smaller families, the Volkswagen T-Cross will prove to be an eminently practical choice with ample room for four, along with plenty of in-cabin storage options. That sliding rear bench – standard on all T-Cross models – will prove useful for those with kids as little ones in child seats will be within close reach of adults in the front.

Although very similar in footprint to the Polo, the T-Cross’s extra height and elevated seating positions makes it much easier to get children into car seats without bending over so severely. With its compact dimensions – note that the R-Line is slightly longer at 4,235mm – the T-Cross is no trickier to park and drive in cities than a regular supermini. In fact, sitting slightly higher, makes it even easier in many regards.

That extra height also allows the T-Cross to have a deeper boot than the Polo, a feature boosted on SE models and above with their variable-height boot floors.The sliding rear bench allows the boot volume to be increased without reducing the seat tally, although it can be split-folded 60:40 to increase the space available or to accommodate longer loads.

Volkswagen T-Cross interior

  • Sensible, intuitive controls abound
  • Well-assembled, but plastics feel cheap
  • Vibrant personalisation options available

No surprises that the Volkswagen T-Cross shares much of its interior with the closely-related Polo, which is both good and disappointing news. Positively, the switchgear feels pleasant and logical to operate, with well-damped actions that reassure you of the car’s potential longevity.

What’s more disappointing is the abundance of rigid, hollow-sounding plastics that line the interior, including the whole dashboard moulding. It might be acceptable in a city car at half the price, but given most T-Crosses will cost in excess of £20,000 it smacks of penny-pinching. A lack of fabric matching the seats on the door panels feels especially miserly.

It creates a stark contrast in a couple of respects, too. Those personalisation packs with a choice of orange or green panels across the dashboard give it a positive visual lift, making the cabin feel that bit more special. It’s a pity you have to pay extra to make that the case, though.

Similarly, the slick 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and sharp Active Info Display digital instrumentation pod both look glossy, high-tech and similarly at odds with some of those hard, shiny plastic surfaces.

Still, most touch points are better – particularly the thick-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel and it’s easy to get a comfy, commanding driving position that’s more like a traditional SUV – compared with the SEAT Arona, you sit appreciably higher in the VW.

Comfort

  • Spacious cabin for four adults
  • Compliant ride quality on most road surfaces
  • Seats support well on longer journeys

As with most small cars, five seatbelts are fitted in the Volkswagen T-Cross, but if you’re an adult sat in the middle of the rear bench you’ve drawn the short straw – particularly if you’re flanked by a pair of burly six-footers. Four-up, it’s pleasingly spacious with generous amounts of head- and legroom, plus that rear bench can be slid backwards and forwards, a useful feature for adults in the front reaching children in the back.

There’s a little hollowing of the rear seat’s outer cushions for comfort, although the backrest is flatter, while the front pair are supportive and comfy – but a tad more bolstering around the thighs wouldn’t go amiss. Comfort is further enhanced by the T-Cross’s compliant ride quality, which successfully irons out the sharpest of imperfections without inducing the kind of floaty sensation that often induces travel sickness.

It’s not perfect, though, and models tested with the larger 18-inch alloy wheels displayed an occasional tendency to transmit the aftershocks of deeper road surface imperfections through to the cabin. We found it on the firmer side when driven on UK roads, often feeling a little jittery on cracked tarmac.

VolkswagenT-Cross running costs and mpg

  • Frugal engine option, both petrol and diesel
  • Many common parts with other smaller models
  • Larger wheel options require more expensive tyres

The T-Cross comes with a reasonable range of petrol and diesel engines, all of which major on economy and efficiency. If you're after maximising your miles per gallon, then we'd direct you towards the frugal 1.6-litre diesel. Fuel consumption in the 'real world' WLTP test is between 52.0-54.3mpg for the one and only 95hp version. However, we'd advise going for the petrol, not least because it's so much nicer to drive.

Going petrol doesn't put you that far behind in mpg, though. Given the economical credentials of the 1.0-litre TSI petrol motors, achieving an average of at least 40mpg in the real-world shouldn’t prove too challenging. Officially, VW claims between 47.9-48.7mpg for the 95hp version and 46.3-47.9 for the 115hp manual. Should you opt for the DSG automatic, those quotes drop slightly to 44.8-45.6mpg. Plump for the more powerful 1.5 TSI Evo engine (available on the R-Line model) and that economy drops to 43.2mpg – still an impressive figure.

Being based on VW’s small car platform with much commonality between various other Volkswagen-badged as well as Audi, SEAT and Skoda models, parts prices shouldn’t prove to be drastically expensive or tricky to source. Consequently, servicing won’t be too difficult or costly, eithers.

How green is the Volkswagen T-Cross?

All 1.0-litre petrol models emit between 134-137g/km of CO2 meaning that at current VED car tax rates you will be paying £165 for the first year. That rises to 142g/km if you choose a 1.0-litre DSG automatic version. Going for the 1.5-litre R-Line model sees a rise (but not a significant one) to 148g/km of CO2 emissions.

The diesel is greener in terms of CO2 than the 1.5 at 140g/km, but if you want the lowest emissions, you're best off going for the 1.0-litre petrol. Technology is used to lower running costs further, with turbocharging benefiting both performance and economy, plus all T-Crosses feature stop/start technology to avoid burning through fuel when the car’s sat still.

Reliability for Volkswagen in the usual surveys, such as JD Power shows it's a middling performer with good dealer support. There are ongoing issues with the 1.5-litre TSI Evo, including poor running and smoothness, especially on the DSG automatic version. We've had problems with our similarly-powered Volkswagen Arteon long-term test car.

Volkswagen T-Cross engines and driving

  • Petrols come in 1.0- and 1.5-litre varieties
  • Diesel version limited to one power output
  • We'd favour petrol over diesel

The T-Cross comes in petrol and diesel flavours, but looking at the model mix, Volkswagen is clearly favouring that you buy the former over the latter. The excellent 1.0-litre version comes in either 95hp (entry-level S model only) or 115hp forms, while there's a 1.5-litre TSI Evo power unit for the R-Line version.

You can also choose a diesel, which is the familiar VW Group 1.6-litre power unit shared with the Polo, Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia among others. However, for the T-Cross, it's limited to just the 95hp version of this engine – not exactly a sparkling performer.

Petrol engines – 95-150hp available

We’re fans of Volkswagen’s three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine and remain so when it’s powering the T-Cross. This is just as well as it’s the only powerplant available, at least for the first half of 2019.

Two versions are available: entry-level level examples have a 95hp output and produce 175Nm of pulling power between 2,000-3,500rpm, which should make it a fairly flexible engine, although performance on faster roads isn't a strong point with a 112mph top speed and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 11.5 seconds.

It's fine around town but struggles a bit when loaded and pushing for motorway speeds, and is easily caught out by holding too high a gear around a corner, where it's easy to fall into a rather cavernous power flat spot. Transmission-wise the 95hp engine only comes with a five-speed manual gearbox sending power to the front wheels. The manual 'box doesn't feel as slick as other VW Group cars we've driven, and the lever has a curiously long throw that blunts its sporting performance.

Delivering more pep – useful for T-Cross owners who regularly drive beyond slow-speed urban confines – is a 115hp edition of the 1.0-litre motor. Whether you choose the standard six-speed manual or the optional seven-speed DSG automatic, the on-road performance is identical: top speed is 120mph, while the 0-62mph acceleration benchmark drops to 10.2 seconds.

Both gearbox options are commendable – the manual has a precise, well-damped shift action that feels cushioned between ratio changes, while the DSG feels smooth, eager and isn’t blighted by the slow take-off from standstill that affects some of the larger-engined models elsewhere in VW’s range. If your budget will stretch to it, go for the automatic, for an even more refined in-town driving experience.

This also comes with the advantage of selecting the right gear at the right time, reducing the likelihood of becoming bogged down and making the car feel considerably punchier as a result.

We've yet to drive the 1.5-litre TSI Evo-engined T-Cross, but in other Volkswagen Group cars, we've found it to be smooth, powerful and remarkably economical when driven gently.

Diesel engine – 95hp only

There is the option of a 95hp version of VW’s 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine for the T-Cross, but like the TSI Evo-engined T-Cross, we've yet to drive it. On paper, other than its slightly better fuel economy figures compared with the 115hp petrol version, we'd struggle to recommend one.

Handling

  • Neat, tight cornering lines with little bodyroll
  • Pleasing amount of feedback through the steering wheel
  • In short, a safe and surprisingly entertaining car to drive

Buyers of SUVs with an urban-centric focus aren’t likely to be primarily interested in how well their car handles out on open, sweeping bends, but that’s not stopped Volkswagen from making the T-Cross a rather nice little thing to drive.

Not only does it feel more polished than any of its key rivals, despite the lofty driving position, we’d go as far to say it’s a more entertaining car to drive than the Polo it shares much of its underbody with. There’s – dare we say it – a bit of character on display here.

Cornering is particularly neat, the T-Cross faithfully tracking your intended line around faster corners with reassuring compliance. Only occasionally are you aware of the electronic stability systems kicking in when you start to slip, but that’s not how most of these VWs will be driven. That’s a pity as there’s a positive amount of steering feel to inform the driver about how much grip is at their disposal – it bodes well for higher-performance examples in the future.

Similarly, when you do fling it into some bends, bodyroll is kept in check, with little evidence of much lean as you press-on. Around town its compact dimensions and light steering make urban manoeuvres a doddle, while on motorways the T-Cross feels secure and planted, seemingly not swayed by gusts that momentarily push its rivals off-course.

Volkswagen T-Cross safety

  • A full five-star rating from Euro NCAP
  • Lots of standard safety equipment across the range
  • Although it’s an SUV, there’s no four-wheel drive option

Euro NCAP tested the Volkswagen T-Cross for crash-testing purposes in late 2019 and gave it a clean bill of health. It was particularly impressive for its ability to protect the driver and everyone inside, with a strong passenger compartment. Those upfront are the most protected, with Euro NCAP saying the rear-seat occupants benefit from 'adequate' protection.

Standard safety equipment is on the positively generous side with all models featuring:

SEL models and above also feature automatic lights and adaptive cruise control. One feature not available on any T-Cross derivative is Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system, despite its chunky SUV looks suggesting the contrary. Far better in colder months to switch to winter tyres for enhanced traction.

Volkswagen T-Cross crash test video

Verdict: should you buy a Volkswagen T-Cross?

Yes, although there are more characterful offerings in the small SUV market. It's a typical offering from Volkswagen – solid, capable, and ever so slightly dull. If you're looking for a small family car, there’s much to warrant picking a T-Cross over its rivals. It's a safe, good-looking choice that offers few surprises, and it wears the right badge. 

If you've read this far, you'll have already worked out that there are other small SUVs that offer more interesting styling or a better driving experience. We'd recommend taking a Ford Puma, Renault Captur or a Peugeot 2008 over a T-Cross if it's a feel-good small family car you're looking for. The T-Cross has deeper qualities, though, even if it is at the pricier end of the spectrum.

The T-Cross doesn’t do any single thing spectacularly well, but it is a thoroughly competent all-rounder. Not only that, it feels more like an SUV than the closely-related SEAT Arona and Skoda Kamiq, while simultaneously feeling more special than the Polo it’s based on. Bear in mind that on the finance deals. While the monthly payments on a T-Cross are reasonable, an Arona or Kamiq can be had for considerably less money – around £50 per month cheaper for a comparable model.

Further reading

Volkswagen T-Cross (2020) rear view

Volkswagen T-Cross SUV rivals