Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • 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.