UK drive: Volkswagen’s T-Cross sets a new benchmark for crossovers
Can Volkswagen break into a hotly-contested compact crossover market with its new T-Cross? Ryan Hirons finds out…
What is it?
This is the latest entry into Volkswagen’s ever-growing SUV range — the T-Cross. It joins the T-Roc, Tiguan and Touareg (noticing a trend?) as the smallest entry into the larger-car line-up and aims to bring the bulkier styling and ride height advantages that come with such vehicles to a package that’s perfectly suited to life in the city.
It’s not our first rodeo with the T-Cross — having been left impressed at the carefully-curated media launch — but does that praise carry over after a week behind the wheel in the UK? We find out…
You’re looking at a car that’s not only a new nameplate for Volkswagen, but also the first car it’s had in the ever-feisty compact SUV market. It shares its underpinnings largely with the Polo hatchback and was first previewed in 2016 by the T-Cross Breeze concept — albeit that car was a convertible.
It borrows most of its mechanical bits from the vast VW Group parts bin, including 1.0-litre TSI engines found in its smaller machines (a diesel has also recently become available) along with clever technology such as its Active Info Display — though that’s reserved for higher-spec cars, rather than the mid-spec SE machine tested here.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering ‘our’ T-Cross is the 1.0-litre petrol engine with 113bhp and 200Nm of torque (a 94bhp option is also available), which is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The result is a 0-60mph time of 10 seconds flat, with a 120mph top speed possible. As for efficiency, Volkswagen says it’ll do 48.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions weighing in at 112g/km.
We feel this powertrain is perfectly at home under the bonnet of the T-Cross. It provides the SUV with enough power to never feel sluggish yet delivers a smooth and refined driving experience. The gearbox feels slick and responsive, creating a perfectly pleasant package in all.
What’s it like to drive?
Remember how we said we’d driven this car before? Well, that was largely barren of the T-Cross’ key selling point — life in the city. We got the chance to rectify this with our week in the car, and we’re happy to report it passed the test with flying colours.
Light steering combined with its compact dimensions makes darting around town a piece of cake, and that’s only heightened by its excellent visibility. A softly-set suspension setup makes easy work of potholes, drain covers and someone’s takeaway box from the night before in the road too — but it’s not so soft as to unsettle your stomach.
These strengths in the city do prove to be its undoing elsewhere, though. Motorway journeys can be a bit of a pain with plenty of road noise and short gearing meaning the engine is noisy, while there’s nothing but body roll if you had more spirited driving in mind. For a car that’s destined to live life as a downtown runaround though, it’s hard to ask for more.
How does it look?
The core design of the T-Cross is all very Volkswagen — sensibly-judged angles, plenty of cohesion and modern (if a little dull) overall styling.
There has been an attempt to inject some funk into the car, though. Move around to the back and you’ll spot a light bar that stretches the length of the boot, giving a concept-car like feel to it. Oh, and you see those lovely VW-provided photos? For better or worse, that’s the exact double orange machine we drove.
‘Energetic Orange’ to be exact, and it’s certainly a head-turner — even more so with the wheels, though it’s not a precise colour match between the two. Whether the attention this will bring is a good thing or not comes down to your own preferences.
What’s it like inside?
Sticking to the orange talk for a second — there’s even more of it in here thanks to the selection of ‘Energetic Orange’ trim. It definitely adds some character to the cabin, but again this is one that comes down to personal taste.
That aside, materials deployed throughout feel of a high quality compared with rivals in the segment, and the only real scratchy, hard surfaces are those the driver will rarely come into contact with. Switchgear is all intuitive and modern-feeling, while the fabric seats are comfortable to spend time in.
As for space, five can be seated in good comfort while a boot capacity of 455 litres puts it right at the forefront of the compact SUV class. If you’re happy to sacrifice some of that for a little extra rear legroom, a slidable bench can create 14cm of extra space for those in the back.
What’s the spec like?
As tested here in mid-spec SE trim, the T-Cross is a little barren on the standard-fit equipment front, but that’s not to say it goes totally without. Visual items include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights, body-coloured bumpers, black roof rails and LED daytime running lights.
Inside the car, cloth upholstery, ‘pineapple’ decorative inserts and a leather multifunction steering wheel are thrown into the package, while luxury tech includes an eight-inch infotainment screen with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
It’s not short on safety and assistance features, with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking and Predictive Pedestrian Protection all in the mix.
With an £18,805 starting price, the T-Cross SE does have quite a hefty asking price for a car of this specification — with options bringing our test machine up to an almost eye-watering £22,615. For comparison, a range-topping Nissan Juke Tekna can be had from £20,610, while a top-spec Mazda CX-3 weighs in at £22,095.
Manufacturers in the compact SUV game might want to kick up a gear, as the Volkswagen T-Cross sets a new benchmark for the segment. It takes the fashionable SUV recipe, packs in some dependable and high-quality Volkswagen ingredients and adds the much-needed city-conquering spice. Oh, and whips up some practicality for dessert.
Any downsides? It does lie on the pricier side of things, and there’s certainly some hesitation over the way it looks, but the overall package is impressive. Over to you, every other rival.
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