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Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 review

The T-Cross is VW's smallest SUV - it's based on the Polo, and is city-friendly as a result.
EXPERT RATING
8
The VW T-Cross is here to compete in one of the hottest parts of the market - the small SUV segment. Does the smallest VW SUV have what it takes to fight against some big name rivals? It has the smarts, safety and stuff to stick it to the best in the class, writes Matt Campbell.

Forget the new VW Golf hatch - this little tacker could be the most important addition to Volkswagen’s local range in decades.

It’s the 2020 VW T-Cross small SUV, a model that is here to take on the likes of the Kia Seltos, Mitsubishi ASX, Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona.

The T-Cross small SUV has been around for a while in other markets - it launched back in late 2018 in Europe, but it’s new to us, and in this review we’ll cover all the essentials like pricing, practicality, ownership and, of course, how it drives.

Let’s get to it!

Volkswagen T-CROSS 2020: 85TSI LIFE
Safety rating
Engine Type1.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$27,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

It’s not to be confused with the slightly larger T-Roc model, which has just arrived here too. The T-Roc is bigger, based on the Golf. But that model isn’t quite as clever when it comes to its design as this one.

Despite being smaller, the T-Cross is super smart when it comes to overall packaging. Despite being smaller, the T-Cross is super smart when it comes to overall packaging.

Despite being smaller, the T-Cross is super smart when it comes to overall packaging. It’s based on the Polo city car, and isn’t much bigger in terms of nose-to-tail length (T-Cross: 4108mm; Polo: 4053mm). However the T-Cross is a taller, boxier design, and that means added practicality. It is 1760mm wide and 1583mm tall, whereas the Polo is 1751mm wide and 1446mm tall.

It still has the rugged SUV styling cues you’d expect, albeit in a bit more of an urban-focused design. There are still chunky bumpers and off road inspired bits to separate it from a standard city hatchback, and it has 180mm of ground clearance - ideal for jumping the occasional gutter.

It is 1760mm wide and 1583mm tall, whereas the Polo is 1751mm wide and 1446mm tall. It is 1760mm wide and 1583mm tall, whereas the Polo is 1751mm wide and 1446mm tall.

And because it’s a VW sold in Australia, there are option packs to add on if you want them. The test car you see in these images has the R-Line pack optioned up, which adds a number of body design changes and 18-inch wheels on the outside, and some nice bits inside, too. More on that in the next section.

Disappointingly, VW has launched the T-Cross with a base model that still has halogen headlamps, where the mid-spec car you see here has LED lighting all around. I’ll break down the specs for you in the pricing section. 

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

There are some SUVs in this segment of the market that pack more in than you think is physically possible. The Honda HR-V comes to mind first and foremost, and the T-Cross is very close to that benchmark-setter when it comes to interior practicality.

That’s because the T-Cross has a clever sliding second-row seat that allows you to either prioritise back seat room, or boot capacity. Depending on what you’re doing, you can adjust the space ratio to suit.

The T-Cross has a clever sliding second-row seat that allows you to either prioritise back seat room, or boot capacity. The T-Cross has a clever sliding second-row seat that allows you to either prioritise back seat room, or boot capacity.

The sliding second-row means the boot capacity can either be 385 litres (seat all the way back) or 455L (seat forward), and that increases to 1281L with the seats folded flat, too. Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel, and those rear seats fold 60:40 as well.

The sliding second-row means the boot capacity can either be 385 litres. The sliding second-row means the boot capacity can either be 385 litres.

With that back seat in its most passenger-focused setting, and with the driver’s seat set for myself (182cm), I had easily enough knee room, toe space and headroom to be comfortable for hours in the back. With it slid forward, that wasn’t the case - but it’s arguably only going to be used like that if you have younger children in boosters or baby capsules, anyway. 

Either way, it’s a good compromise, one that many competitors can’t offer. Not even the HR-V (though it has Magic Seats which are amazing in their own right).

Boot space increases to 1281L with the seats folded flat. Boot space increases to 1281L with the seats folded flat.

The back seat amenities are a mixed bag. There are two USB ports for keeping devices charged up, as well as a pair of map pockets on the seat backs, and a pair of large door pockets. Unlike some more expensive VW models, those pockets aren’t lined, though, and that’s a bit annoying as things will move around in them, as they’re not shaped for bottles. 

There are no cup holders, no fold-down armrest, and no rear ceiling-mount grab handles. So it really depends what you prioritise when it comes to the back seat experience.

The front cabin is very familiar to those who have sat in a VW over, say, the past five years. The front cabin is very familiar to those who have sat in a VW over, say, the past five years.

The front cabin is very familiar to those who have sat in a VW over, say, the past five years. It’s a well designed and very ergonomically smart space, with everything falling to hand just as you’d expect.

The media screen is excellent - an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto, but not sat nav as standard (optional). There are knobs and buttons on either side, so it’s easy to find your way around the screen, and the menus are logical, too. 

Storage includes a pair of small cup holders between the front seats, a covered centre bin, a decent glovebox, and a storage tray on the dash top. There’s also a storage caddy in front of the gear selector, which houses a wireless phone charger pad, and also two more USB ports. And just like the rear, the front door pockets are large but unlined, though at least up front you get padded elbow pads on the doors.

The steering wheel is lovely, and the optional pack with the upgraded sound system and digital driver info screen is worth the money, if you ask me. It adds to that technical, Teutonic feeling that you get in VW products, and helps align the interior nicely to the already excellent standard of perceived quality - even if there are plenty of hard plastics used.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

With a starting price of $27,990 MSRP (before on-road costs), the VW T-Cross is priced close to a number of key competitors in the small SUV segment.

The VW T-cross starts at $27,990 MSRP (before on-road costs). The VW T-cross starts at $27,990 MSRP (before on-road costs).

It’s up against the likes of the Honda HR-V (from $24,990, VTi auto) Mitsubishi ASX (from $25,990, ES auto), Nissan Qashqai (from $29,990, ST auto), so if brand cache is what you’re after in your small SUV, this compact semi-premium branded model is going to appeal.

It also has plenty of boast about when it comes to standard specs, with a comprehensive equipment list offered on all models.

The T-Cross has 8.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The T-Cross has 8.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Starting at the base model 85TSI Life, the list includes 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights, manual air-conditioning, wireless smartphone charger (Qi), four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear), black roof rails, a leather multi-function steering wheel, front fog-lights, automatic headlights and 8.0-inch multimedia system with app-connect functionality (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring), as well as Bluetooth connectivity.

The safety spec list is decent, as well. All T-Cross models come with a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, driver fatigue detection, parking sensors and low-pressure tyre indicator. 

If you step up the budget a bit to the T-Cross 85TSI Style ($30,990 MSRP), you see the addition of 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, front sports seats and chrome exterior highlights.

You see the addition of 17-inch wheels in the T-Cross 85TSI Style. You see the addition of 17-inch wheels in the T-Cross 85TSI Style.

The list price of the 110TSI Style model is yet to be determined (we’re expecting about $36K). But as well as a bigger engine, it’ll add some extra gear, such as 18-inch alloy wheels, dark tinted rear windows, gloss black door mirrors and model-specific interior trim finishes.

The Style grade additionally gains safety items such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams and rear cross-traffic alert. That gear can be added to the Life model for $1200. 

There are two other packs available, both of which are fitted to the model you see in these pictures. 

The ‘Sound and Vision’ pack ($1900) is available on all grades, and sees the addition of the brand’s excellent digital cockpit, plus onboard GPS sat nav, and a 300-watt premium sound system by Beats.

The ‘R-Line’ package (only on Style grades - $2500 for the 85TSI and $1900 for the 110TSI) upsizes the rims to 18-inches, plus adds gloss black body accents, aluminium pedals, a flat-bottom steering wheel, tinted rear windows, unique cloth upholstery, dark headlining and R-Line door scuff plates.

There are a few to choose from, including Pure White shown on the 85TSI Life variant. There are a few to choose from, including Pure White shown on the 85TSI Life variant.

Curious about colours (or colors, depending on where you’re reading this)? There are a few to choose from, including: Pure White and Dark Petrol (dark blue) at no cost, then there are the metallic finishes ($600) including Energetic Orange, Limestone Grey, Reflex Silver and Reef Blue, and then there’s this “special colour”, Makena Turquoise Metallic ($800). 

Curious about T-Cross accessories? There are several to choose from, including load sill protection plates, door sill protectors, tailgate garnish, roof rack bars, a roof cargo box, a bicycle carrier, ski/snowboard carrier, mudflaps, side steps, floor mats (rubber), cargo mat, cargo tray, weathershields and different rims.

This “special colour”, Makena Turquoise Metallic, costs $800. This “special colour”, Makena Turquoise Metallic, costs $800.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Powering the VW T-Cross will be two different engines.

At launch, and in our test car, is the 85TSI petrol engine, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo unit with 85kW of power (at 5000rpm) and 200Nm of torque (from 2000-3500rpm). It is teamed exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and only comes in front-wheel drive. It’s hardly fast, but can manage 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds.

Our test car has the 85TSI petrol engine, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo unit with 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque. Our test car has the 85TSI petrol engine, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo unit with 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque.

There’ll be a more powerful 110TSI motor soon. It has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo with 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It also comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and 2WD. It’s hardly a horsepower hero, but VW claims a 0-100km/h time of just 7.8sec for this variant. 

So that means there’s no diesel, no four-wheel drive (4WD or 4Motion), nor all-wheel drive (AWD), and no hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric variant, either. 

The kerb weight for the 85TSI model is just 1240 kilograms, which is very light for a small SUV. The towing capacity is also a bit light, with an unbraked towing capacity of 630kg and a braked towing capacity of 1100kg.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Claimed fuel consumption for the T-Cross 85TSI is 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres - the claim is perhaps a little ambitious, as is often the case with Euro three-cylinder petrol engines.

But it does have start-stop technology and brake energy recuperation, and during my time in the T-Cross I’ve seen a return of 6.4L/100km across a mix of urban and country driving, as well as some long highway stints. 

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The T-Cross drives like a Volkswagen. That might sound like a pretty obvious assertion, but the fact of the matter is that the German brand has a certain feel to the way its cars drive, and this little teeny weeny SUV drives rather similarly to some of the other members of the VW family, including much larger models.

The German brand has a certain feel to the way its cars drive, and this small SUV drives similarly to other members of the VW family. The German brand has a certain feel to the way its cars drive, and this small SUV drives similarly to other members of the VW family.

That's one of the things I like most about the T-Cross. It drives bigger than it is. That means it feels substantial and considered on the road, not light (even though it is, at 1240kg) or small (though it is) and it doesn't feel like it'll get pushed around on the open road either.

Truly - I did more than 600 kilometres in the T-Cross, including a lot of highway and open road testing, and it feels substantial, refined and well resolved, which is something you can't necessarily say about a lot of its small SUV competitors. 

It's impressive, but it isn't perfect.

The engine is good and offers a nice whoosh of midrange pulling power, but in stop-start traffic the throttle response - in combination with the dual-clutch auto and start-stop engine tech - can make for some frustratingly slow take-offs. 

As speeds rise, it's a more enjoyable drive. As speeds rise, it's a more enjoyable drive.

As speeds rise, it's a more enjoyable drive. The transmission shifts smoothly and smartly, and the engine response is ample, though up steeper hills you might wish for a touch more grunt, and the good news is the 110TSI model coming soon is bound to appease that desire.

The steering is nicely weighted and offers decent feel to the driver's hands, and you're never left second-guessing what will happen next. 

The suspension is quite well sorted, though my test car's 18-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres (Hankook Ventus Prime 215/45/18s) were a little sharp over less-than-perfect urban streets. It still rides well and copes with big lumps and bumps decently, but it can be a little jittery - though arguably any small SUV on 18s will have a similar criticism levelled at it. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The VW T-Cross scored a high five from ANCAP, with the maximum five-star crash test rating - confusingly, awarded in April 2020, but under 2019 criteria. 

Even so it was seemingly very impressive in its performance when it came to front occupant protection (97 per cent), and it comes very well equipped on the safety front.

All models have auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 5-250km/h, and it includes pedestrian and cyclist detection (4-80km/h), plus there’s a lane departure warning and lane keeping system that works at speeds of 60-200km/h. There’s also a reversing camera and parking sensors all around, and those sensors incorporate “Manoeuvre Braking”, which will auto-brake if a low speed impact is predicted (rear AEB).

The extra stuff you get in the optional pack for the Life (but standard on Style variants) includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam lights. It’s 2020, and in this writer’s opinion, additional safety spec shouldn’t be an optional extra - but at least it’s available, which is more than you can say for some others in this part of the market.

There are dual ISOFIX child seat points in the back outer seats. There are dual ISOFIX child seat points in the back outer seats.

It also has the usual electronic nannies you’d expect, such as ABS, EBD, ESC, driver fatigue detection and even VW’s multi-collision brake system, which will slam the brakes on after an impact to lessen the potential for further damage.

It’s missing items such as speed sign recognition, driver facial detection, and rear seat reminder. 

The T-Cross has six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain) as standard, and there are dual ISOFIX child seat points in the back outer seats, as well as three top-tether baby seat attachment points.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

VW Australia backs its models with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is equal to the majority of mainstream players in the market.

There’s also a couple of new service plans available, aimed at lowering the cost of ownership.

At the time of writing, the pricing for the brand’s “Care Plans” were pegged at $990 for three years/45,000km, or $1800 for five years/75,000km cover (VW says the first service is free).

If you compare that to the brand’s pay as you go offer (Assured Price Service), you’ll save $256 for three years, or $645 if you get the five-year plan. It’s well worth considering rolling into your finance plan. 

There’s one year of roadside assist cover included for new VW products, but if you maintain your car with the brand, it renews up to nine further times, allowing 10 years of roadside cover.

Verdict

The Volkswagen T-Cross might be late to the small SUV party, but it’s not so much tardy, as making a fashionable entrance.

It’s a very impressive compact SUV - big on space, style and comfort, well priced, decently specified and a smart option for customers who aspire to a German badge being shown off in their driveway.

Pricing guides

$29,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$27,990
Highest Price
$30,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
85TSI LIFE 1.0L, PULP $27,990 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 85TSI LIFE Pricing and Specs
85TSI STYLE 1.0L, PULP $30,990 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 85TSI STYLE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership8
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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