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Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 review: 85TSI Life

The T-Cross is high and boxy, so it's super practical.

Small SUVs are great for those who want the height and shape of an SUV, without any of the actual heft and size of larger SUVs. They’re good for small families or couples/singles without kids who want something a bit more than your usual city hatch, and still want the convenience of fitting into parking spaces easily.

The Volkswagen T-Cross slots neatly into this category. It’s a small SUV that competes with cars like the Kia Seltos, Hyundai HR-V and Hyundai Kona. I drove the base model, the 85TSI Life which costs $27,990, before on road costs and extras. Here’s how it did over a week with my family of four.

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✅ How spacious is it?

It’s not a huge car, but it fit our family surprisingly well. There is enough leg and headroom in the front seats for the taller members of my family and we were both comfortable sitting in the front. The kids had a good amount of space in the back seat, they’re six and eight so it was the right size for them to hop in and do seat belts up. 

There is enough leg and headroom in the front seats for the taller members of my family. There is enough leg and headroom in the front seats for the taller members of my family.

It’s not the kind of car where you can easily fit a third child seat in the back row. It’s not a definite ‘can’t’ as it will always depend on your car seats and your determination in fitting them in! But it’s not an easy thing and it’s not advisable if you have three child seats in the back on a regular basis.

You can slide the seat back and forward to give more space either to those in the back seat, or more space in the boot. You can slide the seat back and forward to give more space either to those in the back seat, or more space in the boot.

Adults won’t have any trouble fitting into the back seat. I was comfortable (I’m 161cm) and the great thing about this car is that you can slide the seat back and forward, to give more space either to those in the back seat (which you’ll need if you have taller folks to transport around), or more space in the boot when you need it. There’s also good headspace in the backseat because it’s quite a boxy design.

You can have it at the standard 385L or move that back row forward and you’ll get 455L. You can have it at the standard 385L or move that back row forward and you’ll get 455L.

The boot, as mentioned, is customisable. You can have it at the standard 385L or move that back row forward and you’ll get 455L. It’s also a very practical shape, it sits deep rather than long, so you can fit suitcases, or a pram (on its side).

✅ What does it look like?

As far as Volkswagens go, this is not the most attractive, but its tall boxy shape means that it’s super practical and for a car that isn’t much longer than a Polo, it sure fits a lot more on the inside.

It's tall boxy shape means that it’s super practical. It's tall boxy shape means that it’s super practical.

So, what you’re giving up in looks, you’re making up for with ease of use. It’s quite square and tall and is based on the Polo which gives you some idea of the quality of trimmings.

Inside looks good for the base model. There’s nothing fancy going on but at this price you wouldn’t expect to see anything fancy anyway. There is a fair amount of man-made materials on the dash and doors which does indicate the price bracket for the T-Cross.

It’s quite square and tall, and is based on the Polo. It’s quite square and tall, and is based on the Polo.

The seats are cloth but they are comfortable, the steering wheel is leather which feels good to touch and I always think that’s the lasting factor, because you’re touching it every time you drive the car.

The centre console design is quite basic. It doesn’t look like the centre console you’ll find on more luxe Volkswagens but it is functional and everything is within reach of the driver.

✅ How does it drive?

If you need a car to get you around Suburbia while you flit between the school run, work or the train station and then weekend activities, this is a good car. It’s not super powerful and won’t win any drag races, but it will get you from A to B safely and reliably. 

It has a 1.0L three-cylinder turbo engine so it’s small, but feisty. It has a 1.0L three-cylinder turbo engine so it’s small, but feisty.

It has a 1.0L three-cylinder turbo engine so it’s small, but feisty. It still gets up hills fine and you can easily coast along highways, though I’d stay in the left lane.

The windscreen wipers did struggle a little in the heavy rain but came good in the end - perhaps it was just because they were new. I did feel confident driving it in the heavy rain even though it’s a 2WD and normally I like an AWD for heavy raining conditions.

The T- Cross is smooth and quiet and while driving. The T- Cross is smooth and quiet and while driving.

The T- Cross is smooth and quiet and while driving is not a rip roaring old time, it’s still nimble and you’re able to duck in and out of traffic easily enough. 

It’s good to park because of the convenient size and there is a high res reverse parking camera to help you out.

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The T-Cross is a good height off the ground for kids to climb into, it’s not too high but is high enough to feel taller than a regular car on the road.

Rear passengers miss out on cupholders and directional air vents, but they get two USB ports. Rear passengers miss out on cupholders and directional air vents, but they get two USB ports.

There are two cupholders in the front, a small-ish centre storage bin, a spot for keys and a phone (which also charges your phone), and bottle holders in the front doors. There are also two USB ports in the front and two in the back. 

Rear passengers miss out on cupholders and directional air vents, but there is storage in the doors and on the back of the front seats. This is fairly standard across the category.

✅ How safe is it?

The T- Cross 85TSI Life comes with auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, a lane keeping system which was quite strong and at one point practically steered the car for me around a curve. There is also 'manoeuvre braking' which works like reverse AEB at low speeds. 

The T-Cross scored a full five stars on the ANCAP test in 2020. The T-Cross scored a full five stars on the ANCAP test in 2020.

You can also option in blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam as a part of an optional pack for $1200.

You’ll get two ISOFIX points and three top tether points to fit kids car seats in safely. The T-Cross scored a full five stars on the ANCAP test in 2020.

✅ What’s the tech like?

There’s an 8.0-inch multimedia screen equipped with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which means you can plug in and be instantly connected to the main apps on your phone. Use maps to navigate and your streaming app to listen to music/podcasts. Or books if you’re in for a long drive!

There’s an 8.0-inch multimedia screen equipped with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s an 8.0-inch multimedia screen equipped with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The sound system is decent enough to turn the music up loud if that’s your thing. There’s also a ‘Sound and Vision’ pack you can option in for an extra $1900 which gives you a digital cockpit, GPS sat nav, and a 300-watt premium sound system by Beats.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

The Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life costs $27,990 before on road costs and extras. Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.4L/100km and for me over the week it did 6.3L/100km. You do need premium unleaded fuel. 

It’s covered by Volkswagen’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. There are three year and five year service plans available and you can save from $256 with the three year and $645 with the five year if you buy into those.


The Wrap

The Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life is a good family car if you’re after a small SUV in the lower end of the price brackets that still covers all bases like interior space, safety, practicality and technology. It drives well and because it’s still a Volkswagen, you feel good driving it. 

I gave it a family rating of 7.6 out of 10 and my kids gave it 7.5. They like turning the music up in the car and having a good family singalong.

Likes

Drives well
Interior space
Great boot size customisation

Dislikes

Interior design
No AWD
No rear cupholders

Scores

Nedahl:

3.8

The Kids:

3.8

$27,990

Based on new car retail price

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