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Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 review: Life


Daily driver score

4.3/5

Urban score

4.3/5

There has been a noticeable hole in Volkswagen Australia’s product line-up in recent years since the Tiguan graduated from being a small SUV to a mid-sizer, but the German brand is now rectifying the situation with two new models.

The T-Roc will play in the small SUV space, while the T-Cross is classified as a light SUV competing against sales darlings such as the Mitsubishi ASX and Mazda CX-3.

With the T-Roc launch pushed back several months, that leaves the T-Cross to serve up a sub-Tiguan SUV for the VW faithful, but can it hold its own against a competitive field?

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

Priced at $27,990, before on-road costs, the entry-level T-Cross Life we’ve tested here isn’t the most affordable compact SUV on the market, but it does try to justify its relatively high price point with high-end equipment.

As standard, the T-Cross comes with blacked out roof racks, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running and tail-lights, front fog lights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cloth interior trim, multi-function leather steering wheel, and automatic wipers and headlights.

We especially like the black-out tail-lights. We especially like the black-out tail-lights.

However, it’s the features like a wireless smartphone charger and heated side mirrors that elevate it from some of its more budget-focused competitors.

An 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support and Bluetooth connectivity also sits front and centre on the dashboard. And, much to our surprise in 2020, also sports a CD player in the glove box for those who still have their copy of 'So Fresh: Hits of Summer 2001.'

The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support. The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support.

A black and white driver display is also included providing readouts for speed, fuel economy, vehicle status and multimedia information, but those who want a digital instrument cluster will have to shell out for the $1900 'Sound and Vision' option.

We do have to point out that the T-Cross Life features an abundance of hard, scratchy plastic in the cabin, cheapening the ambience a little, while some features such as digital radio are noticeably absent.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Volkswagen could have taken the easy approach to the T-Cross and just jacked up its Polo light hatchback and called it a day; after all both share the same underpinnings.

However, the German brand went the extra mile and actually put pen to paper to come up with a new design that stands apart from its Polo sibling.

We reckon it works quite well, looking like a smaller and cuter Touareg.

It definitely suits its compact SUV segment, standing out from the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Venue, while remaining faithful to the VW design philosophy.

The T-Cross looks like a smaller and cuter Touareg. The T-Cross looks like a smaller and cuter Touareg.

The front grille connects the headlights, giving the T-Cross a wide stance, making it look more substantial than its diminutive proportions would indicate.

A silver-coloured underbody strip for the front and rear, and prominent black plastic underbody cladding also emphasis the height and width of the T-Cross without actually adding any extra bulk.

We especially like the black-out tail-lights, squared-off corners and subtle roof spoiler that make the T-Cross look especially stocky from behind.

Unfortunately, the front-end design is dated a bit with the halogen headlights found on our Life variant, but take a step up to the Style grade and they are swapped out for LED units.

Overall, VW has pulled off a great trick by making the T-Cross seem bigger and more substantial than it actually is through clever design, an idea that the brand has also applied to the cabin.

The smattering of hard plastic is not ideal, but at least VW has broken it up with differing colours. The smattering of hard plastic is not ideal, but at least VW has broken it up with differing colours.

Everything about the interior is well thought out and easy to use, from the tactility of the air conditioning controls to the abundance of steering wheel controls.

As previously mentioned, the smattering of hard plastic is not ideal, but at least VW has broken it up with differing colours, a unique high-sheen dashboard finish and some light chrome detailing.

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring 4108mm long, 1760mm wide, 1583mm tall and with a 2563mm wheelbase, the T-Cross Life is certainly small in size, but you don’t feel the diminutive dimensions from the inside.

In fact, the T-Cross feels much bigger on the inside than its compact SUV designation would suggest.

Up front, the driver and front passenger have oodles of room, and even the rear seats can easily accommodate our tall 183cm (six-foot) frame without a problem.

Things start to get a bit squeezy in the second-row’s middle seat, but the two outboard seats have plenty of head- and legroom with the front chairs adjusted for our height.

The T-Cross feels much bigger on the inside than its compact SUV designation would suggest. The T-Cross feels much bigger on the inside than its compact SUV designation would suggest.

No doubt, the T-Cross will easily ferry four adults in comfort, which is more than can be said for the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.

Storage options also abound with a centre console tray, glove box, two cupholders and door bins that can also accommodate larger bottles.

The wireless device charger does make it a bit tricky to house things in the storage tray, after all, you don’t want to scratch your phone screen by throwing a set of keys on top of it.

However, it’s VW’s cleverly thought out storage solutions that give the T-Cross our tick of approval.

For example, the front passenger seat houses a neat little tray for the owner’s manual, meaning the glove box is completely free for whatever takes your fancy.

Up front, the driver and front passenger have oodles of room. Up front, the driver and front passenger have oodles of room.

Likewise, the driver’s seat sports a neat little under-seat storage tray for small handbags or anything you want to keep out of site.

Boasting a 385-litre capacity, the T-Cross is certainly no slouch in boot practicality either.

To put it into perspective, the T-Cross beats out the one-size up Mazda CX-30 (317L) and Toyota C-HR (377L) in boot space.

  • With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 385-litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 385-litres.
  • The second-row can slide forward 14cm to create a little more space in the back without folding the seats. The second-row can slide forward 14cm to create a little more space in the back without folding the seats.
  • Fold the seats flat and cargo capacity grows to 1281L. Fold the seats flat and cargo capacity grows to 1281L.

Even the boot floor can be adjusted to two levels to accommodate taller items, while the second-row can slide forward by 14cm to create a little more space in the back without folding the seats.

If you do want to maximise the space though, the 60/40 split-fold rear seats will expand the T-Cross’ carrying capacity to a cavernous 1281L.

The boot also sports luggage tie down points for items that tend to rattle around and two shopping bag hooks.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Powering the T-Cross is a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, which is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Outputs reach 85kW/200Nm and, with drive sent to the front axle, the T-Cross Style will accelerate from 0-100km/ in 10.2 seconds.

The figures might not seem like much on paper, but in the real world, the 1240kg T-Cross’ performance is peppy enough.

The 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder makes 85kW/200Nm. The 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder makes 85kW/200Nm.

Peak torque is also available from as little as 2000rpm, meaning the T-Cross is properly punchy around town once it comes away from the lights

Those looking to wring out a bit more performance can also flick the shifter across to manual mode and pick gears themselves, though the T-Cross Life lacks the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters of the higher-grade Style.

How much fuel does it consume?

The official fuel consumption figures for the T-Cross is 5.4 litres per 100km, while we managed a figure of 7.8L/100km in our relatively brief time with the car.

To be fair, our use was strictly around the stop/start traffic of the inner city and weaving in and out of suburban streets, with just the one quick blast down the freeway.

We also turned off the ultra-aggressive engine start/stop system for reasons we'll explain below, but had we kept it on, no doubt our fuel use figure would be closer to the official claim.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

ANCAP awarded the VW T-Cross a maximum five-star safety rating in April 2020 based on its Euro NCAP assessment conducted in 2019.

It scored 97 per cent in the adult occupant protection test, making it one of highest scores in examination behind only five other models.

The T-Cross was also awarded an 85 per cent in child occupant protection, 81 per cent in vulnerable road user protection and 80 per cent in safety assist categories.

As standard, the T-Cross if fitted with a tyre pressure monitor, hill-start assist, ISOFIX anchor points on the two outbound rear seats, cruise control, lane departure warning, driver fatigue alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

A driver assistance package is available for $1200 that bundles adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

The autonomous emergency braking system is operation from five-250km/h according to ANCAP.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Like all new Volkswagen vehicles, the T-Cross Life comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which also covers 12 months of roadside assist and 12 years of anti-corrosion assurance.

Servicing intervals are set at every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.

Volkswagen offers a three- and five-year service plan with the purchase of a T-Cross, which will cost $990 and $1800 (first service free) respectively.

According to VW, the three-year plan will save $256 compared with the pay-as-you-go service schedule, while the five-year plan with net owners a saving of $645.

What’s it like to drive around town?

With a bucket load of practicality in such small footprint, the VW T-Cross is perfectly suited as an urban runabout.

The diminutive dimensions make it a cinch to pull up and park in the smallest of spaces (even in front of a café with everyone watching you).

This is helped immensely by the front and rear parking sensors, but even without them, the T-Cross offers enough visibility, thanks to the high ride height, to know exactly where the car starts and stops.

The extra ground clearance also means its no trouble for the T-Cross to tackle a speed bump or steep driveway, unlike its Polo hatchback sibling, but don’t be fooled into thinking the VW compact SUV will take on anything more rugged than an unsealed road.

We are big fans of the fun dynamics of the Polo, and with the T-Cross sharing the same underpinnings, had high hopes for the latest VW crossover.

We’re happy to report that the T-Cross does retain much of that fun and sharp handling characteristics, though dulled slightly due to the taller centre of gravity.

Our only gripe with driving the T-Cross around town it’s the low-speed hesitation, a problem that has plagued many VW products in the past fitted with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

What we mean is that from a standstill, when you press the throttle, the T-Cross seems to take a while to think about moving forward before actually doing so.

It’s just a slight delay in reaction from the car that can be exacerbated by the overly-keen engine start/stop system that means it takes that extra second or so before things start moving again.

Imagine this, coming to an intersection and coming to a complete stop to give way to traffic. Once everything is clear, you press the throttle just for the T-Cross to start up the engine again, think about moving and then finally getting off the line.

Turning off the start/stop system helps a little, but it certainly drives up the fuel bill.

Dual-clutch transmission quirkiness aside, the VW T-Cross is as perfectly suited to the inner-city streets as an extra-hot soy flat white.

With such strong competition in the compact SUV field, which is growing by the month, the VW T-Cross needed to be quite good to stand apart from the rest.

Luckily, its Polo underpinnings give it a big leg up in dynamics and performance, while the cute and quirky styling make it a bone fide head turner.

Don’t be turned off by the high price tag, with such clever practicality solutions and a genuinely usable second row, the T-Cross certainly makes a strong argument as one of the better compact crossovers on the market.

$27,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.3/5

Urban score

4.3/5
Volkswagen T-Cross 2020 review

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