2019 Volkswagen T-Cross Review
Paul Horrell’s 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL Pocket-size crossover manages to be quite roomy and useful, and decent to drive for its kind.
2019 Volkswagen T-Cross (European spec)
Price N/A Warranty five-years, unlimited km (Australia) Engine 1.0L petrol turbo Power 70kW at 5000rpm, 85kW at 5000rpm Torque 175Nm at 2000rpm, 200Nm at 2000rpm Transmission 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 7-speed DCT auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4235mm (l); 1760mm (w exc mirrors); 1999mm (w inc mirrors); 1584mm (h) Turning circle 10.6m Towing weight 1100kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1250kg (manual) 1270kg (DSG) Seats 5 Fuel tank 40 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 5.8-6.3 l/100km combined cycle
Early in 2020 Volkswagen will bring two new crossovers to Australia, both of them smaller than the Tiguan, which carries on. We’ve already reviewed the T-Roc. It has been delayed in coming Down Under in part because the Europeans are gulping them down and the factory’s at full tilt.
The smaller one, the T-Cross, will therefore arrive about the same time. That means VW in Australia will have some explaining to do if it isn’t to confuse the potential buyers. Let us help…
What is the Volkswagen T-Cross? The T-Roc is a style-led Golf-size machine. The T-Cross is smaller, based on a Polo. It’s a distinctly urban crossover where handy parking size is valuable. But it encloses more passenger and boot space than curvier rivals such as the Mazda CX-3 or Fiat 500X. Probably only the new Citroen C3 Aircross matches its practicality.
We don’t have prices yet but VW is talking of sub $30,000 for the lead-in car in Australia. In Europe the base version has 70kW and a five-speed manual. But given $31k + ORC buys you a Polo GTI here, we’re assuming that guide price is for the 85kW one, with six-speed manual or even 7-speed DSG. We’ve tested those two 85kW versions in right-hand-drive Britain.
All T-Crosses are FWD only. We hear some pokier engines might be along later, but no AWD version is foreseen.
What’s the cabin like? Let’s get the disappointment out of the way. If you’re looking for the old-school VW feeling of quality in the plastics and dash finish, well tough luck. All the plastics on the dash and doors are hard and scratchy, which makes it feel cheap. Still, that’s the way with the current generation of smaller VWs (and, increasingly, Audis too). But there is compensation, in the level of infotainment and the furniture.
Ergonomics are good. The climate controls are physical ones, just as we like. You can also avoid diving into the screen menus to activate and deactivate the lane assist by a shortcut button on the steering wheel. You want it off on narrow twisty roads or it hyperactively tugs at the wheel.
The top spec also includes VW’s TFT virtual instrument pack. It’s no big deal; the only arrangement you’ll likely ever use is the one where you have two round dials, just as with the standard hardware-dial version. The only significant advantage is the ability to display a navigation map in the area between the dials, while your passengers use the centre screen for choosing and displaying music tracks.
We mentioned the seat trim. The black/grey shades are fine. But what about the ‘Design Pack’ eh? This puts stripes of orange onto the seat seat and sticks a huge slab of fluo orange across the dash and down the console. Even the alloys get a lick of orange paint. You just wouldn’t would you?
What are the front seats like? The front seats are sturdy, supportive and trimmed in interesting geometric fabrics. Nothing wrong with the driving position either. You can set the seat low for a fairly car-like experience, or wind it up to get the crossover height people seem to want.
What’s the back seat like? Raising the front seat also adds to rear foot space of course. And it’s not cramped in here anyway – legroom is probably best in class. The back seat can also slide forwards and back. Take it forward and it greatly adds to boot space which ends up the best in the segment. Mind you it also opens up a gap under the cushion where little objects will probably roll, get lost, and rattle for evermore.
What’s the boot space like? The UK test car had no spare wheel, and, at least on the spec without the boot subwoofer, allowed the boot floor to drop and produce an amazingly accommodating space for such a short car – between 385-455 litres. Indeed, this is more room than either a VW Polo or Golf.
What’s the infotainment system like? All versions get an eight-inch screen in the centre dash. This runs the stereo, with USB input displaying cover art. Other car menu functions, plus things like the park distance display and optional reversing camera, work slickly.
All versions also get a bluetooth connection that sends car diagnostic info to an app on your phone, so you can check vital functions and, more usefully, analyse journey and consumption data to log trips or coach your fuel-saving driving style.
Move up to the second level, called SE in Britain, and there’s CarPlay and Android Auto plus a pair of USB charge points in the back. Pay more and you can add a connected native navigation system, which also means the car is web-enabled and you can remotely check and lock it.
What’s the performance like? The 85kW version gets to 100km/h from rest in 10.2 seconds for the manual. That’s reasonably competitive. But the gearshift doesn’t have much slickness to it. The DSG is a nicer transmission on the move, although for parking manoeuvres it’s a bit snatchy.
This isn’t the quietest of the world’s (now many) three-cylinder engines. Or at least not in this installation – it’s available in the Golf in Europe and in that car it’s remarkably silent. Here’s it chattery in the mid-ranges and whiny higher up. Mind you there’s no point in revving it high because max power is reached by 5000rpm, and there’s good meat in the torque curve at lower revs.
What’s it like on the road? The steering is accurate and medium-weighted in the Volkswagen way, but there’s very little road feel. Never mind; you can place the T-Cross neatly through bends, and it takes on its moderate roll angles progressively as you push harder. It’s an easy car to helm around curvy roads.
Lumps and bumps in the road don’t cause the car to get bumped off course. So it always feels a secure and confident machine, so you stay relaxed. That includes highways, where it cleaves to its line at a cruise.
While it isn’t upset by lumpy surfaces, it doesn’t absorb them. The ride is fairly firm, even among small crossovers which are are pretty turbulent breed. But road and tyre noise, and the hiss of the wind, are decently suppressed.
But don’t forget you’re into base-model Golf pricing with the T-Cross. And any Golf is a more placid and refined machine by some margin.
What safety features do you get? It has curtain airbags down the front and rear, and side airbags at the front, as well as two frontal bags. It also has two rear ISOFIX points, and three rear head restraints and three-point belts. Those are the basics of restraint.
The T-Cross hasn’t been NCAP tested anywhere yet. But the safety testing authorities say it’s very similar to the Polo. And here’s a thing: the VW Group also has a brand called SEAT, not sold in Australia, and SEAT makes a little crossover called the Arona that’s pretty much identical to the T-Cross under the external panels and internal dash design.
The Arona scored a five-star result in Europe’s NCAP which uses the same protocol as the local one. Its front and side crash scored were very high indeed for a small car, at 95 percent, though it wasn’t so good, 80 percent for kids in child seats in the back.
The T-Cross will actually score better overall than the Arona because all models of T-Cross get active lane support, as well as autonomous braking that senses pedestrians. Active cruise control also comes higher up the range, but not blind-spot detection.