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First Drive

First Drive: Volkswagen T-Cross

The story:
Volkswagen has finally decided to join the small SUV sector, with the Polo-based T-Cross completing the company’s high-riding range.
Category:Compact Crossover
Key rival:Mazda CX-3
Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0TSI 115 SE R-Line
On sale:April 2019


It had to happen eventually, and it took a while coming, but Volkswagen has finally launched its small, supermini-based SUV to take on the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Seat Arona etc.

The UK offering is fairly small to start off with. There is a choice of two engines, a 1.0-litre petrol in either 95hp or 115hp versions. The former comes with a five-speed manual gearbox only, while you can choose between a six-speed manual or a DSG auto on the more powerful version. It’s the more powerful manual that is expected to make up the bulk of UK sales, in the SE trim.

Because all its rivals have had a chance to get their own version out first, there aren’t many wild innovations left for the T-Cross to offer to make it stand out. Instead, it has to rely on being very good.

First Drive-April 2019-Volkswagen T-Cross-Image 1It manages it, too. Given that the bits underneath the T-Cross are the same as those underneath the excellent Polo, it is little surprise that the SUV handles with the same composure as its smaller equivalent. The larger 18-inch alloy wheels don’t adversely affect the ride and it is comfortable and unfussed by the prospect of being thrown through a fast corner or two, despite its elevated ride height. Perhaps the only gripe is that the steering is a little light, but it’s a minor quibble at most.

The interior of the T-Cross is a triumph in some senses. While there is nothing new about the things that it offers in terms of practicality, it manages to make them work that bit better than rivals.

For example, the sliding rear bench seat goes back far enough to provide a vast amount of legroom in the rear, while you can still edge it forward and still get an adult passenger in the back with ease and a decent amount of boot space. Slide the seat all the way forwards and you get 455 litres of room.

First Drive-April 2019-Volkswagen T-Cross-Image 6The front part of the cabin is excellent in many ways, and features a level of technology far beyond what you would expect or hope for from a car in this category. The higher trims, from SEL upwards, get an 8.0-inch touchscreen as part of the infotainment system, while the top R-Line model even gets the digital instrument cluster as seen on higher end models in the VW Group; this really elevates the feeling of quality in the cabin.

The big disappointment is the quality of the plastics, though, particularly up on the top parts of the dash. It’s the only real part of the car that lets the feeling of quality slip and shows that this is still a car that has been built on a bit of a budget.

In many other ways, though, the T-Cross is a sensible, practical and compelling option in a segment that has tended to add a little too much in the way of quirkiness sometimes.




Tom Webster

The verdict

Grown up rather than funky, the VW T-Cross will appeal to those who want their small SUV to be practical rather than playful.