Small but perfectly formed: VW's compact T-Cross tested
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Volkswagen T-Cross 1st Edition
- Fun little engine
- Striking looks in 1st Edition guise
- Polo-like handling.
- Front-drive only
- No adaptive cruise on 1st Edition model
- Lots of competition.
According to Google, the definition of fun is “enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure”, three things that don’t seem to go naturally with an SUV.
Before anyone brings up Lamborghini’s ridiculous Urus, or Toyota’s overlanding ’Cruiser, I’m here to say that you don’t need a turbocharged V8 to have fun in an SUV, or crazy ground clearance; you just need a bit of personality.
And that’s where Volkswagen’s new T-Cross comes into the picture.
The quirky little T-Cross is the newest kid on Volkswagen’s block, coming in at the bottom of the German brand’s SUV line-up beneath the T-Roc. Like that slightly larger model, the T-Cross sits on VW’s MQB platform, also used by the Polo. VW has managed to retain a lot of the Polo’s handling and mobility aspects, despite the T-Cross sitting around 200mm higher.
Starting on the outside, it’s obvious that Volkswagen has pushed the boat out with the T-Cross’ aesthetics. For our drive, we picked out the “1st Edition” with the Orange Pack. The bright orange wheels and wing mirrors exclusive to this edition are extremely attention-grabbing, and the tail light that spans the width of the tailgate is a great addition.
Like most funky city-going SUVs, the inside is just as quirky as the outside, and this is especially true for the 1st Edition. While the Pineapple and Lizard decorative dash inserts may be present across the T-Cross range, this one gets Transition inserts that accompany the bright orange dash in the Orange Pack. The Diag sports seats are thrown in to top the look off. If you aren’t into to any of these bold colours, opting for a less fun T-Cross is always an option.
When it comes to the in-cabin tech, you can expect to see all the usual VW gizmos and gadgets. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system can be found in the centre of the dash, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. You’ll be presented with a raft of safety tech as well, including a reversing camera, auto emergency braking, and forward collision warning.
Unfortunately, if you’re after adaptive cruise control, you’re going to have to get the top-spec R-Line T-Cross, as the Life, Style, and 1st Edition models all make do with standard cruise.
Auckland | Auckland City
$602.99 p/w $2,411.97 p/m
Canterbury | Christchurch
$241.92 p/w $967.69 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$177.39 p/w $709.56 p/m
In the small SUV segment, practicality is a big thing, and Volkswagen is on top of this. Sliding rear seats allow for a lot of options at the rear: the boot capacity is 385 litres when the seats are back, and 455l when they’re forward. Folding the seats down gives you 1281l to work with, which gives the T-Cross an edge on competitors such as the Hyundai Venue in both measurements.
Looking at performance, you’ve basically got two options across the four trim levels of the T-Cross. The Life, Style, and 1st Edition all make use of a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that’s paired with a seven-speed DSG transmission. Opting for the R-Line model will get you a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which makes 110kW/250Nm and is paired with the same DSG.
While the high-riding body may hint at off-roading capabilities, power is sent exclusively through the front wheels.
Starting at $34,240 for the Life trim, the T-Cross is competitively priced in an ever-expanding segment. Jumping to $39,990 will get you into the 1st Edition with the option of either the Black or Orange Pack, while $43,990 will get you the R-Line with the “big block” engine. Our pick would probably be the cheapest trim, as it features all the goodies without having to pay for any flashy extras.
Other options in this segment seem to be cropping up daily, but our main picks would be the Mazda CX-3, Skoda Kamiq, and the Seat Arona. Given VW’s market position, it’s no surprise that the T-Cross has a higher starting point than these models, and only the Kamiq Ambition+ offers similar performance to the T-Cross R-Line.
All things considered, the T-Cross is solid choice for those looking for the tried and tested driveability of a Golf or Polo, with added ground clearance. If “wholesome fun” was going to look like a car, I’d argue that it’d be a small SUV covered in orange accents, just like this one.
VOLKSWAGEN T-CROSS 1ST EDITION
ENGINE: 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder.
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual-clutch (DSG), FWD