Driven: Volkswagen T-Cross

The new Volkswagen T-Cross is about the same size as the T-Roc, which you might think is a terrible mistake on Volkswagen’s part. However, the German firm is certain it’s not got metric and imperial measurements mixed up and wants two similar cars of a similar size…

The argument is that the T-Roc is all fashion-led and glitzy, while the T-Cross is more sensible, practical and down to earth.

The Volkswagen T-Cross looks just as good as the T-Roc.

Based on the Polo’s underpinnings, the T-Cross is certainly taller and narrower, sensibly proportioned and practical enough to be put to daily use as a family car. Young families will be drawn to the Volkswagen T-Cross, and are unlikely to care that there’s no four-wheel-drive option (so no off-road shenanigans, please) just as the engine choice is probably mostly irrelevant.

That’s probably for the best as, for now, there’s just one engine. That’s a 1.0-litre petrol available in two states of tune. We’ve got the 115hp model, but a less powerful 95hp choice is available too. Unless budgets are terribly tight though, ignore that and commit to the £700 upgrade – you’ll likely get that back come trade-in anyway.

It takes a leisurely 10.2 seconds to hit 62mph in this seven-speed automatic-equipped model, but the light weight of the Volkswagen T-Cross and the enthusiastic nature of the gearbox makes it feel far livelier than the stopwatch suggests. Once up to speed it does a good job of motorway cruising, remaining pleasingly solid and stable even when passing huge trucks on the M11 It rides nicely at speed too, masking most undulations without fuss.

It’s equally at home in the city, although the suspension feels a little too firm at that point, allowing our rutted road surfaces to make their presence felt. This SE model rides on 17-inch wheels and tall tyres, the entry-level S has smaller wheels which may improve ride quality a little. Opt for the sporty-looking R-Line and there are 18-inch wheels that will likely have the opposite effect.

The Volkswagen T-Cross interior is functional.

Sporty-looking isn’t something you could say about the interior but, if you’ve ever sat in a Polo, you’ll be familiar with things immediately. It’s all a little dull initially, with grey plastics, straight lines and little flair, but as you live with it you come to appreciate the excellent ergonomics and usability. That said, you’ll also grow tired of the scratchy plastics and cost-saving measures that are dotted around. Everything seems to have been covered in a brittle-feeling plastic, including the door panels, which seems a tad cheap on a car costing around twenty grand.

There’s plenty of equipment to keep you distracted from the trim though. Even the entry model gets an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, double Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning. The SE adds tested here adds fog lights, a leather-covered steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

The Volkswagen T-Cross has a larger boot than the Golf.

While most controls end up on the touchscreen, rather than on physical buttons, there’s one old-school feature that remains very analogue – a proper handbrake!

Less old-school, but still very handy, is the rear seat that slides back and forth by as much as 14cm. That means you can extend the boot space, initially measured at 385 litres, to as much as 445 litres, and still just about have room for passengers. That’s as much as you’ll find in the T-Roc, and more than the Golf can provide.

It’s also loaded with safety gear that you might not expect on a more cost-conscious car like this, including a radar-sensor controlled distance monitoring system, automatic emergency braking system that can pick up pedestrians and cyclists, lane-keeping assist, airbags all around, and Isofix preparation for two child seats. Higher models add speed limiters, a speed limit display, parking sensors, and a driver alertness sensor, amongst other things.

Volkswagen has certainly succeeded in the brief to make a practical and useful small SUV. It shares so much with the SEAT Arona and forthcoming Skoda Kamiq, but there’s enough differentiation to make choosing the T-Cross more than just a price comparison task. It’s genuinely entertaining to live with and leaves little to complain about.

And that extends to the styling. Volkswagen might have wanted this to be Teller to the T-Roc’s Penn, but it’s worked magic on the design to such an extent that there’s little difference in aesthetic appeal between them. Add an optional design pack, including one that swathes the interior (and exterior, if you’re brave) in ‘electric orange’ and there’s an argument to say the cheaper, practical, frugal and spacious Volkswagen T-Cross is also the better looking of the duo.

Model Tested: Volkswagen T-Cross SE 1.0 TSI 115 DSG
Price: £21,495
Range: £17,395 – £27,455
Top speed: 120 mph
0-62 mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 115 PS (113 bhp)
Torque: 200 Nm (148 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £294
Official economy: 44.8 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 112 g/km
Car Tax: £145
Insurance group: 10E

* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36-month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.