Review: Volkswagen T-Cross

Another small SUV is on the road. It is the Volkswagen T-Cross, based on the Polo but with more loft and more body. It sits below the VW T-Roc in size and price (by £3,000) and feels it. The VW Group also fields the SEAT Arona on the same chassis. Both are made in Pamplona.

The T-Cross has excellent economy thanks to the Volkswagen Group's lauded one-litre petrol turbo engine

I saw a TV advert for the T-Roc and didn’t recognise the one parked at my door. The advertisement sells it well, but I’m in SUV overload mode. Other than a covey of VW Group products which include Skodas, there are contenders from Kia in the Stonic, Hyundai ’s Kona and from Citroen in the C3 Aircross. Vauxhall has the popular Mokka X. The Citroen distinguishes itself for its comfortable ride and bright styling.

The T-Cross plays up to its part. There’s the assuring VW face and chunky bodywork. Inside, the extra headroom is welcome and the rear bench seats slide to give more luggage space in the boot. This opens up a gap between the load floor and the seats which will be annoying when things tumble into it. There’s space under the adjustable floor, too, for extras.

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In the front the mood is spoilt by the feel and look of lots of hard plastics and shiny surfaces which were out of place on a Volkswagen but presumably keep the price down. The lateral decorative strip squeaks when pushed. Nice, though, to get a storage tray on top of the dashboard.

The engines are the group’s lauded one-litre petrol turbo. Diesel may be offered later, but with this car aimed at the private buyer and petrol mileage decent enough, and diesel not being the flavour of 2019…

The entry S model with the petrol 94bhp engine costs £16,995. Kit on this model includes a blindspot monitor in the side mirrors and lane-keeping assistance. It has heated and powered door mirrors, automatic headlamps, four USB ports shared front and back, alloy wheels and a five-speed manual gearbox. So, a decent package and you can add navigation.

The range is then SE, SE-L and R-Line but Volkswagen expects the SE to take half of sales, mostly with a 114bhp, six-speed engine and gearbox.

My demo car was the SE, with the 94bhp engine, at £18,805. Additions to the S included 17-inch alloys, air conditioning and front fog lights. It had adaptive cruise control, low-speed emergency braking and a speed limiter. The lane-assist system is combined with an alert if the system feels you are not helping steer the car. What it did not have was parking sensors or a reversing camera. Argh, back to the past.

Fitted at extra cost, a reasonable £725, was the navigation and speed limit display with online access to weather, news, fuel prices, etc. The white paint added £275.

I was not whelmed by the engine and gearbox. I found it too easy to burn the clutch – noticed on the same engine in the Polo last year. The engine sounds gruff when setting off. Also, the handbrake struggled to hold it on a steep hill – another problem encountered with the Polo. VW’s response to that car was that there was nothing wrong with the clutch or engine or handbrake so I didn’t bother their office with the same queries about the T-Cross. Must be my coarse northern manners?

Once moving at city speeds the car was better. Acceleration is what it is. You cope with what you’ve got and so avoid being too adventurous on the open road with overtaking. It runs quietly at medium and high cruising speeds and the handling is pleasant. The higher seating position gives a boost to visibility, too. The ride comfort is adequate rather than smooth. It wasn’t harsh enough to put me off the idea of owning a T-Cross.

It is a four to five seater, with easy access to front and rear. The tailgate rises well out of the way but needs rather a lot of strength to close it. I’ll have a word with my gym buddies…

I expect Volkswagen will have no trouble selling this car. The main things are that it has the baby SUV looks “we all want” and that it is a Volkswagen. I haven’t driven the more powerful version but expect it is more up to the job than its weaker sibling.

Economy was excellent. My regular simulated 50 to 60 mile commuter route of urban, motorway, suburban rush-hour and halcyon open country roads showed 50 miles a gallon on the trip computer. Around town – 40mpg.

Verdict: Likeable but sometimes it made me cross.