REVIEW | Why the VW T-Cross is ageing gracefully

The T-Cross is an accomplished vehicle with superb road manners, good build quality and that Volkswagen reputation

25 October 2023 - 10:29
By Brenwin Naidu
The vehicle's unfussy design still looks contemporary.
Image: Supplied REFINED The vehicle's unfussy design still looks contemporary.

Many South Africans might relate to the notion that the past four years have been an overwhelming blur.

Between the devastation of Covid-19, natural disasters, political turmoil, civil unrest, burgeoning interest rates and rocketing fuel prices, we have gone through much in the past 48 months. As if this was not enough, throw in almost unaffordable eggs and fake TikTok “doctors” doing the rounds in 2023.

Four years ago Volkswagen made its contribution to the B-segment crossover market. A delayed arrival, as its competitors fielded offerings in the category many years before.

But the tardiness of the T-Cross did not matter: our market was always going to find the idea of a Polo-based model with a stocky, outdoorsy flavour an appealing one.

A curious phenomenon, how one takes greater notice of an object in surroundings when it is mentioned. Behind the wheel of a 1.0 Comfortline manual model recently my eyes kept singling out fellow T-Cross drivers.

Not a lot has been done to the model since its release. But its great depth of substance has kept the T-Cross relatively fresh. What stood out for me after just a few kilometres was how sturdy it feels. The model evinces a premium refined character usually associated with Volkswagen.

Certain interior plastics are hard, but fit is excellent.
Image: Supplied ON POINT Certain interior plastics are hard, but fit is excellent.

From the weighting of the clutch to the well-damped feel of the gear lever shifting through each of its defined gates, there is a true sense of quality to the model. Its steering is light but precise and the ride quality is polished.

Interior space is more than reasonable with notable amounts of headroom afforded by the taller overall cabin structure vs a Polo. The luggage compartment ranges from 377l (seats up) to 1,281 with them folded.

In all, this is a thoroughly sorted product with few shortcomings. Which are? Well, though the interior fit is hard to fault, certain plastics are of a hard, coarse variety. But we will get to the biggest reason that might sway you to Eastern competitors a bit later.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG) gearbox offered by Volkswagen is sharp-witted and slick in operation. But it was refreshing to drive a manual for a change. And certainly, if you plan to keep the vehicle beyond the usual repayment term and after the warranty expires, there is no doubt the manual option will be more durable.

We are familiar with the 1.0l three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine in the T-Cross. It has seen application in many Volkswagen products, including the Golf and Polo.

The T-Cross's upright rear and stocky proportions give plucky character.
Image: Supplied PLUCKY The T-Cross's upright rear and stocky proportions give plucky character.

A manual pairing complements the sprightly, flexible nature of the motor. Dropping a cog and mashing your foot to the floor reveals the fizziness on offer, with a quoted 70kW and 175Nm. It may not be as economical around town as you might expect. Our long-term average over 351km was 8.8l/100km. The same engine is sold in a stronger state of tune (85kW and 200Nm) when paired with the two-pedal DSG.

Our test unit was the Comfortline with R-Line kit, which is not to be confused with the stand-alone R-Line, powered by a 1.5l four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine producing 110kW and 250Nm. This is mated exclusively with DSG.

As you might have guessed, the Comfortline R-Line is enlivened by a few key elements. The package comprises 17-inch Manila-style wheels over the bland 16-inch type, sportier bumpers, integrated front fog lamps and park distance control sensors for the front and rear. It adds R22,200 over the R399,000 base cost.

Six-airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, air conditioning (manual rotary dial), multifunctional steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, USB Type-C ports and ISOFIX mountings are standard fare. So is a three-year/120,000km warranty and three-year/45,000km service plan.

The optional Active Info Display instrument cluster costs R10,200.
Image: Supplied MOD CONS The optional Active Info Display instrument cluster costs R10,200.

Our unit also had an R8,900 Composition Media infotainment package, including six speakers and wireless smartphone charging, the digital Active Info Display instrument cluster for R10,200, rounded off by a Park Package (R10,800) that added a reversing camera and electrically-adjustable side mirrors. All in, our car wore a window price of R451,100. The most expensive T-Cross member (before options) is the 1.5 TSI R-Line at R541,900.

The rivalry in the R400,000 to R550,000 pricing range is fierce. Comparing apples with apples you could have a Chery Tiggo 4 Pro 1.5T Elite SE (R408,900), Kia Sonet 1.0T EX (R412,995), Opel Crossland 1.2T Edition (R429,900) or Hyundai Venue 1.0T N Line (R493,500), among others.

But between that band there are also larger options to be had, with generous lists of standard equipment. Products such as the Toyota Corolla Cross, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Haval Jolion, BAIC X55, Omoda C5, Chery Tiggo 7 Pro and more.

The T-Cross is an accomplished vehicle with superb road manners, good build quality and that widely admired Volkswagen reputation. But nice as it is, you owe it to yourself to survey the full scope of the market before making your pick.