Car Review

Volkswagen T-Cross: you'll be angry if you don't bag this sexy SUV

It's only been on the market for a month or two, but this crossover is already one of the top-five bestselling passenger cars in SA

08 December 2019 - 00:00 By
The VW T-Cross exudes a level of class and polish that makes its rivals seem somewhat underdressed.
The VW T-Cross exudes a level of class and polish that makes its rivals seem somewhat underdressed.
Image: Supplied

So I've heard this thing is selling like hotcakes - what gives?

It is. This Volkswagen has only been on the market for a month or two and much to the intense annoyance of its rivals is already one of the top-five bestselling passenger cars in SA. Reason being is that the new T-Cross manages to tick many of the boxes customers are looking to check: it's a good size (not too small not too big - just right), reasonably priced and nice to look at.

Smaller than the more expensive Tiguan, the T-Cross is actually based on the same MQB platform as the Polo. The cars sport the same wheelbase but the T-Cross is some 54mm longer and 138mm wider. To give you that sense that you're (slightly) above everybody else, you sit 100mm higher, which is handy in traffic. 

Another plus is the premium feel this car exudes. Lined up next to something like a Ford EcoSport, the Teutonic T-Cross is notably more grown-up and refined.

Can it cope with bit of off-roading?

Nope, unlike your mate's Renault Duster 4x4, this front wheel-drive Volkswagen is best left navigating the asphalt of the urban jungle: an environ across which it performs admirably thanks to those Polo-sourced underpinnings.

As such the ride quality is a bit on the firm side with some degree of noise and harshness filtering through into the cabin when rolling over rougher surfaces. The trade-off, however, is an SUV that doesn't feel like it's going to topple over when you carry some speed through corners.

FAST FACTS: VW T-Cross 1.0TSI

• ENGINE: 999cc three-cylinder turbo

• POWER: 85kW at 5,500rpm

• TORQUE: 200Nm at 2,000rpm

• TRANSMISSION: seven-speed DSG

• 0-100KM/H: 10.2-seconds (claimed)

• TOP SPEED: 193km/h (claimed)

• FUEL: 5.9l/100km (achieved)

• PRICE: From R334,600

So when it comes to road manners I'd say that the T-Cross is better to pilot than the aforementioned Ford EcoSport as well as the Renault Captur. Sure, the steering might be a bit light and lifeless but, hey, it's 2019 and this is to be expected. Also it's kind of forgivable in a vehicle of this ilk.

Light and nimble around town (with decent visibility at all four corners - you'll never struggle to park it) the T-Cross also excels on longer jaunts with a degree of cabin refinement and NVH insulation that puts it right at the top of its class.

That engine seems a tad small - is it enough out in the real world?

When loaded with four people and their baggage (the physical kind) you might notice that little 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI engine start to take strain. However, during my test period, travelling one-up with little more than my backpack and camera bag, I found this motor more than sufficient.

Paired to a seven-speed DSG transmission, it requires a few revs to build steam but once it does, forward momentum is pleasingly brisk. Unlike a lot of Volkswagen Group motors, this one actually sounds good too: its rorty three-cylinder thrum proving that internal combustion engines can still have some personality in 2019 without the need for ridiculous sound symposers.

Best of all, if you're willing to travel with a light (ish) right foot, you can expect some miserly fuel consumption. Over the 420km that I travelled in the T-Cross, I managed to average below 6l/100km.

How's the interior - as good as the one inside the Tiguan?

From a quality standpoint the T-Cross languishes behind its more expensive sibling with a cabin constructed entirely from scratchy plastics. Not only are said plastics hard to the touch, they also vary in colour - I counted no fewer than five different shades inside my test vehicle. Look closely and you'll find some rather obvious signs of corporate cost-cutting inside the T-Cross.

Look closely at the interior of the T-Cross and you’ll find some rather obvious signs of corporate cost-cutting.
Look closely at the interior of the T-Cross and you’ll find some rather obvious signs of corporate cost-cutting.
Image: Supplied

Fortunately, however, everything does seem well pieced-together and I certainly experienced no rattles or squeaks during my week of driving. Also all the main buttons, stalks and knobs are familiar Volkswagen fare that seem game for a long life of service.

My particular T-Cross was a Comfortline model that bridges the gap between poverty-spec Trendline and range-topping Highline. As such you get 16-inch alloy wheels, black roof rails, front fog lights, a leather multi-function steering wheel, park distance and cruise control. Not exactly the Ritz, but not Sun1 either.

Fortunately Volkswagen has a lot of optional extras on offer so you can really go to town on making your T-Cross more luxurious. Mine came with the superb Beats audio system, a digital instrument cluster as well as the touchscreen "Discover" infotainment system that adds satellite navigation. Just be sure to spec with caution as all these toys can send that base pricetag soaring.

Space is decent and two adults shouldn't have a problem sitting in the back on long journeys. Being slightly longer than the Polo, the T-Cross also has a bit more luggage space in the boot. Fold down those rear seats and you can pack in all kinds of cargo.

So it's worth all the crazy sales hype then?

Yeah, the T-Cross is a genuinely good SUV-cum-crossover-cum-hatchback-on-stilts - whatever the hell you want to call it. Volkswagen has done well to disguise its humble Polo roots and in doing so has created a vehicle with an identity all its own.

Granted, the cabin may show signs of shameless penny-pinching but on the whole this newcomer exudes a level of class and polish that makes its rivals seem somewhat underdressed. This is backed up by fine road manners, peppy performance as well a plenty of scope for customisation.

With more engine options on the horizon, I can't see the orders slowing anytime soon.