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Used test: Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen T-Cross

Comfy and practical, a used VW Golf is a great buy, but are you better off with a small SUV like the VW T-Cross?...

Used test: Volkswagen Golf vs Volkswagen T-Cross

The contenders

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 115 Match 5dr

List price when new £21,200
Price today £13,000*
Available from 2016-present

Comfortable and refined, the Golf has long been a popular family car

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SE

List price when new £19,555
Price today £13,000*
Available from 2019-present

The T-Cross is roomy and versatile for its size, plus it has SUV style on its side

*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

In TV and film, you'll sometimes come across the cliché of a character experiencing a dilemma, only to be presented with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. The angel is telling the protagonist to play it safe, while the devil is egging on their more rebellious side. It can be easy to experience when buying a car: do you go with what's familiar or try something perhaps new and exciting?

Take these two VWs, the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen T-Cross. The former is a best-selling family car that's been around for eight generations over 50 years, while the latter only came into being in 2019. It's a small SUV, though, meaning the promise of a higher driving position and potentially greater practicality. 

Used Volkswagen Golf 2013-2020 front cornering

It's a big decision, but to take the edge off, you could look to the used car market. There, you'll find plenty of choice in regards to either car, with prices of five-year-old examples wavering at around £13,000 each. We can also tell you which model gets our vote. 


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Both of our contenders drink petrol and use identical 1.0-litre engines that produce 113bhp. Nonetheless, the T-Cross, being the lighter car, proved that little bit quicker during our testing: its 9.5sec 0-60mph time trumped the Golf's still respectable 9.8sec effort. Both engines feel similarly punchy and can manage town driving or motorway stints with satisfactory ease. 

Volkswagen T-Cross front cornering

The Golf and T-Cross have relatively soft suspension setups and while their rides are comfortable, the Golf is more so. This is because the Golf, with its lower centre of gravity, stays flatter over uneven surfaces, jostling you around in your seat noticeably less. The T-Cross, over a pothole-ridden stretch of road, can make you feel like a bobblehead. 

The Golf's lower centre of gravity is also a large reason why the Golf feels sharper and more composed on a twisty country road. It leans less through the corners and the ride maintains a remarkable fluidity. The T-Cross isn't exactly aloof, with confidence-inspiring grip and steering, but it remains a step below the Golf. 

Used Volkswagen Golf 2013-2020 rear cornering

On the other hand, while the Golf is good around town, the T-Cross, aided by its smaller size and higher driving position, is even better. Narrow streets, car parks, you name it – the T-Cross tackles urban scenarios more easily. 

On the motorway, the Golf proves the quieter cruiser out of our duo, although the T-Cross does a commendable job of shielding you from wind and road noise.

Volkswagen T-Cross rear cornering