What Car? says...
At first glance, the Volkswagen T-Cross small SUV doesn't seem like a model VW really needs in its line-up.
After all, alongside the T-Cross you'll find the VW T-Roc (another small SUV) and the VW Taigo (think of it as a T-Cross with a sleeker roof). Indeed, you might even find yourself trying to choose between the three cars.
Look a little closer, and you'll see there are some key differences. The T-Cross is available with less-powerful engines and more spartan trim levels, for example, so it can be quite a lot cheaper to buy if you select your spec carefully. It also has some clever tricks, including sliding rear seats, so in some ways it's a more versatile car.
If you're in the market for a small SUV, you might also be tempted by the closely related Skoda Kamiq or the Nissan Juke. And there's the fun-to-drive Ford Puma. Read on to find out how the Volkswagen T-Cross stands up against the competition...
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The VW T-Cross's entry-level petrol engine (badged 1.0 TSI 95) is all you'll probably need.
It's not as nippy as a Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost MHEV but still serves up enough performance with a bit of work from the engine, hitting 0-62mph in 11.6 seconds officially. This is the only version of the T-Cross with a five-speed manual gearbox, but you don't really miss the absence of s sixth gear.
As well as an extra gear, the more powerful 1.0 TSI 110 offers slightly faster acceleration (0-62mph in 10.8 seconds). The difference isn't huge, so we'd be tempted to save the money if you tend to stick to town driving. However, if you tend to cover longer journeys it is a bit more effortless to cruise in.
Nevertheless, it's still easier to recommend than the range-topping 1.5 TSI 150 petrol that's available exclusively with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox and in the higher trims. While it's by far the nippiest T-Cross, there are better cars available for similar money, including VW's own T-Roc.
Suspension and ride comfort
The T-Cross isn't quite as comfy as the more expensive T-Roc or the Skoda Kamiq, but it rides pretty well compared with most other small SUVs. It’s much less fidgety than the firmer Kia Stonic, for example, and far more controlled and less bouncy than the Citroën C3 Aircross.
Often we suggest sticking with the smallest wheels possible for the smoothest ride. With the T-Cross, though, wheel size makes little difference to comfort. Our recommended Black Edition trim comes with 17in wheels, but even the R-Line model with 18in wheels isn't a boneshaker.
Those looking for something easy to drive in town will find the T-Cross's light steering a boon. It's particularly helpful when you’re trying to park or weave your way through traffic.
On faster roads, it’s not quite as agile or as fun as the stiffer Ford Puma, but there’s plenty of grip on offer and body lean is fairly well controlled. The light steering doesn’t provide much confidence at these speeds, though.
Noise and vibration
The 1.0-litre petrol engine is pretty hushed by small SUV standards and only makes a distinctive chirp when revved. The T-Roc lets in even less wind and road noise when you're on the motorway, though.
If you go for a version with a manual gearbox, you'll find the gearshift a little notchy, but the clutch has an easily identifiable biting point that makes it easy to pull away smoothly. Likewise, the feelsome brake pedal helps it draw to a gentle halt.
The DSG auto gearbox shifts through its gears seamlessly when you're out on the open road, but can be a bit jerky at very low speeds, such as when you're parking. It's still far smoother than the Nissan Juke's equivalent automatic gearbox, though.
Strengths Willing performance; good ride and handling balance
Weaknesses There are more fun and comfortable small SUVs out there
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The VW T-Cross is no Range Rover in terms of driver elevation, but it does place you further from the road than many of its small SUV rivals – including the Ford Puma and the Kia Stonic – and much higher than the Skoda Kamiq.
Aside from how high you sit, the whole arrangement feels similar to that of the VW Polo (which the T-Cross is based on).
That's a good thing because it means there’s a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment, including standard height adjustment for the driver on all trims, plus a height-adjustable centre armrest. Our only minor grumble is that, depending on the length of your legs, you might find that the leading edge of the seat base digs into the backs of your thighs.
The digital instrument panel (standard on range-topping R-Line trim and optional on the rest of the range) replaces conventional analogue instruments with a 10.3in digital screen behind the steering wheel. It places a lot of useful information – including navigation maps in models with sat-nav – right in front of you. It's worth considering as an option on lower trims.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Narrow windscreen pillars keep the view forwards unobstructed, but as with many of its rivals, the T-Cross’s thick rear pillars are a hindrance when you're looking back over your shoulder.
Fear not, though: all versions come with front and rear parking sensors, and a rear view camera is available as an option on all of them. There’s also the Light and Sight pack, which adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic high-beam function for the headlights.
Ultra-bright LED headlights come as standard with all trims except Move.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every T-Cross has an 8.0in colour touchscreen, along with a USB-C connection, USB charging, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. SEL trim and above comes with built-in sat-nav. A 9.2-inch screen with voice control is an optional upgrade on all versions.
Volkswagen Connect comes as standard, and allows the car to communicate with an app on your phone so that, among other things, you can analyse the efficiency of your driving or check on the car's location.
Whichever trim you choose, the basic hardware and software remains the same and works just as well as it does in other Volkswagen models – and better than in, for example, the Peugeot 2008. That is to say, the operating system is user-friendly and the screen responds promptly to prods.
However, as with other touchscreen-based systems, some of the smaller icons can be hard to hit on the move. Meanwhile, the standard sound system has six speakers but can be upgraded with the Beats Soundpack, which adds a subwoofer and boosts power to 300 watts.
Sadly, the T-Cross hasn't made the most of its VW Polo origins in terms of interior quality.
Sure, everything feels well screwed together and should stand up to the rigours of family use, but where the cheaper Polo displays a mix of soft-touch materials on the top of its doors and dashboard, the T-Cross presents a sea of hard, shiny plastic. The Taigo gets a few more soft-touch materials, but the T-Roc is another step up in quality. Surprisingly, the closely related (but also cheaper) Skoda Kamiq feels quite a lot more upmarket than the T-Cross inside.
At least if you go for Black Edition trim you get upgraded trim inserts and upholstery, while SEL trim has striking patterned dash inserts. R-Line trim also adds some logos and "carbon flag" upholstery to give more visual flair.
Strengths Comfortable driving position; plenty of tech upgrades available as an option
Weaknesses Interior materials are a bit disappointing
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You’ll have no problem fitting in the front of the VW T-Cross if you’re tall. Leg room is as generous as it is in a Polo and, as it's a relatively high-roofed SUV, there’s plenty of head room as well.
It’s not exactly cramped width-wise, but the slightly broader T-Roc offers a bit more elbow room between you and your passenger.
Interior storage is plentiful. There’s a sliding drawer under the driver’s seat, a large glovebox and door bins, plus a multitude of trays, cubbies and cupholders for all your odds and sods.
By the standards of the small SUV class, rear space in the T-Cross is impressive. There’s more leg and head room than you get in the back of the Seat Arona, with enough for a couple of six-footers to be comfortable, even when sitting behind people of equivalent height. The Skoda Kamiq has even more leg room, though.
A definite bonus is the T-Cross's unobtrusive central floor tunnel. It allows the middle rear passenger to slide into their seat without much clambering and doesn't force them to straddle a wide hump. That said, if you regularly need to seat three adults in the rear, the T-Roc is more generous for shoulder room.
Seat folding and flexibility
Every model offers the flexibility of sliding rear seats that let you prioritise boot space or rear leg room depending on your needs. Few of the T-Cross's rivals offer that feature (such as top-spec versions of the Vauxhall Crossland, for example), and it doesn't appear on the closely related Seat Arona or Skoda Kamiq, the bigger T-Roc, or the Ford Puma.
It would be even handier if the rear bench didn’t slide in its entirety and, instead, each seat could be moved individually, as they do in more expensive, larger SUVs. The rear seatbacks split in the usual 60/40 pattern, for those times when you need to accommodate bigger loads and passengers at the same time, but they don't recline.
The T-Cross's sliding rear seats let you extend the boot volume from 385 litres to 455 litres, depending on how far back you push the seats.
In other words, there's enough space for a buggy or a decent haul of holiday luggage. If you slide the seats forward, there's still almost as much space as you get in a Nissan Qashqai (although don't expect to carry adults in the back at the same time). The slightly pricier T-Roc has an even bigger boot, as does the Kamiq. If you want a really big load bay in your small SUV, look at the Puma.
A height-adjustable boot floor is available on higher trim levels. It allows you to create a separate space beneath the main boot compartment, or if you slot the floor in its highest setting, you eliminate any annoying step in the floor of the extended load bay when you've folded down the rear seats. The optional Beats sound system removes that facility, because it has a subwoofer that lives under the boot floor.
Strengths Spacious for occupants all round; versatile sliding rear-seat
Weaknesses Rivals offer more boot space
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The pricier SEL and R-Line trims make little sense on the VW T-Cross, because if you have that much money to spend, the T-Roc is a better buy.
The 1.0 TSI 95 Black Edition offers the best value for money, and it's cheaper than the entry-level Ford Puma. It's not quite as frugal or as low on CO2 emissions, mind, but it still proved really efficient in our real-world MPG tests.
Combined with relatively affordable servicing and insurance bills, and depreciation that isn't too heavy by class standards, the T-Cross can be a thrifty buy if you choose carefully.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Move trim is well equipped with 16in alloys, adaptive cruise control, air-conditioning and ambient lighting. The Winter Pack, which brings heated front seats and windscreen washer jets, is well worth considering.
Black Edition trim represents good value for money because it adds a few additional creature comforts over Move without costing too much more. It includes sports front seats, LED headlamps, tinted rear windows and larger 17in alloy wheels.
SEL adds dual-zone climate control and roof rails, but the hike in price is too great. Steer clear of R-Line too: it’s expensive and mainly adds styling kit.
The T-Cross finished in a rather strong eighth position out of 22 small SUVs rated in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. Volkswagen as a brand finished a rather underwhelming 22nd out of 32 manufacturers, though. Seat finished slightly higher, while Skoda did much better.
What protection do you get if things go wrong? A three-year warranty, limited to 60,000 miles, comes as standard with every T-Cross. That’s typical of many rival manufacturers, but not as generous as Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty oor Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile package.
Safety and security
The T-Cross was award five stars out of five for safety when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, with a better adult occupant protection score than the Ford Puma and the Nissan Juke. Child occupancy protection wasn't quite as good, but only by the narrowest of margins.
The generous list of driver assistance features contributed towards the T-Cross's strong score. Technology includes automatic emergency braking (AEB), which can monitor the road ahead for both cars and pedestrians, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, a driver fatigue monitor (which advises you when to take a break) and post-collision mitigation system.
Moving to the security side of things, an alarm is standard across the range.
Buying and owning overview
Strengths Entry-level versions are well priced; relatively strong safety record; good reliability rating
Weaknesses Top-spec versions are too pricey
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The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine is probably all you need. It does 0-62mph in 10.8sec and pulls from low revs, so you don’t need to thrash it. Design trim comes with all the essentials, but mid-level Black Edition adds LED lights and comfortable sports seats that are worth having.
|RRP price range||£23,360 - £31,585|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||44.1 - 49.6|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,386 / £1,939|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,771 / £3,878|