What Car? says...
At first glance, the Volkswagen T-Cross doesn't seem like a model that VW really needs in its line-up. After all, it already has the T-Roc – another small SUV that's near enough the same size. Indeed, you might even find yourself trying to choose between the two cars.
But look a little closer and 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 practical car.
If you're in the market for a small SUV, you might also be tempted by the closely related Skoda Kamiq, the Ford Puma and the Nissan Juke. So how does the Volkswagen T-Cross square up against all those alternatives and others?
Read on through this VW T-Cross review to find out the answer. Whichever car you end up deciding to buy, check out our New Car Buying service pages to find out how much you could save on a T-Cross without any awkward haggling.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Volkswagen T-Cross's entry-level petrol engine (badged 1.0 TSI 95) is all you'll probably need. It isn't as nippy as a Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost MHEV buts still hits 0-62mph in a claimed 10.8sec and serves up enough performance from low revs to avoid you having to thrash the engine. You don't even miss the absence of a sixth gear – this engine and the 1.6 TDI diesel are the only versions of the T-Cross with a five-speed manual gearbox.
As well as an extra gear, the more powerful 1.0 TSI 115 offers slightly faster acceleration (0-62mph in 9.5sec), but the difference isn't huge so we'd be tempted to save the money. 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, but, while it's is by far the nippiest T-Cross, if you've got that much money to spend there are better cars available, including Volkswagen's own T-Roc.
The 1.6 TDI diesel is even less recommendable. Surprisingly for a diesel, it struggles at low revs, so you find yourself flooring the accelerator pedal to make reasonable progress. You also need to change up and down through the gears to keep the revs in a sweet spot that exists at around 2000-2500rpm.
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 SE 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, which is especially helpful when you’re trying to park or weave your way through traffic. But this small SUV is almost equally at home on faster roads.
Okay, it’s not quite as agile or as fun as the stiffer Ford Puma, but its steering weights up nicely when you pick up the pace, providing a good sense of connection to the front wheels, and there’s more than enough grip available, balanced equally between the front and rear wheels.
Noise and vibration
The 1.0-litre petrol engines make a distinctive chirp when revved, but they're far smoother and quieter than the 1.6 TDI diesel. Indeed, petrol versions of the T-Cross are altogether pretty hushed by small SUV standards, although the slightly pricier T-Roc lets in even less wind and road noise when you're on the motorway.
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 makes it easy to draw to a gentle halt.
The DSG automatic ‘box, meanwhile, pings though its gears seamlessly when you're out on the open road, but can be a bit jerky a very low speeds, such as when you're parking. It's still far smoother than the Nissan Juke's equivalent automatic gearbox, though.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
While the Volkswagen T-Cross is no Range Rover in terms of driver elevation, it does place you farther from the road than many of its small SUV rivals, including the Ford Puma and Kia Stonic, and much higher than the Skoda Kamiq.
But aside from how high you sit, the whole arrangement feels similar to that of the Polo, on which the T-Cross is based. That's a good thing because it means there’s a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment, including standard height and lumbar adjustment on all trims, plus a height-adjustable centre armrest (SE trim and above). 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 Active Info Display (standard on range-topping R-Line trim and optional on the rest of the range other than entry-level S trim) replaces conventional analogue instruments with a 10.3in digital screen behind the steering wheel. This 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, but it’s not essential.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Thin 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, as the Light and Sight pack is available on all but base S trim, and is a really affordable option that adds a rear-view camera and automatic high-beam function for the headlights.
Front and rear parking sensors come as standard from Active trim upwards, but it’s disappointing that you get no sensors at all on S or SE trim unless you dip into the options list. Ultra-bright LED headlights come with Black Edition, SEL and R-Line trims, but are a very expensive option if you go for SE trim.
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, while a 9.2-inch screen with voice control is an optional upgrade on all but entry-level S cars. Volkswagen Connect comes as standard, which 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, just in case you've forgotten where you parked.
Our recommended SE trim adds a second USB charging port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, so you can use your phone’s apps – including the navigation aids like Google Maps and Waze – through the touchscreen. If you'd prefer a built-in sat-nav, you'll need either to pay extra to add it or upgrade to Active or up, but we wouldn't bother.
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 the Peugeot 2008's. 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; this adds a subwoofer and boosts power to 300 watts.
Sadly, the T-Cross hasn't made the most of its 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. Surprisingly, the closely related (but also cheaper) Skoda Kamiq feels quite a lot more upmarket inside.
At least if you go for Active or Black Edition trim you get upgraded trim inserts and upholstery, or SEL trim has particularly striking, patterned dash inserts. R-Line trim also adds some logos and ‘carbon flag’ upholstery to give more visual flair.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You’ll have no problem fitting in the front of the Volkswagen T-Cross if you’re tall. Leg room is as generous as it is in a Volkswagen Polo and, being a relatively high-roof SUV, there’s plenty of head room as well. It’s not exactly cramped width-wise, but the slightly broader Volkswagen 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, for example; 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 sit legs akimbo, straddling a wide hump. That said, if you regularly need to seat three adults in the rear, the wider 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, and it doesn't appear on the closely related Arona or 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, though.
We’ve already mentioned that the T-Cross has sliding rear seats and, assuming you've slid these all the way back to maximise rear leg room, boot space is roughly on a par with what you'll get in the Volkswagen Golf. In other words, there's enough space for a buggy or a decent haul of holiday luggage or, if you slide the seats forward, 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, though, as does the Kamiq. If you want a really big load bay in your small SUV, look at the Puma.
Go for a T-Cross in SE trim or above and you'll get a height-adjustable boot floor. This 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, though, because it has a subwoofer that lives under the boot floor.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Volkswagen T-Cross S trim looks temptingly priced but, as you’ll see in the equipment section below, leaves you wanting for toys. On the other hand, SEL and R-Line trims make little sense, because, if you have that much money to spend, the Volkswagen T-Roc is a better buy.
However, the 1.0 TSI 95 SE 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 True MPG tests and emits less CO2 than even the diesel T-Cross.
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 S trim is pretty basic. You get 16in alloy wheels, air-conditioning and electric windows but that's about it, so we’d recommend a step up to SE if you can.
SE adds 17in alloys, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, which helps lift the otherwise fairly drab interior. There are a couple of options that are worth thinking about, such as the Sight and Light pack that includes a rear-view camera yet is cheaper and arguably more useful than rear parking sensors. The Winter Pack, which brings heated front seats and windscreen washer jets, is also well worth considering.
Active trim concentrates on additional comfort features over SE, and includes heated seats, front and rear parking sensors, extended ambient cabin lighting and tinted rear windows. Black Edition is more style-focussed and adds black door mirrors, LED headlights, sports seats, tinted rear windows, and front and rear parking sensors. SEL adds further creature comforts, including dual-zone climate control, but the hike in price is too great. Steer clear of R-Line, too; it’s expensive and mainly adds styling fripperies.
The T-Cross came a rather disappointing 16th out of 19 small SUVs rated in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, while Volkswagen as a brand finished a similarly underwhelming 20th out of 30 manufacturers. Skoda did much better than that, with Seat slightly ahead too, while Peugeot and Ford fared worse.
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 nor Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile package.
Safety and security
The T-Cross received a five-star (out of five) safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, with a better adult occupant protection score than the Ford Puma or 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, which can monitor the road ahead for both cars and pedestrians, lane-keeping assistance and a post-collision mitigation system. The latter brakes the car after an accident, to prevent it from potentially rolling on and causing further damage.
SE trim adds blind spot protection, to warn if there’s another car to the rear three-quarters when you’re changing lane, as well as a driver fatigue monitor, which advises you when to take a break. Active, SEL and R Line also include traffic sign recognition. Moving to the security side of things, an alarm is optional on entry-level S trim, but standard on the rest of the range.
The Volkswagen T-Cross is below average among small SUVs for reliability, coming 17th out of 20 models rated in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. As a manufacturer, VW came 20th out of 30 car makers ranked in the survey. The T-Cross comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty as standard, which is on a par with most rivals, but behind Hyundai, Kia and MG. Read more here
No, the T-Cross is only available with traditional petrol or diesel engines. We think the best of those is the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol. If you want a fully electric VW car, you should explore the VW ID range. Read more here
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. We’d recommend pairing that with the T-Cross’s SE trim, which includes 17in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, a second USB charging port and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. Read more here
SE trim level is our pick, and gets 17in alloys, adaptive cruise control, a second USB charging port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. SEL is more expensive, and packs the T-Cross with creature comforts including dual-zone climate control and tinted windows. They’re good to have, but you pay a relatively high price for them. Read more here
The T-Cross was tested by safety experts Euro NCAP in 2019 and received a maximum five-star rating, with a notably better adult protection score than the Ford Puma and Nissan Juke. The T-Cross’s child protection scores were marginally lower, though. Standard safety kit includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) and a post-collision safety system. Read more here
The Volkswagen T-Cross has sliding rear seats, so you can extend the boot from being a similar volume to the VW Golf’s to the capacity of the Nissan Qashqai boot. The volume ranges from 385 litres to 455 litres, depending on how far back or forward you push the seats. Whichever setting you use, there’s enough room or a buggy or a big shop. SE trim and above gets a boot floor height adjuster, which adds versatility. Read more here
|RRP price range||£23,470 - £31,470|
|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)||£1,392 / £1,932|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,785 / £3,864|