VW made the right move in expanding its SUV range downwards, because the T-Cross has proved to be a huge success, with more than 300,000 made each year since its introduction. We ran one on our long-term test fleet in 2020, and it proved to be a great car for a family of three, including a small child. The high purchase costs might put you off, and so could the fact that on the used market, the model range is very narrow; you’ll almost certainly have to settle for a 1.0 TSI petrol engine. But it’s a great engine that’s perky and frugal, while the transmissions are slick, refinement is good and so is comfort. As an all-rounder, the T-Cross makes a safe buy in more than one sense, but check out some of those alternatives before committing.
In 2018, Volkswagen announced that by 2025 it expected SUVs to account for half of its global car sales, up from one in five when the prediction was made. That forecast coincided with the unveiling of the brand’s smallest SUV, the T-Cross.
Often seen as a jacked-up Polo, the T-Cross is actually 136mm longer, so it’s not surprising that this smallest of VW crossovers is significantly roomier and more versatile than the evergreen small hatch.
Car group tests
In typical VW fashion, the T-Cross is expensive to buy, and it sits in a segment that’s bursting with talent, some of which
is available for significantly less money. So does this relatively small VW make sense, or should you be giving the T-Cross a swerve and shopping elsewhere?
The VW T-Cross went on sale in the UK in March 2019, and at first only a 1.0 TSI petrol engine was offered. This came with either 94bhp or 114bhp, the former coming with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the latter was offered with either six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic transmissions.
Within three months, a 1.6 TDI diesel had joined the range. Rated at 94bhp, this also came with manual or DSG automatic gearboxes. A 148bhp 1.5 TSI petrol engine completed the line-up in January 2020, sold only with an automatic transmission.
A facelifted T-Cross is set to reach showrooms early in 2024, with an upgraded interior, new colour options, LED lighting front and rear, improved infotainment, plus an array of driver-assistance technology.
Which one should I buy?
The 1.6 TDI and 1.5 TSI engines are rare, so you’ll almost certainly buy a 1.0 TSI. The 114bhp edition is usefully more perky, and if you want an automatic, you’ll have to buy one of those anyway. The manual gearbox is slick, but so is the DSG auto and it makes urban driving that much more enjoyable. Even the entry-level T-Cross S is reasonably well equipped, with 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen display, DAB radio, Bluetooth and air-con.
On top of this, the SE gains 17-inch wheels, front foglights, roof rails, higher-quality interior trim, a split-level boot floor, automatic headlights and wipers, adaptive cruise control and upgraded infotainment with extra USB ports.
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The flagship SEL model has privacy glass, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and navigation. The R-Line features 18-inch alloys, a bodykit and sportier details for the interior, including a black headlining and some bits of brushed aluminium to lift the ambience a little.
Alternatives to the Volkswagen T-Cross
Closely related to the T-Cross are the SEAT Arona and Skoda Kamiq. Given that these are also VW Group products, they share many of the VW’s parts, but the design and equipment levels are slightly different, so they might suit you better.
The Ford EcoSport and Puma are both up against the T-Cross; the latter is by far the more impressive of the two, though. Also worth a look are the Vauxhall Mokka, Peugeot 2008 and Citroen C3 Aircross, which are all related to each other; the Hyundai Kona and Bayon or Kia Stonic and Soul also share components.
The Nissan Juke and Renault Captur are related to each other, too, while the Lexus UX is basically a posher Toyota C-HR. We’d also suggest putting the Mazda CX-30 on your shortlist, because it’s a great small car that’s stylish and really good to drive.
What to look for
All T-Crosses have a tyre mobility kit. Space-saver and full-size spare wheels are available from dealers and aftermarket sellers.
Juddering windscreen wipers can be a problem, especially with newly built T-Crosses. Switching to Bosch Aerotwin blades is a popular solution.
Early cars can suffer from squeaks at the base of the A-pillars. They can be fixed, but it’s best to get a dealer to do it rather than fix it yourself.
Some early manual 1.0 TSI 115 T-Crosses had problems with the engine cutting out, seemingly because of faulty stop-start sensors.
VW’s reputation for reliability means that owners’ expectations are high, but in the latest Driver Power survey the T-Cross came 66th out of 75 for reliability. Scour owners’ forums and most gripes relate to early cars, or the faults are relatively isolated. Either way, check that everything works and that there are no creaks or rattles before committing to buying.
There’s no mistaking that this is a VW interior, with the clarity of its dash design and decent-quality materials throughout, although some owners aren’t so impressed by the latter. Given that this is VW’s smallest SUV, you can’t expect vast amounts of rear-seat legroom, but it’s not bad and there’s plenty of headroom.
All T-Crosses come with a sliding rear seat, which needs to be pushed right back if in use by adults. But slide it forward and this allows the boot to stow up to 455 litres, which increases to 1,281 litres with the backrest folded down.
We found over 900 T-Crosses nationwide, with roughly a third coming with an auto box. Diesels are very rare; we found just a handful, while the 1.5 TSI engine is also unusual.
To check prices on a specific model head over to our valuation tool.
T-Cross owners can choose between fixed and variable servicing. The former means a visit to the garage every 9,300 miles or 12 months, with services alternating between Minor and Major, at £194 and £240 respectively. Few owners opt for this, because the alternative is variable servicing, which allows up to two years or 18,600 miles between garage visits.
Not only is this more convenient but it also works out a bit cheaper, although it means that the engine goes longer between oil changes. Take this route and every service is a Major one, priced at £240, with fresh brake fluid also required every two years, at £80.
There’s no set interval for the car’s coolant to be replaced, but all T-Cross engines have a cambelt, which should be renewed every five years, although there’s no recommended mileage limit. Budget around £800 to have the work carried out.
Volkswagen has recalled the T-Cross on two occasions so far. The first was in February 2020, because 35 cars left the factory with faulty curtain airbags, which could fail to inflate in the event of a collision. All of the cars were built in either May or June 2019; the solution was to install replacement airbags.
The second campaign was launched in October 2021, because 1,104 T-Crosses made between January and June 2021 had faulty software installed. This meant that if a rear-seat passenger failed to wear their seatbelt, the dashboard wouldn’t display any warnings; a software update fixed things. Both of these recalls affected only T-Crosses, with no other models included. As with any VW, to see if a potential buy is subject to an outstanding recall, put its VIN into vw.com/en/recalls.html.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
Placing 21st in the 2023 Driver Power new-car survey isn’t a bad result, although five small SUVs (the Dacia Duster, Ford EcoSport, Kia XCeed, Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul) did better. Practicality and boot space got the thumbs up, while owners also like the infotainment, visibility, rear-seat legroom, fuel economy and ride quality. Poor value and reliability, plus disappointment with the safety features, are the downsides.
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