Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
Remember the VW Polo Dune? A small car with big off-road styling, it offered chunky rugged vibes in a small package. Well the T-Cross is its well-appointed successor: a small SUV in an array of bright funky colours with utility styling and decent pricing
The T-Cross is possibly VW’s best-looking car right now, with a cool LED light bar running the width of the vehicle at the rear, square lights chunky wheel arches and bright paint jobs to remind you that car ownership can still be fun.
Inside, it’s full of smart black and dark grey fabrics and plastics. You get digital dials being the steering wheel to show revs, speed, what gear you’re in and so on, and a display screen between them showing alerts like open doors. There’s room for four adults although tall people will feel the squeeze, but if you want more space, you’d have spent more money on the next car up, the Golf or T-Roc.
We tested the R-Line version, which is the most expensive version, with some more dynamic styling like black lines and badging.
You get a small touchscreen, which has the VW cool feature of giving you menus and options as your finger approaches the screen. The satnav is pretty good, but you do also get Apple CarPlay as standard, which means Google Maps too. Thumbs up to VW for making Apple CarPlay standard on one of their cheapest cars. Our test car had two USB ports in the front and, surprisingly, two in the back, which is very handy when you have kids permanently glued to their phones and iPads, and again, is unusual in smaller, cheaper cars.
The T-Cross comes with a sliding rear seat which is unusual in this class of car, and means you have some versatility with the space when it comes to loading rear passengers and their stuff in the boot.
The ride is comfortable for a car with a short wheelbase – city cars are normally prone to harsher rides with more noise and vibration and general jiggling, but VW has always given its small, urban cars a high-quality ride.
Until a few weeks ago there was only one engine on offer: the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol, called a TFSI, with either 95 horsepower or 115 horsepower. It’s now been joined by a 1.6 diesel but as no one drives diesel-engined cars any more, you’ll be wanting the TFSI. We suggest the latter one – anything under 100 horsepower just causes frustration in our experience, unless all you do in it is potter round town or on the school run. You can choose a seven-speed automatic gearbox or a manual one: we’d take the manual just because you can then squeeze the power pips from the engine for moments like overtaking, when you need an extra squirt. But if you do a lot of stop-start traffic-jam driving, you’ll probably prefer the automatic.
Despite the styling, the T-Roc is front-wheel drive only: no four-wheel drive grip is available.
Given the styling, the Apple CarPlay and the quality feel to this car, the starting price of £16,995 is pretty good. Excellent monthly finance packages are available if you scout around, making this very affordable as part of your monthly household budget. Go up to the R-Line spec, and you can easily spend £24,000, however, but the standard spec means you don’t need to spend that much to get a car with a few creature comforts.