Volkswagen T-Cross test drive review – Creta and Harrier watch out!
What is it? Another SUV. Another Hyundai Creta and Tata Harrier rival, in fact, but this time from Volkswagen. The market for compact SUVs is growing, with a new car entering the market every few months and Volkswagen wants a piece of the pie. The T-Cross is the smallest Volkswagen SUV, borrowing its floorpan from the new generation Polo MQB A0 platform.
The T-Cross will come to India as part of the group’s India 2.0 operations with some changes and customisation, specifically for our market. A longer wheelbase and overall length, along with some exterior upgrades to make it look more of an SUV-like is what we can expect in India. It will be made to suit our market’s needs while targeting the likes of Hyundai’s Creta. The India-spec car will be built on the ‘MQB A0 IN’ platform — the same one that Volkswagen Group is developing in India as a lower-cost alternative to what they use in Europe.
“The T-Cross’ squared off, upright stance makes it quite a looker and its large wheels, combined with a high ground clearance make the SUV look butch too”
The design of the T-Cross looks… well, very Volkswagen
Yes, at first glance, you can tell that the T-Cross shares its design language with the other T-named SUVs. Similarly styled headlamps and fog lights, which go with the family styling. It features a smart grille upfront with the VW logo flanked by LED headlamps and integrated DRLs. The T-Cross’ squared off, upright stance makes it quite a looker and its large wheels, combined with a high ground clearance make the SUV look butch too. The most striking design element on the T-Cross is the taillights, which are interconnected and enveloped in a glossy black panel, giving it quite a very distinct look. The T-Cross will be available in only front-wheel drive as its Polo-sourced underpinnings don’t allow for all-wheel drive. What we do hope make it are the 12 colours the T-Cross is available in. The orange, turquoise and dark blue looked especially striking.
“The elevated seating position makes it feel bigger on the inside and makes it feel upmarket”
The fact that it is based on the Polo means it must be tiny, right?
Well, the T-Cross feels considerably larger. Get inside and immediately you notice the higher, commanding seating position making it feel more like an SUV than a tall hatchback. You sit high above the road in the driver’s seat, while passengers at the back sit higher still, giving them a nice airy feel in the cabin. Unsurprisingly, its got very sensible ergonomics and an angular styling theme for the dash. It’s all quite sober, although some jazzily coloured panels are available to liven it up as optional extras, though it remains to be seen if they will make it to India. Ambient lighting is standard and a sweet sounding Beats audio system is an option. The elevated seating position makes it feel bigger on the inside and makes it feel upmarket. In all trim levels, the seats are attractive and comfortable but could do with a little more side support. Take a corner aggressively and you’ll need to brace yourself to avoid rubbing shoulders with passengers, for whom strangely, there aren’t any grab handles fitted on the roof.
What about kit?
The trim levels we drove featured an eight-inch touchscreen dash with smartphone compatibility, and R-Line versions additionally get a clear, configurable Active Info Display digital instrument panel. A gloss-black plastic surround helps the two screens gel visually, and there’s still a sensible smattering of physical switchgear below the middle screen for the air-con controls. For ease of use, it’s one of the most intuitively laid out cockpits of any car I’ve driven recently. But to be a little critical, the quality of plastics on certain bits did disappoint. The top surface of the dash, cladding on the A-pillar feels a little out of place in an otherwise premium cabin. The door cards and door handles are also made from a similar material, without fabric trim even on top-level R-Line models, which was probably the only downside on the interior side.
“The DSG feels well-calibrated, with progressive take-up around town and a leggy top gear for the motorway”
That’s all great, but what’s under the hood?
The T-Cross is available with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, with a choice of two power outputs: 94bhp or 113bhp. The former is available with a five-speed manual gearbox only, while the 113bhp version can be had with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG auto. A 1.6 TDI diesel is available in some markets but isn’t yet confirmed for our market, though we do hope there will be some diesel option. We tested the 113bhp version, which feels energetic in terms of its performance and response. We tested both gearbox options. The DSG feels well-calibrated, with progressive take-up around town and a leggy top gear for the motorway, while the six-speed manual has the slick, well-damped feel that characterises most modern Volkswagen products.
“The T-Cross feels sure-footed and gives a typical Volkswagen vibe, driving very confidently with the DSG gearbox keeping things super smooth”
Does it drive like other modern Volkswagens too?
Yes! On the move, the T-Cross rides extremely well and steers with light, accurate precision. It doesn’t roll as much as you’d think for a car so tall, and its chassis has bigger car-like refinement. Dynamically, it gives away little to the Polo it is based on, feeling agile and nimble. It may not completely excite an enthusiast, but it drives well enough. Where it scores highly is its relaxed demeanour. The T-Cross feels sure-footed and gives a typical Volkswagen vibe, driving very confidently with the DSG gearbox keeping things super smooth. It is planted and grippy, and feels very stable on the free-flowing motorways as well as the tight and twisty roads around the island of Mallorca. It’s got a very assured, tied-down feel to it, considering it is a small, but tall car. That’s is mostly down to the suspension that has been given a set-up which is on the firmer side. However, that’s not at the cost of ride quality which is largely smooth and comfortable, soaking up any undulations and bumps. The car we tested was the range topping R-Line trim and had 18-inch wheels. Despite the sporty size and profile, there’s little road noise transmitted to the cabin. The engine is remarkably quiet too, especially for a three-cylinder, make the drive very relaxing.
“The rear seats even in the European trim feel genuinely roomy, expect it to be even better on the India-spec model”
Is it a passenger car, or are they an afterthought?
The T-Cross features a bench seat that slides backwards and forwards, increasing rear legroom by 150mm. It gives an extra sense of space, which is immediately obvious, the moment you sit in the rear. The rear seats even in the European trim feel genuinely roomy, expect it to be even better on the India-spec model. Slide the bench forward, however, and rear legroom disappears completely, but it does liberate more luggage space, which can vary between 385 and 455 litres. Theoretically, it can expand all the way upto 1,281 litres with all the seats folded down flat. Even the passenger seat can be folded flat, making the usable lading area similar to that of a minivan.
Yay or Nay?
Overall, Volkswagen’s baby SUV is well packaged and makes for an appealing addition to the firm’s increasing range of SUVs. Smart, spacious and well equipped it bringing its own appeal to an ever increasing field. It’s more than sharp enough to drive, looks good and is practical too. When VW does bring the India specific T-Cross out some next year, we just hope that they price it well enough to take the fight in the segment they aim to position it in. If that is done, I don’t see any reason why it can’t become the most desirable small SUV you can buy. The marketing slogan “I am more” might actually be correct in that case.