The history of the T-Cross is short and sweet: it stretches back into the dim and distant past of 2016, when it was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, and went on sale in the UK in March 2019.
But there is potent sales rationale behind this baby SUV, which is essentially a jacked-up and elongated Polo, not unlike, in fact, the Polo Dune of old (if you want the jacked-up Golf, that’ll be the T-roc). The market for small crossovers of this type is expected to double before the day is out (well, not quite that period of time, but you get the idea – this is a very fast-growing market).
It’s up against plenty of competition: Mazda CX-3 (dynamic drive), Audi Q2 (great looks), Citroen C3 Aircross (different offering), Seat Arona (good value) – and on and on. Can it hold its own in a vital segment?
The trim line-up is the usual VW arrangement: S, SE, SEL and R-Line. The base spec gives you an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air-con, electric windows all round, stop-start and a sliding rear seat, to make more use of the room, which is a rarity in this class. You get four SUB ports – two up front and two in the rear, which is also rare, and can specify wireless phone charging (once you experience it, you’ll never go back…).
Move all the way up to the top of the tree, as we did with our R-Line specification, and you get two-zone air-con, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, paddle shifts on the steering wheel and warning buzzers and visual alerts for if the doors or tailgate are left open.
We also had keyless entry (£34), electrically folding door mirrors (£160) and a Beats sound pack including subwoofer and digital amplifier, which was strangely underwhelming (£430).
Best spend on our car was the Makena Turquoise metallic paint (£750 - do it).
All T-Crosses come with VW’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged TSI petrol engine which is a genius move: this type of small car is used mostly in urban environments, where diesel drivers are often penalised, and you really don’t need more power than the 115 horses our car put out. There is a lower output, of 95 horsepower, which will be fine for shot journeys but if you’re thinking if traversing the country with four adults on board, step up to the stronger unit.
Our car came with the VW Group’s seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic gearbox, which is only available with the more powerful engine. Otherwise, it’s a five- or six-speed manual transmission. Personally, with an engine this size, we’d go for the manual, but that auto' box is a smooth operator, and we did have the option of the paddles to shift things down when the going got slow.
Despite being a baby SUV, all T-Crosses come as front-wheel-drive only: get used to it, as the moniker has essentially shifted now to denoting a vehicle with a raised ride height and “rugged” styling only.
While some have criticised the T-Cross for being a bit too sensible in its exterior and interior styling, and also quite pricey, we thoroughly enjoyed this little car for the week we had it. VWs have ever been pricey, but in return you get that familiar German solid build quality and assured engineering. We actually liked the sobriety of the interior design, with its coverings of black and dark grey plastics and its neat cuts and fits.
The exterior design is quite conservative, but in a crowded market full of crazy silhouettes designed to catch the buyer's eye, the T-Cross comes as a welcome relief. And if you’re still yearning for some pizzazz, order it in that Makena turquoise, with made this one of the most enjoyable driving experiences we’ve had in a while.