This is it! The new Volkswagen T-Cross has arrived on the local market and the compact family car is already selling up a storm! We recently tested the range-topping 1.0TSI Highline R-Line to find out what all the fuss is about...
We like: Styling, performance, interior quality, in-car tech.
We don’t like: Firmer ride, engine could be more refined, pricey when specced up.
- Price: R382 850
- Engine: 1.0-litre turbopetrol
- Power/Torque: 85 kW / 200 Nm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
- Fuel economy: 5.3 L/100km (claimed)
- Load space: 377-1 281 litres
Where does it fit in?
Only one engine is currently available but more engine options are expected to join the range early in 2020.
The T-Cross is a Polo-based compact family car (it's hard to believe, but this is the small crossover that Volkswagen has launched in South Africa). Based on the brand’s MQB platform and positioned beneath the forthcoming T-Roc (which is due here in the first half of 2020), the T-Cross joins a crowded segment that includes, inter alia, the Suzuki Vitara, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Creta/Kona, Ford Ecosport, Renault Duster and Opel Crossland X. Nonetheless, the T-Cross has racked up impressive sales numbers in its first month on the market, with over 800 units finding homes in Mzansi.
On test here is the range-topping T-Cross 1.0TSI Highline R-Line dressed in Reef Blue metallic paint and riding on 18-inch Nevada alloy wheels. Note that the R-line kit adds an additional R17 850 over the standard T-Cross 1.0TSI Highline derivative, which is priced at R365 000.
It’s undoubtedly a great-looking car; the chrome detailing, in combination with the vibrant body colour, gives this particular test unit some notable road presence. So it has the right look and grille badge, but how does Volkswagen's compact family car package perform overall? Let's find out.
How it performs in terms of…
Performance and economy
Performance is good and should satisfy most buyers' needs in this segment.
There only 1 engine in the local T-Cross range (although the line-up is scheduled to diversify in 2020) – a 1.0-litre turbopetrol powerplant that offers peak outputs of 85 kW and 200 Nm of torque. Power is directed to the front wheels via Volkswagen's 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Its a willing engine with sufficient low-down torque, but it can be quite noisy at higher revs and, in our opinion, it's not the most refined motor in its class (but it's no better or worse than those of its rivals). Nonetheless, the motor performs admirably. The T-Cross hustles hard on urban routes (it will likely spend most of its life in the city), but when you're travelling to your holiday destination with 4 occupants and their luggage on board, you may have to temper your pace, especially when trying to overtake slower traffic (not least on inclines). The transmission shifts relatively smoothly, but should you feel the need to "squeeze a little more juice" from the engine, you can utilise the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
In terms of fuel efficiency, Volkswagen claims 5.3 L/100 km and during our test, we achieved an average of 7.3 L/100 km, which is acceptable given the mix of city and freeway driving we did (at times the T-Cross worked hard, like when it was loaded up with people and surfboards).
Ride & handling
With a firmer ride, the T-Cross' ride and handling could be better, but it's not too compromised.
Is the T-Cross as good to drive as it looks? No, not quite... We were expecting the T-Cross to fare better in terms of its ride and handling balance. It's not that we think the 1.0TSI Highline R-Line won't serve its target market well – at this end of the market, style often overrides practicality anyway...
Firstly, we were expecting a more forgiving and comfortable ride quality. Instead, the Volkswagen's ride was a trifle firm, even choppy (over rougher surfaces). That’s not to say that the ride is unpleasant; it’s just a little less forgiving when the road surface deteriorates. Considering that it shares its MQB platform with the Polo, Q3, Tiguan etc, our expectations were perhaps a little too high. The sporty profile of the 18-inch tyres doesn't help matters either.
The steering is light, pleasant to wield and feels nicely weighted, however, it’s not particularly responsive and there is a fair amount of "numbness" at the centre, which creates an impression of vagueness, but the T-Cross remains planted and composed through corners, thanks to its fine chassis.
Interior quality and features
The optional Active Info Display and Discover Media infotainment system makes the T-Cross look and feel very premium.
We were generally impressed with the interior build quality of the T-Cross: the cabin is stylish, practical and ergonomically sound. However, there are some harder and cheaper-looking plastics which detract from the overall premium look and feel. In particular, the interior door panels and grab handles feel a bit harsh for common touchpoints. It must be said that the cloth seats are comfortable to sit in and offer good bolstering/side support.
A big highlight is the multitude of onboard technologies that are available. This 1.0TSI Highline R-Line test unit was a good example of what a T-Cross can look like if you are willing to spend extra on optional equipment...
Music lovers will appreciate the Beats sound system, which delivers great sound quality and can be had for an additional R8 800. Volkswagen also offers the excellent Discover Media touch screen infotainment system (R22 850), which includes 3D maps, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability and voice control (A Composition Media system is standard). This, in combination with the optional Active Info Display (R9 000) really elevates the interior to a premium level and we think it looks fantastic.
A leather steering wheel with mounted controls puts vital functions at the driver's fingertips.
The infotainment system is slick and easy-to-use and the infotainment display can be customised to display a variety of useful information using the mounted steering-wheel controls. Other optional equipment includes a Park Package (R8 950), which adds a rear reverse camera, front and rear park-distance control and electric folding and heated side mirrors. A Kessy Keyless access system can also be fitted for an additional R5 050.
As for key standard features, the T-Cross 1.0TSI Highline R-Line comes equipped with climate control air-con, 4 USB ports (2 front and 2 rear), rake- and reach-adjustable steering column, cruise control, electric windows, rain-sensing wipers and a height-adjustable driver's seat.
Safety kit includes 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist and stability control (including traction control).
Rear legroom is good and 2 rear USB ports will prove useful for charging devices on longer journeys.
While there are larger cars on offer in this segment – such as the Renault Duster and Suzuki Vitara, the T-Cross still manages to offer a practical cabin, albeit with more compact dimensions. Rear passenger head and shoulder space as well as legroom, is fairly good, but not generous.
The size of the load bay is claimed at 377 litres and the rear seats are split 60:40. The rear bench also slides fore and aft on rails, which allows you to create more luggage space (if you push it forward) or legroom (if you pull it back) depending on what you require. In its forward-most position rear loading space improves from 377 to 455 litres. We put the T-Cross’ load-carrying capacity to the test by loading it with a variety of items of varying sizes including a foldable ladder, 3 large buckets and even 2 beehives. Due to its compact size, longer items such as surfboards do impinge on the front-cabin space but overall, we found Volkswagen's compact family car to offer sufficient load space to suit a small, growing family’s needs.
Useful storage space is afforded ahead of the gear lever, as well in the small centre bin. There is a pair of cupholders and the door pocket mouldings offer additional space for bottles and anything else you might want to store.
The T-Cross can carry a variety of random items as our in-house bee-keeper Gero Lelleike tested.
Price and warranty
The T-Cross Highline R-Line is priced from R382 850 and is sold with a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and a 3-year/45 000 km service plan.
The T-Cross Highline R-Line is well worth considering if you can afford it...
The T-Cross 1.0T Highline (in R-Line guise) is arguably the best-looking compact family car on the market and while it’s not perfect, it’s still a very capable all-rounder that will continue to find favour with local buyers. In fact, the T-Cross is bound to grow further in popularity – Volkswagen plans to introduce a detuned 70 kW derivative as well as the forthcoming 110 kW, 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine option (pre-booking is now open).
This derivative currently sits at the top-end of the price spectrum in this segment and when you add some of the nice-to-have optional features, it becomes a pricey proposition, albeit for a more premium product. With all the bells and whistles specified, this T-Cross’ price totals roughly R437 500! With that money, and if space matters to you, you could very well step into a larger SUV in an effort to get more car for your money.
If you like the T-Cross, but can’t afford to spend in excess of R400k, then we advise that you rather look at the more modestly-priced T-Cross 1.0T Comfortline priced from R334 600, which offers you the same engine, but a little more financial flexibility to add some features, at least if you want to. With the 70 kW version coming in Q2 of 2020, you may even be able to step into a T-Cross for under R300k! (pricing has yet to be confirmed).