The Arona should be worried: 2019 Volkswagen T-Cross first drive

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Just when you thought the new car market couldn’t get any more small SUVs, Volkswagen has come along with this, the brand new T-Cross. Is it able to go toe-to-toe with cars such as the SEAT Arona and Citroen C3 Aircross? Well, keep reading to find out…

A brand first

Volkswagen may have made SUVs for years, but believe it or not, this is the German brand’s first small SUV. It’s built on the same platform as the latest Polo, but of course you get bigger dimensions, and a higher ride height. It’s 54mm longer than a Polo, and the hip point has been raised by 10cm, therefore you get a loftier perch in which to see the road.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross
I think someone hit copy and paste too many times…

The T-Cross starts from £16,995, and is available in four trim levels, S, SE, SEL and R-Line.  You would expect the Arona to have a slightly lower asking price, but in fact, the base model Arona is actually around £200 more, and isn’t able to boast as much safety equipment, has a smaller touchscreen, and has a smaller boot.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

The base model T-Cross, the ‘S’, still offers a decent amount of equipment despite being on the bottom rung on the ladder, such as 16″ alloys, air conditioning, LED rear lights, 8″ touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and autonomous emergency braking to name a few.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross
Volkswagen states that the large rear light design helps to make the T-Cross look wider than it actually is.

The first car I jumped in to was the SEL, which starts from £21,655, offering features such as 17″ alloys, LED rear lights, LED headlights, 8″ touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, navigation, dual zone climate control, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, autonomous emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control.

What engines are on offer?

The line up of engines for the new T-Cross will be incredibly simple, as there is only one. It’s a 1.0 litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, which can be had in either 95hp or 115hp. The former is mated to a 5-speed manual, whereas the latter can be mated to a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG. You’re probably begging to ask the question – no, there is no four wheel drive option, but that is not uncommon in this part of the car market.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

What’s it like to actually drive, though?

The SEL I slipped myself in to was fitted with the 115hp version of the 1.0 litre, which also boasts 200Nm of torque, and in this instance, was mated the 6-speed manual. 0-62 will come in 10.2 seconds, and the top speed is 120mph, not that I imagine you’re too fussed about the performance stats.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

You may, however, want to know whether it is frugal or not. On a combined run, VW states that this engine can deliver up to 48.2mpg with emissions coming at 112g/km. Volkswagen has said that a 1.6 litre diesel may be introduced, but that is yet to be confirmed, so don’t hold your breath just yet.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross
Fancy a bit more… ‘funk’ to your T-Cross? Go for the Energetic Orange pack.

Anyway, let’s get back to the 1.0 litre petrol, shall we? First impressions of the engine were good, although I’ve used this unit in the Arona and the Ibiza, so I knew what to expect. There’s not much lag from the turbo, and despite its small displacement, the engine feels pretty peppy. I drove the car on a decent mix of roads, and at no point did it feel like it was struggling.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

The 6-speed manual in which the engine is attached to works well; it offers a slick, snappy change with a pleasingly robust feeling to it. Ride comfort was pretty good, although I’d urge not to go for the optional 18″ alloys that were fitted to this car, as it did give a firmer edge, plus the ride was a bit on the lumpy side at slower speeds. Despite that, this most definitely not a car I would call uncomfortable, although I did notice a difference when I went out in a SE with the standard 17″s fitted.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

The drive feels grown up and assured, but that’s not to say it’s completely sober in the corners, and it tackles corners with a decent amount of aplomb. The steering is well weighted, the body roll is well controlled, and the grip is decent as well, so I anticipate it will keep most driver’s happy.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

Can the 95hp engine keep drivers happy, though?

After my go in the 115hp SEL, I slid my way in to 95hp SE to see whether or not this power output can cut it or not. As well as 95hp, this engine offers 175Nm of torque, meaning you’ll hit 62mph in 10.9 seconds and the top speed is 112mph. Combined MPG is 48.9, and like the 115hp unit, CO2 emissions are 112g/km.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

The engine performed well on my short drive of the car on a mix of roads, although I did find there were some points I needed to change down a gear when tackling hills, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re likely to be carrying luggage and/or a few passengers on a regular basis.

What about the practical bits?

One of the reasons why you would choose this over a Polo is to gain a larger boot. The Polo receives a boot capacity of 355 litres, which is admirable for its segment, but the T-Cross is able to add 100 lites on that, providing you have the rear seats slid forward. That means it has a bigger boot than the Arona, but it’s still able to compete with the behemoth that is the C3 Aircross, as that offers 520.

Slide the rear seats back and the boot decreases to 385 litres, however, you can of course fold them down altogether to gain a total of 1,281 litres.  In case you want to know how far the rear seats can slide, they can be altered by up to 14cm.

Speaking of the rear seats, what is space like in the back? Even with a driver’s seat set for my height (6’2″), I had a healthy amount knee and legroom, plus I also had ample headroom, so taller passengers will be well catered for in the rear. I think you’d struggle to fit three adults in the rear as the middle seat is quite slim, plus there’s also a large transmission tunnel running through the middle, so that’s worth bearing in mind.

There’s plenty of cubbyholes in the cabin, though, and there also 2 USB ports for the rear passengers, which is a nice touch. It’s worth noting that the S and the SE have steering wheels that only adjust for rake, and not reach, so if you’re fussy with you driving position you’ll want to opt for the SEL or the R-Line.

So it’s practical, but how safe is it?

Very, is the answer. Standard safety features include 6 airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot warning and lane keep assist. At the time of filming the T-Cross is yet to be crash tested, but it would be a pretty safe bet to say it’ll be awarded five stars. If you move through the trim levels you’ll also get features such as adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and driver alert.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

Final thoughts

The small SUV market my be uncharted waters for Volkswagen, but given the success of the T-Roc, I think the T-Cross will be a sure thing for the German brand. It’s a good looking car, it’s good to drive, it’s got a good sized boot, and comes with a decent amount of safety features as standard. My only real disappointment from my day with the T-Cross was the fact that the SE has a steering wheel that adjusts for rake.

2019 Volkswagen T-Cross

On a less picky note, I think the limited choice of engines may put some buyers off, but I feel the 1.0 litre engine should be able to cater for most people’s needs. The small SUV market may be overcrowded, but I believe the T-Cross will be able to do plenty to stand out to buyers, plus it has the famous VW badge, which for some buyers, will simply be enough.

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