The Volkswagen T-Cross was a long time coming for the German auto giant, as car buyers around the world started flocking to city-friendly compact crossovers.
While the nameplate is new, the idea of a Polo-based crossover isn’t – Volkswagen sold the Cross Polo in places like Europe for years.
The T-Cross has its sights firmly set on the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke and Toyota Yaris Cross. Like its Polo sibling, the T-Cross aims to offer a more mature, practically-minded alternative to some of its more style-led rivals.
The little Volkswagen has been well-received, too, consistently outselling the cheaper, similarly-sized Polo hatch. It was placed third in year-to-date sales in the Light SUV segment at the halfway mark in 2021.
Does it have what it takes to outclass an ever-growing list of rivals?
Pricing for the 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross starts at $28,390 plus on-road costs for the entry-level 85TSI Life, climbing to $31,990 before on-roads for the 85TSI Style tested here.
Our test vehicle was also optioned with premium paint, the Sound & Vision package as well as the R-Line package, bringing the as-tested sticker to $36,390 plus on-roads or $39,700 drive-away.
At the time of writing, there’s drive-away pricing across the range according to the Volkswagen Australia website.
See the full MY21 drive-away price list below:
- 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life: $29,990
- 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI CityLife: $33,490
- 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Style: $34,490
All prices are drive-away using a Melbourne postcode (3000)
The entry-level T-Cross carries a circa $4300 premium over the top-spec Polo 85TSI Style – if you discount the GTI hot hatch.
Compared to its segment rivals, the T-Cross starts at the higher end of the scale and also is priced in line with many entry-level offerings from the Small SUV class – one segment above.
Key rivals for the T-Cross 85TSI Style we have on test include:
- Ford Puma ST-Line: $32,340
- Kia Stonic GT-Line: $30,490 D/A
- Mazda CX-3 sTouring FWD: $31,090
- Nissan Juke ST-L: $33,940
- Toyota Yaris Cross GXL Hybrid: $31,990
To get a more accurate idea of pricing you can use the Volkswagen T-Cross configurator to build and price one in your own specifications. Additionally you can use Volkswagen’s finance calculator to get an idea of repayments.
Equipment highlights of the 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Style include:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Dual-zone climate control
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- LED headlights
- Proximity entry with push-button start
- Paddle shifters
- Ambient lighting
- Driver Assistance package
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
That’s on top of the base 85TSI Life’s specification, which includes:
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (wired)
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Cruise control
- Reversing camera
- Front/rear parking sensors
- Wireless phone charging
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
The Sound & Vision package ($1900) fitted to our test car adds:
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- 10.25-inch Active Info Display (virtual driver’s instruments)
- 300W beats premium sound system
- Wireless phone charger
Note: Our test car was an MY20 model with the older infotainment system, meaning no wireless smartphone mirroring and USB-A ports instead of USB-C
The R-Line package ($2500) also fitted, brings:
- 18-inch ‘Nevada’ alloy wheels
- R-Line body kit
- Rear privacy glass
- R-Line interior accents incl. scuff plates
- R-Line fabric/suede seat trim
- Black headliner
- Sports pedals
To see a side-by-side comparison of all the standard features and options offered between each of the variants download the official Volkswagen T-Cross brochure.
The Volkswagen T-Cross wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by its Euro NCAP equivalent in 2019.
The T-Cross achieved 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 80 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane departure warning
The 85TSI Style adds the following:
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Auto high-beam
All models also get dual frontal, side and curtain airbags as standard. Base 85TSI Life models can be had with the optional Driver Assistance package which adds adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
You can find further information on included and optional driver assist systems on the official Volkswagen T-Cross website.
If you’re familiar with the interior of the Polo you’ll be at home in the T-Cross, which largely copies and pastes its hatchback equivalent.
Nuances aside – such as the different steering wheel and three-dimensional dashboard insert – the fundamentals are there including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and handbrake, clear digital displays, and a sense of solid build quality.
While the overall tactility of the switchgear is good, don’t expect an abundance of high-end materials like you might have previously from Volkswagen. Instead, VW has gone for a hard-wearing, utilitarian vibe here.
The dashboard and door tops are finished in hard, scratchy plastics that almost feel better suited to commercial vehicles, and the overall finish doesn’t feel super high-end given the car you see here is about the same price as a high-grade Golf.
Otherwise, the interior has the ingredients of a typical Volkswagen cabin. Great ergonomics, great storage, wide range of adjustment in the steering wheel and driver’s seat, good outward visibility, and a nice, insulated ambience.
All the touch points are trimmed in high-quality materials, like the aforementioned leather trim on the steering wheel to the padded centre armrest and front door inserts – though the rears miss out on the latter.
In terms of features and amenities, the T-Cross we have on test doesn’t necessarily justify its near $10,000 step up over a Polo 85TSI Style, but relative to its competitors it certainly makes a case for itself as one of the more premium offerings, particularly in the area of infotainment and displays.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with optional satellite navigation offers high-resolution, easy-to-navigate menus and quick response times. It’s the same interface you’ll find in most VW products, so it’s an easy win.
Likewise, the 10.25-inch Active Info Display is crisp, responsive, and customisable.
Our test car, as noted earlier, didn’t feature the updated MIB3 operating system that’s standard as part of a 2021 running change so we didn’t get a chance to test out wireless Apple CarPlay or the inbuilt navigation, though we’ve tried it in other Volkswagen models and it’s at the top of the mainstream segments for sure.
Move into the second row and the T-Cross has one of the more accommodating rear seats in the class, bolstered by a nifty sliding function to maximise legroom or allow more cargo capacity.
At 6’1 I can sit behind my own driving position in relative comfort, something not necessarily achievable in my experience with select rivals – looking at you, Ford Puma.
Four adults should be fine in a T-Cross, and it’s more than enough for kids. ISOFIX points on the outboard pews, top-tether mounts across all three positions and a large rear glasshouse make it a friendlier place for little ones, too.
Behind that second row is a 385L boot with the rear seats in their rearmost position, expanding to 455L with them slid forward.
Fold them down and you have 1281L. A space-saver spare wheel lives under the boot floor.
If you’re looking for more details on the interior design and features, you can find official pictures and commentary within the Volkswagen T-Cross brochure.
Power in all Australian-market T-Cross variants comes from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine shared with the Polo hatch.
As you can guess by its 85TSI branding, the three-pot mill develops 85kW (5500rpm) and 200Nm (2000-3500rpm). Drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch auto.
Volkswagen claims a 0-100 time of 10.2 seconds, while fuel use is quoted at 5.4L/100km on the combined cycle. The fuel tank is a teeny 40L, with 95 RON required as a minimum.
The 110kW 1.5 TSI was initially meant to arrive Down Under as a high-grade T-Cross option.
Instead, Volkswagen Australia opted for the 110kW TSI T-Roc with an eight-speed auto to bridge the gap between the T-Cross and 140kW 2.0 TSI T-Roc. Should you want that 1.5-litre four-pot drivetrain though, you can get it in the related Skoda Kamiq.
You can find further detailed technical specifications on the engine within the official Volkswagen T-Cross brochure.
The T-Cross drives predictably, because it feels very much like a raised Polo.
I’ve spent plenty of time in the latest Polo hatch; my younger sister owns one. The T-Cross maintains the bulk of the Polo’s on-road characteristics, while offering a more commanding view of the road.
DSG transmissions can be a little temperamental in the city, especially with a small-capacity engine like the 1.0 TSI that doesn’t offer its torque peak until 2000rpm. The T-Cross still exhibits a moment of hesitation between stop/start disengaging and the transmission linking up, but it’s something you get used to and learn to work with.
At the end of the day, this is a small city-friendly car designed and engineered with smoothness and efficiency in mind, and largely drives as such.
The 1.0-litre engine pulls strongly once you’re in the torque band, and has a thrummy and characterful note that’s surprisingly refined.
I found myself drawing comparisons with a small diesel engine in terms of how it drives. Volkswagen used to offer a 1.6-litre diesel in older generations of the Polo, and the torquey, relaxed vibe of the 85kW petrol engine seems to hark back to that style of drivetrain.
There’s plenty of go for city environments and once moving, the seven-speed DSG snaps through ratios so quickly it’s basically imperceptible. Where some rivals with CVTs or torque converters can be a smidge unrefined or underpowered, the T-Cross performs with maturity and class.
I was very surprised with how well the R-Line-equipped test car rode on Melbourne’s pimpled inner-city roads, too. On 18-inch alloys and lower profile 215/45 rubber, the T-Cross never crashed over bumps and offered compliance you’d expect from a larger vehicle.
That big-car feel is more evident on the freeway, with the T-Cross feeling confident, composed and refined at Australia’s legal limits. The fact the Volkswagen has been engineered with Autobahns in mind really shines through here.
It means you not only feel confident behind the wheel at all speeds, but those downsizing from a much larger car don’t necessarily have to sacrifice open road refinement. Big props to Volkswagen here.
Even at 110km/h the 1.0-litre engine hums away quietly in the background, with the tacho showing around 2250rpm. With adaptive cruise control engaged, long stints become an effortless task.
Speaking of the driver assistance systems, the high-spec T-Cross is loaded with just about all the features from models higher in VW’s line-up, perhaps bar the adaptive lane guidance or Travel Assist semi-autonomous function – though that’ll likely filter through as part of a mid-life refresh.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert always come in handy whether you’re in peak-hour traffic or cruising on a busy freeway, while rear cross-traffic alert helps when reversing out of tight car parks.
The lane-keep assist function keeps you from drifting over lines, too.
As Mike Costello noted in his recent three-way comparison between this exact T-Cross, the Ford Puma and Nissan Juke, the little VW impresses with its all-round maturity and refinement on the road.
The T-Cross range is covered by VW Australia’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres – whichever comes first.
Volkswagen offers pre-paid Care Plans which are cheaper than paying as you go. For the T-Cross, five years of servicing via the plan costs $1850.
As for real-world fuel consumption, we saw low sevens during our time with the T-Cross, including a mix of urban and highway driving. As noted earlier, the T-Cross requires 95 RON premium unleaded as a minimum.
This was my first experience with the Volkswagen T-Cross, and I came away quite impressed.
It’s surprisingly spacious, nicely refined, well featured, and smartly designed.
However, at nearly $40,000 on the road for the vehicle on test, I’d be wanting nicer cabin materials and more grunt. At this price point you’re also not far off a high-spec Golf or even the T-Roc 140TSI Sport with all-wheel drive.
I can see the T-Cross’ appeal, though, and it’s no wonder you see so many on the road now. It’s a funky little crossover that offers a big-car feel with city-friendly dimensions and efficiency.
If you can keep away from options boxes or get a good deal, it’s certainly one of the better sub-compact SUVs out there.