It’s not often a car’s name perfectly epitomises what it’s all about, but Volkswagen has managed with its latest T-Cross special edition.
The T-Cross CityLife doesn’t shy away from where most compact SUVs are likely to spend their time, then. Just 1000 units have made the trip to Australia, in a range of bright colours and with a range of contrasting trim options.
There’s still some stock left – but even if you can’t get your hands on one, the fundamentals are the same as the rest of the T-Cross range.
The CityLife gets a long list of equipment, safety, and styling add-ons compared to the base T-Cross Life, and costs just $1000 more.
Volkswagen hasn’t done too much to mess with the T-Cross formula, and that can only be a good thing.
The Volkswagen T-Cross CityLife is priced from $30,390 before on-road costs, up $1100 on the base 2022 T-Cross Life, but $1700 less than the range-topping 2022 T-Cross Style.
Our tester was fitted with the Sound and Vision Package ($1900) which brings the Digital Cockpit virtual instruments, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Beats premium audio.
It was also finished in Energetic Orange ($600) on the outside, taking the final price to $32,890 before on-road costs as tested.
Rather than the usual gamut of greys and blacks, the colours on the T-Cross are actually interesting. Orange makes the blocky body stand out, it’s the best colour for the car we’ve seen.
2022 Volkswagen T-Cross pricing:
- 2022 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life: $29,200
- 2022 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Style: $32,100
There’s no shortage of rivals for the T-Cross out there. For a look at how it stacks up against the Ford Puma and Nissan Juke, check out our recent comparison.
The biggest rival to the T-Cross is the Skoda Kamiq, which has the same bones but wraps them in a more angular Czech suit. More stock of the 85TSI (which has the same engine as the T-Cross) is coming early in 2022, but you can get behind the wheel of a more powerful 110TSI Ambition for $34,990 drive-away.
The Ford Puma range kicks off at $31,990 drive-away and extends to $36,990 drive-away, while the Nissan Juke is priced between $27,990 and $36,490 before on-roads.
The base 85TSI Life comes standard with the following features:
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (wired)
- DAB digital radio (coming in 2022)
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- Cruise control
- Wireless phone charging
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Automatic headlights (halogen reflector-type)
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Paddle shifters
The CityLife adds to that list:
- Unique 17-inch alloy wheels
- Tinted rear windows
- Dual-zone climate control
- Keyless entry and start
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- CityLife exterior badging
Our tester was black-themed, which means it has the following:
- Black/Grey seat upholstery
- 17-inch Manilla alloy wheels with black/diamond-turned finish
- Transition black/grey dashboard trim
- Black mirror finishers
- Energetic Orange Metallic exterior paint ($600)
The $1900 Sound and Vision package adds:
- 300W Beats premium sound system
- 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless smartphone mirroring
The Volkswagen T-Cross has a five-star rating from ANCAP, based on Euro NCAP testing conducted in 2019.
The T-Cross received an adult protection score of 97 per cent, a child occupant protection score of 85 per cent, a pedestrian protection score of 81 per cent, and a safety assist score of 80 per cent.
All 2022 T-Cross models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane departure warning
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Driver’s knee airbag
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
The 85TSI Style and the CityLife gain blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The T-Cross might be small on the outside, but it’s packing plenty of space inside.
Most of the cabin borrows heavily from the related Polo hatchback, but there are a few SUV styling cues to remind you what you’re driving.
The seats in the CityLife are trimmed in patterned cloth with leather-like bolsters, and have more than enough adjustment for tall drivers.
There’s acres of headroom, and the (quality, leather-trimmed) steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake.
There are some signs of this car’s budget origins, though. The base of the dash is trimmed in hard plastic that squeaks when your knee presses it, and the screen and climate controls feel angled slightly away from the driver.
It’s not angled far enough away to impact usability, but it’s noticeable.
Volkswagen recently swapped the USB-A ports in the T-Cross for USB-C. There are two ports in the front along with a wireless phone charger, and two in the rear.
Storage is excellent, with two cup holders on the transmission tunnel, a decent-sized underarm storage bin, big door bins, and a reasonably-sized glovebox.
Rear seat space is decent for the small SUV class.
With the sliding rear bench in its rearmost position, you can sit kids and teenagers behind tall-ish adults. It can also be slid forward to free up more boot space, albeit at the cost of rear legroom.
There’s lots of head- and toe-room, and the dual USB-C ports back there are a nice touch. The lack of vents holds it back in the family-hauling stakes, but this isn’t really the most family-focused SUV in the Volkswagen range.
There are ISOFIX points and three top tether tie-downs, and the bench folds 60/40.
The boot measures 385L, but sliding it forward frees up 455L. Folding it flat frees up 1281L, and there’s a space-saver tyre underneath the boot floor.
The 2022 Volkswagen T-Cross is available exclusively with a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine producing 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and is front-wheel drive only.
It requires 95 RON premium unleaded fuel and has a 40L fuel tank.
Claimed fuel economy is 5.4L/100km on the combined cycle. We saw between 6.0 and 6.5L/100km in city driving, and around 4.5L/100km on a highway run.
The T-Cross might be small, but it has a typically grown-up Volkswagen feeling on the road.
The three-cylinder engine is familiar from the Polo, and defies its small displacement by offering plenty of torque down low.
Its 200Nm peak torque figure is up on what the naturally-aspirated engines in base versions of more expensive mid-sized SUVs offer, and it’s on tap between 2000 and 3500rpm.
When the little engine is in its power band, the T-Cross is capable of getting a move on. It makes a determined sound, and is buzzing with character in fine three-cylinder tradition.
It’s a shame the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sometimes feels a bit awkward.
The combination of a dual-clutch transmission, a relatively low-output engine, and auto start/stop means moving off the mark can be jerky.
The engine fires quickly, but it takes an extra few beats for the transmission to engage and for the car to get rolling.
The transmission is also very keen to shift through the gears. It’s one of the ways Volkswagen achieves such impressive fuel use figures, but it can also rob what’s an effervescent little engine of its charm in day-to-day driving.
It refuses to use a low gear sometimes, to the point where it lugs up my steep apartment driveway at 5km/h in second gear despite the engine grumbling and vibrating uncomfortably. What’s the point of having first at all?
It does have a Sport mode, but that arguably goes too far the other way and holds low gears when a taller one would be better.
You learn to drive around its characteristics, but there is a learning curve here.
Gearbox grumbles aside, the T-Cross is more mature than its compact exterior would suggest. The steering is light and easy at low speeds, and the car’s tall windowline and boxy body make it easy to place on tight city streets.
The CityLife gets a full suite of active safety assists and a crystal clear reverse camera, so there’s no excuse for scraped bumpers or kerbed wheels. It’s a breeze to reverse park, and makes light work of underground carparks.
Often, small SUVs built on economy car bones feel tinny on the highway, but the T-Cross bucks the trend.
The ride is excellent on its 17-inch alloy wheels, and it feels rock solid at the legal limit given its short wheelbase. The suspension irons out lumps and bumps, and manages to stop the body from floating around or feeling uncontrolled over dips and crests.
The engine is settled at 100km/h, spinning away relatively quietly in seventh gear. With the exception of perhaps the related Skoda Kamiq 110TSI and its bigger engine, the T-Cross is the best baby SUV for highway running.
With that said, if you’re spending a lot of time on the open road it’s worth looking at the bigger Volkswagen T-Roc, or even a Golf. With more power, more torque, and more space between the wheels, they’re more relaxed cruisers.
It’s also worth noting the T-Cross on test only featured passive cruise control, rather than active cruise that slows with traffic.
Its lane-keeping, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic are all excellent, only demanding the driver’s attention when there’s actually something wrong, but adaptive cruise would help make what’s already a mature little SUV even more grown-up.
Finally, the halogen headlights in the T-Cross aren’t exactly standout. If you’re spending a lot of time on poorly-lit roads it’s worth seeking out the Style and its standard LED headlights.
The 2022 Volkswagen T-Cross is covered by Volkswagen’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
It requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Volkswagen offers three- and five-year servicing plans. The three-year plan costs $1100, while the five-year plan costs $1850.
The CityLife is a smart buy in the T-Cross range, with the right blend of equipment, style, and substance. If you can snap one up before they’re all gone, you won’t regret it.
Even though it’s built on Volkswagen’s smallest platform, it feels properly grown-up and spacious.
Updates in 2021 brought about USB-C charging and wireless Apple CarPlay, a set of changes due in 2022 will bring about DAB digital radio.
Both are good changes that make what was already a well-rounded little car even more versatile.
If you want a small SUV that’s been to finishing school, there aren’t many better out there.