A more budget-friendly but flawed T-Cross
Baseline Volkswagen crossover is sufficiently perky but interior is marred by budget plastics
You might expect a one-litre three-cylinder car to be as noisy and underpowered as a yapping Maltese Poodle, but there’s none of that timid, high-strung nature in the baseline T-Cross.
The 70kW 1.0TSI provides the entry point into VW’s two-year-old compact crossover range, and it has a decent turn of pace along with decent refinement. Priced at R357,900 and available only as a five-speed manual, it slots in below the 85kW T-Cross which starts at R399,300.
The meek-sounding 70kW output doesn’t translate into a vehicle that won’t pull the proverbial skin off cold coffee. Despite lacking any adrenaline-generating character, the small turbo engine has sufficient pace to cruise comfortably at the speed limit, and when laden with four people and a boot full of luggage the test car tackled steep gradients without requiring downshifts.
It does the urban ramble with sufficient spring in its step. At Gauteng altitude there’s some turbo lag, but because it’s a manual you can rev past the dead spot in a standing start.
As for the refinement, at higher revs the car has a slight gruffness typical of three-cylinder engines, which sounds either a little rough or a little charismatic depending on how your ears are tuned.
One blot on the small engine’s resumé is that it’s thirstier than expected. A stop-start system is designed to keep fuel costs down but the test car recorded 6.4l/100km, notably higher than the factory-claimed 5.5l/100km.
It is a smooth-riding car and the lower-profile R-Line 17-inch wheels (16-inch wheels come standard) don’t compromise its bump-absorbing ability. The tyres have enough cushioning for gravel excursions and the 180mm ground clearance keeps the belly out of harm’s way on pavement-climbing expeditions, but front-wheel drive precludes the T-Cross from any genuine off-road adventures.
Overall it’s a pleasant drive, with light controls and an engagingly nimble nature suited to suburban commuting.
With a trendy design that hasn’t lost any of its allure in the two years since launch, the T-Cross packs a lot of family space inside its 4,235mm length. It’s roomy enough for four tall adults and has a reasonably spacious 377l boot containing a full-sized spare wheel.
The interior is marred by some budget-looking plastics, which is a let-down in this price range considering that even the Polo Vivo range has a premium-feeling squishy dashboard. The thin cloth upholstery in the baseline T-Cross also seems sourced from VW’s budget bin, though the seats are comfortable and sufficiently well-bolstered for cornering support.
In a market segment where the Peugeot 2008’s cabin sets the bar with its premium feel and dashing design, the T-Cross interior is monochromatic and low key.
The build quality and solidity seem up to VW’s usual solid standards, however, and the overall refinement impresses.
This baseline T-Cross doesn’t skimp on features and comes with all the power-operated necessities, cruise control and a touchscreen infotainment system with phone connection via Bluetooth and USB ports — the latter are C-type so it means buying an extra cable.
Where the new Golf has become entirely digitised, the T-Cross retains physical buttons alongside its touchscreen interfaces and is the better for it. Controlling the audio and aircon is quick and intuitive, causing minimal driver distraction.
The safety aspect is also well taken care of by six airbags, ABS brakes and traction control — the T-Cross scored a maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test.
Options fitted to the test car included LED headlights, reversing camera, a sportier R-Line exterior with front fog lamps and a Composition Media infotainment system with inductive charging.
The entry-level 70kW T-Cross offers a respectable R41,400 saving over the 85kW model without feeling underpowered. It has family appeal with usable performance, most of the required comforts and good practicality.
The low-rent cabin is a turn-off, however, especially in a car priced at the upper end of its market segment. VW’s reputation and wide dealer footprint buffer those shortcomings to an extent, but it’s a competitive playing field. This T-Cross is better than it seems on paper, with the VW-typical solidity and affable driving nature, but there are rivals that offer better value.
Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 5.5l/100km (claimed), 6.4l /100km (as tested)
Six airbags, ABS brakes, electric windows, electric mirrors, traction control, rain sensor wipers, auto on/off lights, park distance control, remote central locking, LED daytime running lights, infotainment system with Bluetooth, aircon, cruise control, cloth upholstery
Warranty: Three years/120,000km
Service plan: Three years/45,000km
Lease*: R7,700 a month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
VW T-Cross 1.0TSI 70kW Comfortline R-Line
We like: Ride quality, practicality
We dislike: Price, low-rent interior
Verdict: Most affordable T-Cross, but still pricey
Motor News star rating
***Value For Money
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury, 105kW/202Nm — R319,900
Opel Crossland 1.2 Edition, 55kW/118Nm — R345,900
Ford EcoSport 1.0T Trend, 92kW/170Nm — R349,600
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+, 86kW/151Nm — R350,900
Mazda CX-3 2.0 Active, 115kW/206Nm — R358,900
Peugeot 2008 1.2T Active, 74kW/205Nm — R364,900
Citroën C3 Aircross 1.2T Feel, 81kW/205Nm — R384,900
Hyundai Creta 1.5 Premium, 84kW/143Nm — R385,500
Kia Seltos 1.6 EX, 90kW/151Nm — R403,995
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