Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line 1.0 TSI Review : Crossing for Tea
Singapore - We snagged a Volkswagen T-Cross, and decided that this time around, why not take the car for a long(er)-distance shakedown. After-all, I had a weekend to spare.
So, I packed light, and plotted my way to Cameron Highlands, the land of strawberry jam, scones and old-world albeit slightly worn-out British charm.
The small SUV had all the things I wanted in a car for the drive, but some might sound strange to you. My thoughts are about debunking certain myths, and the smallest SUV from Volkswagen, would be a perfect candidate to do this in.
The T-Cross shares much of its design language with its bigger brethren, the Tiguan and Touareg. But that is where its similarities end; it sits on the group’s small car MQB-A0 architecture, which means that it shares plenty in-common with the Polo supermini.
For Singapore, the T-Cross comes fully-loaded, as it is only available in range-topping R-Line trim. This includes 17-inch alloys, blacked-out exterior mirror housings, LED DRLs, black roof rails and fogs, equipped with cornering lights.
There is quite a bit of competition facing the B Segment SUV, ranging from the likes of the Mazda CX 3, its sister cars, the Skoda Kamiq and SEAT Arona, a quirky French offering, the Peugeot 2008, and even the Suzuki Ignis, which in my head, is a hatchback, masquerading as an SUV. The T-Cross may be a car for the mass market, but it is however among the most expensive of its peers. However, if you combine the SUV's equipment list, together with its bullet-proof build quality, there is plenty going for it.
Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line 1.0 TSI - Inside
You’d be able to quickly tell that the dashboard’s build quality is equal to most cars in Volkswagen’s range. Sure, it is built from plastic - that is what you would expect from a car in its class. But there is a variety in material texture which breaks any monotony; and even with the different surfaces, everything feels well-screwed together and it actually feels pleasantly like something from a premium car.
There is a small tweak to the air-conditioning controls. Previously, the unit had a bunch of knobs and a set of directional buttons. The new unit is neater, and blends better with the rest of the panel. Operation though, is a mixed bag, as the fan adjustment is a simple left and right finger slide-action, and so is the dual-zone climate control adjusters, but finding the small airflow adjustment button while driving can prove a challenge. But I have to say that there is more good here than bad. The T-Cross is one of the few cars in its class to carry an allergen air filter - a great accompaniment for the long drive up.
As for the rest of the car, things remain the same. The six-speaker ‘Composition Media’ infotainment system consists of an 8-inch screen, and supports wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also identifies sweeping hand gestures, which flips menus. There is a wireless mobile phone charger as-standard, which keeps my phone juiced while I have my playlist going.
As a driver, I find that the customisable Active Info Display extremely useful, as it delivers clear driving information. After driving for a bit, I flicked off the traditional display, as I found that I had no need for that rev-counter. What mattered more, was how much mileage I was getting, how far I had driven, and for how long… and of-course, what I am enjoying on my playlist.
Even though the T-Cross has a small footprint, you would not baulk at the thought of carrying an additional three passengers. The B Segment SUV’s clever use of interior space, would mean that you sit more upright, and for the rear passengers, there is foot wriggle room under the front seats. The rather straight roofline also means that anyone of average height would not hit the roof, if you were to accidentally go full Leeroy Jenkins over a hump.
Versatility is also big with buyers of SUVs, and the T-Cross does not disappoint. It has 385 litres to begin with, and if you do need more luggage room, the rear seats can slide forward a total of 14cm, providing you with 455 litres; and you still get some rear seating, which is still suitable for the adult version of David Khoo.
Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line 1.0 TSI - Driven
The T-Cross uses Volkswagen’s 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which produces 115hp and 200Nm. The 3-cyl brings with it a sense of urgency, while it delivers its torque, which is unlike in character to the 1.5 litre four found in the Golf. However, when your right foot asks for more, you can tell it has less depth than the 1.5, as it goes flat above 3500rpm.
It’s still dark, as I pull up onto the North-south highway, and coax the T-Cross to 110km/h. The 7-speed DSG finds its higher gears quickly, and gets a tad stubborn on kick-downs. The low-revving nature on higher gears is intended for efficiency, but there is a downside to both the engine and transmission behaving like this; as I find that there is a little bit of resonance which enters the cabin, especially if you are driving below 90km/h on 7th. And this applies to any of the group’s cars with the same 3-cylinder 1 litre.
The sparse traffic in the wee hours of the morning works to my benefit. A quick check on my fuel efficiency by the time I’m near Yong Peng, and see my gauge floating around at 18.2km/l. My journey would see me cutting through the Malaysian capital, before providing any sort of hint that I’d be reaching Cameron’s foothills.
Eventually, I took the route off Tapah, as I did hear that it was a more challenging drive. The mild meandering roads along the base of the highlands eventually make way for sharper zigs, hairpin-like corners and oppo-direction zags. Over here, the roads are a multi-layered patchwork of tarmac of different textures… and then there is the occasional pothole, revealing a little something Britain had left behind.
I have to say that while the torque band may be rather narrow, the transmission’s gearing largely keeps the engine operating within optimum range. It's just me, but I would still want more overtaking power, and more depth from the little 3-cyl beehive.
Behind the wheel, I have my work cut out for me, as I know that the simple MacPherson strut front-end and torsion beam rear suspension setup has its limitations. But the suspension feels for the most part well-sorted. And in most scenarios, the small SUV feels like it's sitting within a pair of grooves, once you hook it around a turn. The rear-end does however skip over rougher surfaces, but in-all, the T-Cross has handling which is reminiscent of the Polo - only that it leans more into a bend, due to its height.
The T-Cross will not come cheap, especially for something in its class, but there is a silver lining. While it used to fall under the VES C1 category, it now qualifies for a VES B rating.
There is a lot of good here, and I am actually impressed that Volkswagen’s smallest SUV is surprisingly capable. By the time I reach the first town in Cameron Highlands, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that my fuel economy hadn’t even dipped below 18km/l. So this is where I should stop for a cup of tea.
If you are planning a trip up to Cameron Highlands, stay-tuned to pick a few pointers.
PHOTOS AL & Clifford Chow
Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line 1.0 TSI
Engine 999cc, inline3, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch DSG
Top Speed 193km/h
Fuel Consumption 5.4l/100km (combined)