2021 Volkswagen T-Cross S – A promising segment contender

Let’s talk about perceptions. For years I personally saw Volkswagen as straightforward and businesslike. For some, it’s boring; but I prefer calling these German machines mature. Timeless, even.

But that has changed, at least with the car that the company sent me to review – the newly launched Volkswagen T-Cross.

With the Volkswagen brand still finding its niche in the Philippine automotive market, is the VW T-Cross the volume-seller that the company has been waiting for? I had the T-Cross in its entry-level S variant for a good amount of days and here are my thoughts.

Exterior

The VW T-Cross has made waves when it was announced, practically because it looks different from the rest of the range. It does look youthful and even though the media unit for the entry-level S comes with the playfully named Chinchilla Gray, it’s the most exciting gray color I’ve ever seen on a car – next to Mazda’s Polymetal Gray.

As an entry-level unit, the T-Cross S does come with halogens, rid of fog lights and daytime running lights, but the entire design execution, albeit busy, is still cohesive, which I like. That goes the same at the back where the LED taillights highlight that end, while the minimalist T-Cross emblem at the center somehow gives it an interesting appeal. The attractiveness of the thick, shiny piano black trim on the tailgate is up for debate but personally, I love the execution and how they complement the overall youthful vibe. 

Size-wise, the T-Cross is bigger than your average subcompact crossover within its price range. The 16-inch alloy wheels’ design on the S can be better; those who will go for the higher SE variant will get a different-looking set of 17-inch alloys.

Overall, I like what Volkswagen has done with the T-Cross and despite the halogens, the S trim can still suffice to satisfy your desire for a great-looking crossover even when bathed with the most basic color.

By the way, the T-Cross is the first Volkswagen vehicle in the Philippines that bears the updated VW emblem. Nice.

Interior

The T-Cross is actually billed as a youthful vehicle with a bevy of colors you can get it with – particularly the red (Romance Red), yellow (Tribu), and purple (Syringa Violet) – that is also reflected with its dashboard trimmings. However, the entry-level S doesn’t come with this visual upgrade.

With that said, the entry-level’s cabin is a bit bland and uneventful. Despite the use of textures and shapes, the hard plastics and the execution are somewhat parallel to what you’ll see inside the Santana sedan. The polyurethane tiller is also a bit too thin for my liking. There were some soft touchpoints that you’ll surely appreciate, but they’re limited to the elbow rest with sliding and height-adjustable function. Otherwise, plain durable polymers are what’s on the menu, which could work for the older set of buyers rather than the demographic that the T-Cross is being advertised to.

Despite that, what I appreciate with the T-Cross is the several and massive storage areas. It has a large space for your wallet and smartphone near the gear lever, while the central cupholders and bottle holders on the doors are both spacious for your gulping needs. Without the sunroof, headroom is also plenty, while legroom at the rear seats would be comfortable enough for those standing around 5’10”. There isn’t any rear air-conditioning on this variant but at least there are illuminated USB ports (Type A and Type C) for gadget charging.

The 329L cargo area is more than enough for intended use, expandable up to 1,319L by folding the rear backrests and removing the tonneau.

Tech & Safety

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much from the entry-level S in terms of tech, but I was surprised with the inclusions. The wireless Apple CarPlay paired with the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment is one of the biggest surprises, along with the one-touch up/down function on all four windows. There’s also cruise control for convenient highway drives, while the lack of a rear parking camera is just fine since there are parking sensors available.

Of course, there are some omissions like a bigger touchscreen, hand gesture control, and ambient lights, but I guess the lack of those wouldn’t be hard to live with.

For an entry-level unit, the T-Cross is already adequately equipped in terms of safety and security. Dual airbags are standard, along with hill hold control, tire pressure monitoring, stability control, immobilizer, and speed-sensing door locks. The higher SE gets extra curtain and side airbags.

Driving & Handling

The steering wheel is tilt-adjustable and telescopic, while the driver’s seat has a height adjuster, so finding a comfortable driving position was a cinch. Forward visibility’s great, as well, while placing the relatively small crossover on the road didn’t require years of driving experience. More importantly, the T-Cross is easy to maneuver with its light steering. You might look for additional feedback at times but, for the most part, it behaves the way a comfortable crossover should.

Power delivery’s a bit restrained, though. The naturally aspirated 1.5-liter gasoline engine produces 111hp and 145Nm of torque – numbers that should be adequate for this crossover’s size and weight, but lackluster during the actual drive. This is because of the 6-speed transmission that’s geared towards fuel efficiency rather than performance. 

With that said, sporty drives would mean burying your foot on the accelerator – but at least the T-Cross has a comfortable ride and a behaved platform. Its NVH insulation can be improved further, though.

Fuel Efficiency

As mentioned, the T-Cross is geared towards fuel economy and the numbers I got during testing reflect that. Mixed highway and city (heavy traffic) drives at an average speed of 15 km/h returned 8.9 km/l, while a steady run on the highway with cruise control set at 90 km/h registered 17.6 km/l. Those numbers are great, I must say, considering that I tested with two people and minimal luggage aboard.

Verdict

It’s obvious that Volkswagen Philippines wants to change our perception of the brand with the T-Cross while trying to take a piece of the healthy SUV/crossover sales pie that the pricier Tiguan once belonged to.

And I think that they have a huge chance of doing so. At P1,068,000 for this S variant (introductory price) and P100,000 more for the SE variant, the T-Cross has all that it takes to become a volume-seller for the company and a solid contender in its segment.

Now, it all boils down to the deals you can get with this car, and which one you’ll choose: the S or the SE. 

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