- Characterful and efficient engine
- Excellent practicality
- Good to drive
- Higher-spec Style is better value
- Interior quality needs improvement
- Usual dual-clutch auto foibles
The 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life is one of the newest kids on the block to the small SUV party. It has quite a lot of competition to compete with, such as the Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona and even a competitor from within the VW Group: the Skoda Kamiq. We’ve looked at the higher-spec T-Cross Style previously and came out impressed, so how does the entry level T-Cross Life fare in a crowded segment?
How does the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI compare to more established rivals? We step behind the wheel to find out.
Price & Specs: 7.0/10
Offering just two model grades, the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life as seen here kicks off from $27,990 plus on-road costs. Standard equipment is reasonable with 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel, cloth upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, four USB ports, a reversing camera, auto headlights/wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Safety is taken care of by six airbags, city-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, rear auto braking, lane-departure assist, driver fatigue detection, rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring.
Steeping up to the higher-spec T-Cross Style adds larger 17-inch wheels, chrome roof rails, LED headlights with auto high beam, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, auto-folding door mirrors, steering wheel gearshift paddles, automatic parking and more bolstered front seats. It’s priced from $30,990 plus on roads – a very worthy spend, in our opinion.
Optional on the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life is the Sound & Vision Package for $1,900 and the Driver Assistance Package for a further $1,200. The former adds a digital driver’s display, satellite navigation and a thumping Beats 300W premium audio system and the latter adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, auto-folding mirrors and auto parking – the latter is standard on the T-Cross Style, mind you.
A Skoda Kamiq – the T-Cross’ cousin – will match a fully-loaded T-Cross’ powertrain, digital driver’s display, 18-inch wheels and raise it with an automatic tailgate for just $29,990 driveway (or $27,990 drive away for the manual). You can also get yourself into a Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport automatic for $29,490 drive away, but it can’t match the T-Cross or Kamiq for technology or practicality.
Performance & Economy: 8.0/10
The 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross range in Australia is offered solely with a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 1.0-litre engine produces 85kW of power which might not sound like much, but the 200Nm of torque is par for the course in the class and is delivered at just 2,000rpm.
The engine has a characterful thrum that is far more characterful than the harsh four-cylinder units in so many competitors. Like other VW Group products, the drivetrain is programmed to achieve the best possible fuel economy and that’s done by hunting for the highest possible gear at any given moment. It also displays the typical dual-clutch low-speed hesitancy – the eight-speed torque converter auto in the larger T-Roc Style is a better fit.
Because of the this, the acceleration can feel sluggish. The stop/start system kills the engine quickly and quietly (sometimes before you’ve even stopped) and it’ll come back to life almost as quickly, but the time it takes to respond and can be annoying.
Otherwise, it’s a pleasant car to drive. The torquey engine and otherwise quick-witted dual-clutch auto means the T-Cross is as comfortable out on the open road as it is in the city. While it does require 95RON minimum, fuel bills should be low – Volkswagen claims just 5.4L/100km combined, and we achieved 6.5L/100km.
By comparison, the Mazda CX-3’s 2.0-litre engine offers a higher 110kW peak power but a lower 195Nm peak torque, which means that it doesn’t feel as responsive as the T-Cross at lower speeds. You really have to rev the CX-3, which comes at the cost of fuel economy.
Ride & Handling: 8.0/10
The 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI rides on a stretched version of the MQB-A0 platform that underpins the current Volkswagen Polo. This translates well for the way the T-Cross rides – giving it that typically Volkswagen ‘comfortably firm’ ride with added suspension travel over your run-of-the-mill hatchback. It does a good job of straddling the line between comfort and handling.
Having said that, larger bumps are quick to unsettle the little T-Cross, especially mid-corner hits that see the backend skip out ever so slightly – a tell-tale sign of the torsion rear suspension. Then again, torsion is the standard for the segment unless you go for all-wheel drive rivals like the Hyundai Kona 1.6L turbo AWD. A Mazda CX-3 is still the pick for enthusiastic driving.
Interior & Practicality: 7.0/10
Being the place you will spend the most time in the interior of any car is an important aspect, especially in the small SUV segment. Technology is also an important factor in this sector which is aimed more at younger tech savvy buyers.
Stepping into the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI’s cabin you’ll notice modern design with the angular dash design and the flat bottomed leather steering wheel. The gauges are traditional and consist of a speedo and tachometer with the fuel and temperature gauges within. Optional is the active info display as part of the ‘Sound and Vision’ package which can display the navigation map and other options.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen is a pretty great entry-level infotainment system. It’s also quick to respond to inputs, comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has a few little party tricks – like a fuel economy coach and a proximity sensor for the touchscreen.
As mentioned before the interior is a very important aspect of a small SUV so what lets the interior of the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI down is the quality of materials used. There are hard plastics on most surfaces of the interior including the door panels and dash which is dominated by a hard ‘carbon effect’ insert. This is a little disappointing as the T-Cross’s cheaper Skoda Kamiq cousin has a far better quality interior and even the smaller Volkswagen Polo gets a soft-touch dashboard.
It’s not all negative as the back-seat passengers are treated to plenty of head and legroom, as well as two USB ports. There is no fold-down armrest or rear air vents to be seen – the latter is again exclusively standard on the Kamiq. The rear bench slides to allow for either more legroom or bootspace, and it varies between 385L and 415L. Folding them flat gives you a solid 1,281L of space.
Running Costs & Warranty: 7.0/10
The 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI is covered by the brand’s five-year/unlimited km warranty and a year of roadside assistance that is topped up by a year with each scheduled dealership service (up to five years). Volkswagen also offers capped price servicing for up to six years/90,000km and even the choice of a three-year/45,000km ($990) or five-year/75,000km (1,800) pre-paid service plan. Without the pack, it would cost $1,215 over three years and $2,438 over five.
The Skoda Kamiq – once again – plays the value card against the T-Cross, costing $1,124 over three years/45,000km or $2,198 over five years/75,000km with normal capped-price servicing. The service packs bring costs down even further – three years is just $800 and five years $1,400. Despite Japanese cars having a cheaper maintenance reputation, the Mazda CX-3 will set you back $1,218 over three years or just 30,000km thanks to Mazda’s short 10,000km service intervals.
2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.4/10
It may have its fair share of foibles but the 2020 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI is a serious competitor in the small SUV market. It has more interior space than the Mazda CX-3 and is cheaper to service, as well as much more fuel efficient. The T-Cross is a great little SUV that is as at home in the city as it is in the suburbs. Having said that, we’d closely look at the Skoda Kamiq as well, because both cars are great – the Skoda just costs less to buy and maintain.