Volkswagen T-Cross 2021 85tsi life
long-term-report

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross long-term review: Urban living

$27,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    5.4L
  • Engine Power
    85kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    123g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
Urban running is where the Volkswagen T-Cross is most at home. In this long-term update, James does the shopping.
- shares

I’ll be honest with you. The ‘Sport Utility’ part of the SUV categorisation given to our 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life long-termer should probably be changed.

I’ll get to the ‘Sport’ part shortly, but I feel ‘Urban’ is a much better inclusion within the SUV acronym, as running about town is what the little VW is made for.

To recap our introduction piece, our Pure White T-Cross is the most bare-bones Volkswagen SUV you can buy. In fact, there is a billboard not too far from my house that shows our identical-specification 85TSI Life as the car that is priced ‘from’ $29,990 drive-away.

And don’t worry, I’ve added that to my ‘must get’ list of photos, along with the baby ’Dub parked next to its fully grown cousin, the current-generation Porsche Cayenne...

Worth noting, too, that the T-Cross is still $29,990 drive-away, despite the list price rising by $400 to $28,390. Don’t expect that to last forever, though.

Regardless, for your entry-point pricing, with no-cost paint and zero options, you score an 85kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, a seven-speed DSG transmission, AEB, lane-departure warning, and an 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It’s still quite a low-frills experience, though, as you also get cloth seats, single-zone air-conditioning, and a remote key fob that needs to turn in the ignition to start the car.

But in this update, I’ll posit that none of that matters when using the T-Cross as an S-Urban-V, as when running shopping, commuting or other close-to-home errands, the lower case ‘t’ is mostly in its element.

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life
Engine configuration1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Displacement1.0 litre (999cc)
Power85kW at 5500rpm
Torque200Nm at 2000–3500rpm
TransmissionSeven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Tare weight1240kg
Fuel claim (combined)5.4L/100km
Fuel use (combined)6.5L/100km
Turning circle10.6m
ANCAP safety rating5-star (tested 2019)
Warranty5-year/unlimited-km
Main competitorsVolkswagen T-Roc, Skoda Kamiq, Kia Seltos, Ford Puma
MSRP$27,990 ($29,990 drive-away)
Options as tested-

The 385L boot is more than generous enough for regular shopping trips to the supermarket and even to more advanced retailers like Bunnings and Big W. I haven’t needed to change the load height or fold a seat, but that alone is testament to the basic usability of the T-Cross.

Vision is great, the seats are comfortable, and it’s easy to jump in and out of, which really helps make the VW work as an easy to live with runabout.

It’s nimble, too, the 10.6m turning circle means a swift U-bolt is doable on most main streets, and the compact footprint makes finding spots and parking a breeze. It’s this in particular that has made the T-Cross my weapon of choice (over the Mercedes-Benz GLS450) as the best tool for a quick supermarket dash.

Connecting to Apple CarPlay is fast and the system works reliably. At times I would say I almost prefer the device-driven navigation, especially when I have been sent to a random location to ‘pick something up from someone’ (thanks a bunch, Facebook Marketplace) that requires the route to continue seamlessly from the car to an on-foot stage.

So as an S-Urban-V, the T-Cross is very well sorted.

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life
Length4108mm
Width1760mm
Height1583mm
Wheelbase2563mm
Ground clearance185mm
Weight (Tare)1240kg
Wheels/tyres205/60R16 – Bridgestone

But what still isn’t quite sorted is the reaction time from the DSG, particularly when waking from the stop-start system activation or, worse, when on a mild slope.

It can take measurable seconds for the car to kick in at an intersection or driveway, which can feel a little sketchy at times, especially in busier traffic. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting the car to go when I say so, and you become quite adept at pre-planning and having the car re-fire by lightening your pressure on the brake so that it responds accordingly.

Pair that with changes from drive to reverse, and amplify it if you’re on any kind of incline, and the DSG can become pretty frustrating, especially if you’re trying to make the most of a U-turn or parking window in the traffic flow.

I maintain the T-Cross would be much more entertaining and easy to live with a manual transmission (as offered in other markets), but I think we all know the take-up would be slower than the take-up on the DSG (ba-dum-tish).

For interest, too, you can spec a T-Cross SE (a pretty close equivalent to our Life spec) in the UK, with a five-speed manual transmission, for £20,740. That’s the equivalent of $36,300 Australian dollaridoos (or $39,300 if you add the DSG), which makes our local pricing seem pretty sharp indeed!

Something, something, taxes, Brexit.

Once you are on the move in the T-Cross, too, the pace isn’t what you’d refer to as ‘hurried’. What’s more, if you are aiming for achieving that combined fuel consumption claim of 5.4L/100km, in the immortal words of Marco from Tropoja, ‘good luck’.

Well, you can, but you’d better hope there is no-one behind you, as you’ll need to use a very light foot and will experience acceleration that could best be described as walking pace.

Matching the regular flow of traffic will see consumption jump into the teens pretty quickly, with our urban average sitting around 8.5L/100km. This is for nearly exclusively short hops in reasonable traffic with the A/C on, so not totally unexpected.

The car’s lifetime average is at 6.5L/100km, though, meaning you’ll need some regular coasting and cruising drives to bring the numbers down. Plus, you will need to drive lightly and feather the throttle at all opportunities.

Conveniently, the ThinkBlue Trainer tool included with the infotainment system is supposed to show you how to improve your driving style for efficiency, but I honestly have still not worked out what all the circles mean, so there is a read of the manual in my near future.

So, ah, that note about ‘Sport’ leading the SUV acronym might be better swapped with ‘Slow’ or to be fairer, ‘Sensible’.

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life
ColourPure White
Price (MSRP)$27,990
Options as tested$0
Servicing 3yr$990 (pre-paid VW Care Plan)
Servicing 5yr$1800 (pre-paid VW Care Plan)
ANCAP safety rating5-star (2019)
Warranty5 years / unlimited km

That said, it’s not pretending or trying to be a fast car, and does quite happily buzz about the urban network at whatever the posted speed is, it just isn’t quick to get to that speed.

Buzzing about is where the DSG shines, too, changing up and down without you even realising, which makes the Volkswagen smoother and much more efficient in motion than it is from rest.

How it manages such a high gear at such low speeds is pretty impressive as well. I’m sure I would have stalled other cars by trying to drive at 40km/h in fifth gear, but here we are.

You can tip the transmission into sports or manual shift mode, which does make the T-Cross a little zippier, but it just uses more fuel and thus defeats the purpose.

Ride, too, is pretty good while on the move, to a point.

Over regular bumps and surface changes, the little VW feels composed and comfortable, especially under 60km/h. It’s good over the few railway crossings left in my neck of the woods and manages speed humps as well as most.

Find a few bigger hits or sharp edges, and the T-Cross lets you know. Impacts thump through the wheel and boom around the cabin. It reinforces the reasonably small envelope where the T-Cross is best enjoyed, which just happens to be along your urban rat run.

It is a light (1240kg) and compact car though, so none of this is entirely unexpected.

What it all equates to so far though, is the 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life is in every way a Sensible Urban Vehicle.

If kept within its ‘happy envelope’ it works well as a practical runabout and is decidedly easy to live with.

In the next update, I’ll explore the technology in more detail (including the Think Blue Trainer tool) and see how some of the lower-spec items, like the halogen headlamps, work when considering the overall sense of the car.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or want to know more about a specific part of the car. Or just let me know if you need something from Woolies, I'll no doubt be heading up there again soon.


MORE: Long-term report one: Introduction
MORE: T-Cross news and reviews

MORE: Everything Volkswagen