Volkswagen T-Cross 2021 85tsi life

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross long-term review: Features and technology

$27,990 Mrlp
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Does James miss some of the finer things in life by not ticking any option boxes in the T-Cross?
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We’re a couple of months into our time with the 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life, and I have to say the simple approach to an urban runabout is starting to make sense.

For any first-timers, our T-Cross is a Pure White, zero-options example of the entry-level ‘Life’ specification and it comes in, like the billboard says, at $29,990 drive-away.

To get the full details, you can read the introduction piece, which includes a video run-through of the car, or catch up on our second instalment where we looked at the urban skills of the little T.

As here, I’ll run through some of the features that are included on the Life, and note whether they do the job well enough, or if you’d be better ticking a box or going up the range.

MORE: Long-term report one: Introduction
MORE: Long-term report two: Urban living

To start, I have to say I miss the convenience of keyless entry and start. It's not a huge cost item to integrate, and we're starting to see it included on many lower end and entry-level models as the functionality is one of sheer convenience rather than luxury. Plus, I always have multiple keys in my pockets and fumbling for the right one is a pain. First world problems etc.

From an exterior standpoint, I must say I prefer the two-tone 16-inch Rochester alloy wheels to the silver 17-inch and 18-inch items that come further up the range. There's enough rubber on the 16s to provide good ride comfort too. Plus, as an overall package, the white paint really works with the rugged and likeable nature of the T-Cross.

I’d still consider a blue one, but if you’re on a budget the non-cost white looks good.

The only thing I wish it had was the LED headlamps from the ‘Style’ grade, but that’s only because they look better on the car. And quite frankly, that’s a pretty stupid reason to want headlights.

I will admit I am used to the blue-white glow of LED lamps (the ones in the long-term Mercedes-GLS are pretty hard to top), and that the yellow halogen bulbs on the ‘Life’ almost blend into the background of sodium street lamp wash, but they work just fine for around-town driving.

The real gems are the dynamic cornering lights that come on when you turn the wheel.

These provide a nice puddle of illumination when you turn the wheel at low speed, making parking or even navigating narrow streets a bit easier.

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)
Main competitorsVolkswagen T-Roc, Skoda Kamiq, Kia Seltos, Ford Puma
MSRP$27,990 ($29,990 drive-away)
Options as tested-

Inside, the basic aircon might not be up to the arctic standards of a Toyota, but it too works well enough, to a limit. A couple of high 30-degree days had the little VW working overtime to cool things down, but it got there eventually. The ‘Style’ scores dual-zone climate control, but it’s not something you miss in the base car, nor is it a more powerful system.

Rounding off the other solid inclusions is the 8.0-inch LCD infotainment touchscreen. The bright display of the radio station icons and other elements might seem simple, but it adds a lot of upmarket value to the cabin.

There’s no DAB digital radio tuner on any grade, but Bluetooth playback and the Apple CarPlay integration work seamlessly. CarPlay particularly is fast to connect and hasn’t dropped out or glitched in any way.

I still haven’t mastered the Think Blue Trainer app, which guides you toward better efficiency, although I have figured out the multiple concentric circles.

On the outer ring, the two blue lines move with the car’s momentum. Heavy braking sees them push up and eager acceleration pushes them down. The aim is to keep them balanced in the middle.

The inner ring shows a bar every few seconds that is long if you’re behaving yourself or short if you’re not. This, combined with correct gear selection, idle time and use of accessory functions like air-conditioning, calculates your score.

Needless to say, I’m regularly running an average in the 70s and can literally only get as high as 85 if I’m rolling the car down a hill. It’s a cool graphic to display, but there’s little use chasing perfection as you’ll never get either a perfect score or super-low fuel consumption.

For those counting, we’re on an average of 7.1L/100km against the combined-cycle claim of 5.4L/100km and urban-only claim of 6.0L/100km. I say again that must have been tested on one enormously flat surface.

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

Back behind the wheel, and the suite of driver assistance technology is pretty impressive for an optionless car.

Starting with the basics, and I know that parking equipment isn’t exactly ‘driver assistance tech’ these days, but the clear camera and sensors at both ends of the car are all very useful for the car’s urban duties.

The lane departure and lane-keeping assistant works well too, and it isn’t overly aggressive when dealing with crisscrossing lane markings around inner Melbourne.

We’ve had a few false-positives with the autonomous emergency braking system, though, which isn’t altogether a bad thing as it shows it is working, but curiously it has happened on the same stretch of road.

You come over a crest into a dip where there is a speed hump. However, the humps are narrower than the track of nearly all vehicles, so you can simply line up and straddle them without slowing (excellent design).

Twice now the T-Cross has braked when approaching the hump, but given it’s a street I drive along all the time, I’d suggest it was a combination of light and angle causing the system to activate.

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

So it’s a big tick for the standard stuff, but the $1200 Driver Assistance Package goes on to include rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.

I have to say I have not missed any of these, but if the rear-cross system saves you from an incident once, it is worth the price of admission. Plus, you get automatic folding mirrors, and everyone likes those, so add the DA-Pack to the wish list.

The other optional pack, though, the $1900 Sound and Vision Package, which adds a fully digital instrument cluster, integrated navigation and a 300W beats audio sound system, isn’t such a clear-cut choice.

First up, for the short-trip running our T-Cross has been used for, the standard instruments are fine. You can change the central display to provide a digital speedo or other trip information, and I’d only suggest the fully digital display would come in handy for those wanting to run longer trips.

Likewise integrated navigation, which feels a little redundant when the already sharp and high-resolution display does such a good job with Apple CarPlay.

I’m a big fan of music in the car, so I’d never not want an upgraded stereo, but the standard one has been fine for the local running about, managing a mixture of 3AW talk-back and streamed Powderfinger playlists well enough. It's a tough call to suggest a bit more bass is worth $1900.

The bottom line here is that the SV-Pack is purely discretion only.

The baseline equipment on the T-Cross Life is generous and functional enough to make everything else a nice-to- rather than need-to-have choice.

To that end, I can’t see a huge reason to jump up to the ‘Style’ or ‘R-Line’ spec cars.

The 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 85TSI Life is a solid set of wheels for urban hopping right out of the box. Adding features and functions that don’t seem hugely absent simply detracts from the car’s basic value proposition.

Our next update will be our final summary on the little VW, so please let us know anything you want to know in the comments below.

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

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