Orange alert... but is it still a green light for baby T-Cross SUV?
Smart, appealing VW crossover - but boot room is sacrificed for passenger space
I'm issuing my own orange alert this week. I think I'm entitled to - considering the car model I've been testing was the 'Energetic Orange' edition of the new T-Cross small SUV from Volkswagen.
The alert is not entirely about colour - there are non-orange versions too - it also highlights elements I found to be excellent; and some deserving of critical attention.
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The T-Cross, whose many rivals include the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke, is smaller than its popular 'bigger brother' T-Roc. At 4.11m, it is 12cm shorter, but I think you get a better idea of relative size if I tell you it is 54mm longer than the Polo, with whom it shares a platform - and is 138mm taller.
The latter is a vital part of what it does because the true merit of such figures lies in how, and where, space is allocated inside.
For instance, I had more room for rear passengers than with the larger T-Roc - but I didn't have nearly as much boot room.
Dimensions dictate shape too and I'm all for the one they chose. I really liked the look of it; some rivals are bland, look like hatchbacks or a tad garish. This is pert and tasty without being in your face.
I liked the high driving position. The car's height also yielded better head room for my rear-seat passengers. However, lack of boot space was criticised several times by luggage-heavy, airport-bound visitors. The boot runs from 385 litres to 455 litres depending on how far you slide the rear bench to extend or lessen boot/passenger accommodation. It is a matter of which you need more: cabin or boot. There is only so much space to go around.
The inside, nicely roomy, lit it all up for me. The orange theme dominated, for sure, with several clever visual anecdotes/touches bringing brightness and brio (you'd be surprised how dull some rivals can be on the inside).
The T-Cross had decent materials too; even the lower-region plastic felt OK while dash, door and seat materials were of good quality. But you pay for them (more anon).
Yet, I haven't 'taken' to a car as much for a while. It just appealed. The 1-litre turbocharged 115hp petrol helped. This is the pick of the engines. There is a lower-powered 1-litre. It's fine but the extra zip makes a difference. I'm certain of that. I've driven the T-Cross home and away. This engine added liveliness in keeping with the theme. As did the suspension in the manner it dealt with road noise and bumps.
I never thought I'd like an orange-coloured car as much. Now, I can't see myself driving the T-Cross in any other colour. What does that say about me? Or the car?
But a different sort of orange alert is warranted on price, I feel. The effective starting price is stiff - essentially €25,000. I know Volkswagen claim spec and build etc warrant it. But even allowing for that, and despite the trim level and special packages, I was surprised to see how quickly my test car's price stacked up.
Paying nearly €30,000 for the 'Life' trim and additional bits was well over the top. You'd buy a larger Crossover with loads of room for that - the SEAT Ateca springs to mind.
Yet I know that is missing a couple of points. Firstly, we are talking a totally different profile of buyer needs.
Secondly, we are dealing with many people who expect to deck their car with as high a level of spec and equipment as possible. That is either their nature and inclination or they are acting on a sense of overdue self-reward.
An example of such a trend is the larger Volkswagen Tiguan SUV. People regularly spend €45,000 on top trim for what is an early-to-mid-€30,000 car to start with. The extras can be 'absorbed' where people are on a PCP and where another few euro a month won't break the bank. I understand that. I also get it that people like to individualise and differentiate their vehicle from the pack.
Nonetheless, I feel duty bound to highlight what I see can be the needless use of money in over-indulging on something you don't really need. I'm not even sure you'd get proportionately as much of a return on all the extras when you come to trade in.
Please understand I'm not being negative at all - I really like the car - but I do know how easy it is to get carried away and lose perspective. Circumstances can change too, so you should always leave plenty of scope to meet repayments or other demands. Sorry, but that's an orange alert I had to make.
Otherwise, it's nearly a green light for this excellent little crossover.
Facts & figures
VW T-Cross small crossover
1-litre 115hp petrol, 'Life' trim, €200 tax; Range from €22,495. On test: €25,650 + €775 delivery: €26,425. With extras: €29,163. 'Life' spec: ACC, 16ins alloys, 8ins info system, App Connect, air con, 2 USBs front/rear. 'Style': 17ins alloys, 'chrome pack'. 'R-Line' - 17ins wheels, interior/exterior pack. Extras: lights/vision pack, park distance control, 'Energetic Orange' for 'Life' design, etc.