Latest T-Cross shrugs off diesel antipathy to broaden VW crossover’s range


Despite being largely responsible for the current anti-diesel campaigns rampant around the world, states Iain Robertson, Volkswagen’s pursuit of cleaner cars still includes diesel power for its latest and most compact SUV model, among others.
In some respects, the ‘Dieselgate’ situation was unavoidable. While VW seems to have taken the brunt of the finger-pointing, which has scarcely dinged its overall reputation, even the array of competitive ‘deniers’ that swore blind they were ‘not involved’ encompassed around 90% of the rest of the industry. They were all ‘at it’. The resultant ‘knee-jerk’ from governments has resulted in diesel’s fall from grace as far as new car registrations are concerned, although the used car sector is vibrant in demand. It does make you wonder (conspiracy theory alert!), if it was a set-up, by governments in cahoots with carmakers, to reinforce a move towards EVs…surely not!

Fortunately, diesel developments have continued apace and one of the latest is from VW, which knows more about the fuel and cleaning-up its worst side-effects than virtually any other carmaker. In its latest iteration, the new T-Cross model range has been bolstered with the addition of a moderately frugal and EU6-compliant 1.6-litre TDi engine, mated to either a five-speed manual (likely to be the most popular choice), or a 7-speed twin-clutch automated transmission, as tested here.

T-Cross is, of course, VW’s current smallest offering in the crossover sector. Smaller than T-Roc, which is smaller than Tiguan, the firm’s midfielder, if the latter is Golf-related, the T-Roc is a Polo equivalent, while the T-Cross is more up! based. To be frank, I am not sure if I feel sorrow, or dismay, for carmakers so determined to fill every available niche in the market. Every new model introduced has the effect of limiting sales in other segments, which can be a most expensive way to bring new cars to market. In fact, in a couple of paragraphs’ time, you can read the effects on T-Cross’s pricing levels.

Considered alongside the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol power units available in both 92 and 112bhp forms, while its specific output of 92bhp is hardly ‘heather-burning’, the four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit benefits from a much healthier 184lbs ft of torque, which has the potential to make this version the punchiest of all T-Crosses. It will show its most significant card, when towing and, although the VW Group ‘triple’ is a sturdy little unit, ragging its guts out with a caravan in tow, which would increase its exhaust emissions significantly, makes a viable case for the 1.6TDi unit. As much as I admire today’s crop of 1.0-litre triples, I believe in the age-old cliché of ‘there ain’t no substitute for cubic capacity’ and the 1.6-litre TDi does seem like a more wholesome method of translating torque to tarmac.

The new diesel engine is available in all trim levels bar the entry-level S, which means that the most popular SE and SE-L trim levels and the sportier R-Line will benefit from its application. Hooked up to the seven-speed DSG transmission, its 0-60mph time is a modest 12.2s, the car topping out at just shy of 120mph, while emitting an equally modest 110g/km CO2. Attaining 52.9mpg, as opposed to the 48.9mpg of the 1.0-litre petrol may not be reason enough to make the shift to diesel, especially as its road tax is also loaded. In addition, it is not exactly a cost-effective option, when you consider that the T-Cross petrol line-up commences at a (pre-dealer discount) £16,995; the diesel variants start at £21,240 for the SE specification model in manual gearbox form, while the SE-L starts at £23,340, with the R-Line at £25,240, to which figures you should also add £500 for the DSG ’box. They are hellish list price premiums to swallow, even for the business sector.

I have a major issue with the way Volkswagen has been treating its customers since the advent of ‘Dieselgate’. Rightly, the German carmaker has been fined heavily for its ‘naughtiness’ in fudging the emissions figures of its diesel-powered motorcars. However, it has been making its customers pick up the tab for its misdemeanours by consistently raising new prices every couple of months since. I do not believe this practice to be fair and paying a hefty £26k for a modestly equipped baby crossover certainly does not count as good value for money.

Fortunately, the car is sweet handling and a driver’s delight. Its steering is accurate and quick, while the suspension is firm and sporty. As a taller and roomier alternative to a VW up!, it sort of makes sense. However, it is packed with both driver connectivity and electronic vehicle aids and the T-Cross is already winning customers with its sliding rear bench facility (allowing adjustment up to 14cm forwards or rearwards, giving the practical choice between greater rear leg room, or 70-litres of additional boot space). Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assist are among its array of driver pleasing features.

Undeniably smooth and progressive, the instant shift speed of the DSG transmission removes the inevitable and potentially jerky drop-off in engine power that occurs with a manual gearbox. Okay. It costs the extra £500 but it does feature two more gear ratios and suffers neither performance drop-off, nor fuel economy and exhaust emissions penalties. It does seem like the better option.

If you desire a compact SUV, the T-Cross is an admirable choice but the diesel engine will be appreciated by caravan/trailer owners, even though it is an expensive option. While you will be able to negotiate quite sensible discounts off the list prices stated, look carefully at the monthly fees being asked on leases and contract hire programmes and be sure that you are obtaining a ‘better deal’ on a T-Cross.