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October 24, 2021

Review: 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 180 MPI SE

Time flies, but it’s hard to believe that it’s been eight years since the return of Volkswagen under the Ayala Group. At the time, they were ambitious, maybe to a fault, that in a year’s time, they ended up gorging on humble pie. Several missteps and some flashes of brilliance later, we arrive at this: the 2021 T-Cross.

Volkswagen is honest enough to say that the arrival of this sub-compact SUV is akin to doing a reset, and from a product point of view, it’s entirely believable. They can promise to bring in the GTIs and EVs of the world, but they need something to give them a solid base. Finally, they have that kind of vehicle in the T-Cross.

For starters, it looks great. Compared to other small SUVs, the T-Cross is something you want to take seriously. The proportions are spot on, while the design itself is deliberately Teutonic with its squarish profile and angular lines. Yet, it never forgets to be playful. With hues like this Stringa Violet, it manages to stand out. If we were to single out one design flaw though, it has to be the placement of the rear T-Cross badge; putting it in the middle is just plain odd.

Just like its exterior, the T-Cross mixes both seriousness and playfulness inside. It feels solid and well-screwed together. The door pulls with a satisfying weight to them, as do the doors which swing with some heft. Once inside, there’s no denying its econocar positioning with swathes of hard plastics, but at least they feel durable and well-wearing. Moreover, we applaud Volkswagen for mixing up the color palette in this SE trim. The combination of color-coordinated dash trim (it matches the exterior color) with the black upper dash and white lower dash also makes everything pleasing to the eye.

Suffice to say, if there’s a sub-compact SUV beauty contest, the T-Cross would rank right up there. But more than just being an eye candy, it does well in other things too. Take for instance, driver comfort. Thanks to its wide range of seat and steering adjustment, it’s very easy to get comfy. And this is despite the front seats being built as one piece (the headrests aren’t adjustable). It’s also mighty roomy at the back, fitting two adults easily. There’s no center armrest, but at least the cushion is supportive. Then, there’s the ergonomics too. Control placement is sound with all the switches, stalks, and buttons placed where they should be. An example is how the cruise control migrates from the right stalk (where the wiper is) to a bank of switches on the steering wheel where they belong.

For all of the T-Cross’s strengths though, there are still some gripes, albeit minor. Take for instance the unlined cubby holes. Because the hard plastics don’t really promote grip, it makes anything placed there—be it house keys, smartphones, or a small bottle of sanitizer—jiggle about. It’s a constant annoyance through rough patches of road. Then, there’s the infotainment system. The 9.2-inch touchscreen-based system is impressive, to say the least, but the lack of a physical knob to adjust the volume makes you very reliant on the steering wheel-mounted controls. Finally, there’s the issue of visibility. The forward view is alright, the thick rear quarter panels could become a hinderance when you’re looking back over your shoulders. Thankfully, it’s got rear sensors and a reverse camera.

Positioned as an entry-level SUV (prices top out at P 1,198,000), you can’t expect the T-Cross to be a high-riding pocket rocket. And it’s not. With 113 horsepower and 145 Nm of torque from its normally-aspirated 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, it’s not as nippy as any of those turbocharged offerings. True enough, the century mark takes a leisurely 13.3 seconds, and that’s already with a good amount of effort on the gas pedal. Getting it to move with pep requires thrashing the engine (almost nothing happens below 3,000 rpm), and even then, pep is all relative.

Volkswagen Philippines only lent us the T-Cross for a weekend, so we did manage to register a commendable 10.3 km/L, but that was done with relatively light traffic (average of 26 km/h). Likely, this figure’s going to drop during daily stop-and-go traffic. Although, it does have an idle start/stop system.

Clearly, the T-Cross won’t satisfy the urges of those who want something fast, but for those who’ll treat it as an urban runabout, it’s great. The steering is light, especially when you’re trying to park or weave your way through traffic. It also rides well with none of the bounciness associated with small SUVs. The body structure also feels solid. Even better, these attributes carry over once at higher speeds. It has more than enough grip available and feels balanced through corners.

Volkswagen has picked up some slack when it comes to value for money vehicles, at least locally. The T-Cross manages to correct the error of their ways. Not only does it do well when it comes to the “unsexy” stuff like once-a-year PMS and a generous warranty, but its feature set is noticeably solid. This top-of-the-line SE trim comes with LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, leather/fabric combination seats, 6 SRS airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control with hill start assist, and rear parking sensors with reverse camera. It’s everything you wish for in a beginner car and then some.

It’s taken some time for Volkswagen Philippines to get things on the right track, especially in coming up with products that are well-speced, well-built, and are of great value. The Volkswagen T-Cross, while not perfect, manages to be all those things. If this sub-compact SUV truly is a visible signal of them turning a new chapter here in the country, then things are looking bright.

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 180 MPI SE

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Ownership 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 180 MPI SE
Year Introduced 2021
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact SUV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 113 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 145 @ 3,900
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.3 km/L @ 26 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,128
Width (mm) 1,760
Height (mm) 1,599
Wheelbase (mm) 2,651
Curb Weight (kg) 1,230
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Hankook Kinergy EX+ 205/55 R 17 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front & Rear
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) 6-way, Manual
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) 4-way, Manual
Seating Surface Leather/Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof Yes, Panoramic
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Manual, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type A
USB Type C
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
# of Speakers 4
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Good review, I agree it's a good re-start for VW Philippines. A sub-compact with personality, style and good price point. Hoping they will revamp the entire VW lineup w/ global SUVs instead (Taos, Tiguan, Atlas, Amarok). They will hit gold w/ premium models + china made.

    1. I agree, they should bring in the new gen Tiguan and Atlas / Atlas Crosssport (teramont / teramont x) and the amarok.

      I personally would look at the Tiguan and Teramont x!

    2. Think they can snatch away the premium customers from Mazda and Subaru if they provide refined vehicles, priced cheaper and backed by AC motors.

    3. Cool story bro. Anyway the comment is for mature conversations anyway who are way beyond discussing brand wars or dissing other brands online for lelz.

    4. To Anonymous October 25, 2021 at 2:03 PM

      i don't think VW PH is after the low-premium market. VW aiming for a low-premium is the people's (including you) perception, but not what VW PH wants. why do you think Fernando Zobel De Ayala himself presented a 600k-car few years ago? VW is supposed to be not premium (people's car, remember?). it was priced a bit premium here in PH because of the importation and taxes from Mexico and other parts of the world with the Jettas, Passat, other global nameplates. i think here in PH, VW cars maybe the next step for Honda/Toyota/Mitsu/Nissan/Isuzu car owners, but def not the next step for Mazda and Subaru. Mazda and Subaru owners can graduate to a VW car by getting an Audi.

      VW here in PH under AC actually makes sense, people can't get wrong with trying it out a new brand after a Honda and Isuzu (which Ayala owns dealerships of)

    5. Good points, my message is that they should aim for the non-mainstream buyers.

      As stated in the article, VW are embarking on a new strategy. 1st step to this is admitting they failed in their previous try by going all out.

      If I was with VW, next step is removing the santanas, lavidas etc. (leave the mainstream market to KIA and Honda). Don't offer PPVs and Trucks (leave that to Isuzu, Maxus) and focus on the niche markets (premium vans - Kombi, 7-seater SUV ala Tiguan, R-line models). Then import it from SAIC-China to get better tax rates. It's a good way to differentiate the brand from existing players and sister brands.

    6. Actually, it makes sense. VW will never be accepted as a budget brand here. Those who're old enough to remember the era of the Beetle probably won't even buy a brand-new VW anyway.

      They should have gone mainstream premium versus Subaru/Mazda/Peugeot/high-end Honda/Toyota. It makes more sense for them. Unfortunately, part of the reason why Ayala got the distributorship was that they promised volume...they weren't going niche. If VW approved the niche strategy, the distributorship might have gone to someone else entirely.

    7. Interesting info there, but didn't they acquire VW before Kia? They must have thought VW will be their mainstream brand, but Kia is better suited for that.

      It's unwise to have 2 brands under a group covering the same market. Especially considering they are renovating the Honda BGC space into an AC motors showroom (where customers can cross-shop their brands).

    8. Yes they did. But then again, you can't let a good opportunity pass. Getting Kia was a good move for AC Motors. It's doing better than VW or Maxus at the moment.

    9. Kia under Hyundai has been really looking upmarket compared to what it was before at least. The upcoming KIA sportage and sorento also looks far better than the Hyundai tucson and santa fe for me. Anyways, KIA and Hyundai has been mum lately about their upcoming models, are they waiting for the PH Korea FTA to be enforced?

  2. Geely coolray is the trump winner in its class, at least for a china made sub conpact suv. The sales figures doesnt lie..The t cross is a hu humm so so offering.. boring is an understatement.

  3. Coolrsy is a better deal but t-cross offers something different with its NA engine and different style.

    It's always welcome that consumers have various options to choose from that suits our needs.

  4. weird play by VW here. no automatic aircon??? reminds me of first gen vios. vioses these days even have automatic ac.

    also, looks like lots of features were omitted to bring the price down. ang daming blank buttons hahaha.

    1. I assume the blank buttons are for the R-line version. Just like the local Seltos w/ all those blank buttons (since it's offered w/ all the bells and whistles in other countries).

    2. In other markets, they're the defeat switch for the clearance sensors, the activated switch for the park assist, and the AWD modes.

    3. ampangit kasi ng taxation system natin -- based on the whole car price, not on the engine specs which benefits emissions. that's why accessories and other features are also affected. less features = low prices.

  5. Wait. Is this the same car as the Changan CS35?

    1. After a 5 sec google search, its not. My bad. but they doo look oddly similar.

  6. Does the T Cross have automatic emergency braking? I checked the brochure/ spec sheet but didn’t see it there. It’s also not mentioned here. However, some/other local reviews day it does.

    1. Good spot. The feature is present in the T-Cross SE but it's permanently turned off.

      When I quizzed Volkswagen PH about it, they said that the feature hasn't been given the go-signal from Volkswagen Global. In short, autonomous emergency braking isn't available for our market yet.

      Once the feature has been approved for our market, VW PH will be able to activate it via a software upgrade.

  7. Glad I asked. Thanks, Ulysses. Hope this is approved for our market. Having autonomous emergency braking at this price point could set the T Cross apart from the competition and convince buyers that this model is great value. However, could it be that making this available to the T Cross could make this feature less of a premium and a differentiator from other more expensive VW models?

    1. That all depends, actually. If VW wants to make a splash locally, they should continue to spec their vehicles like the T-Cross. If VW has learned their lesson, future models from VW will have better spec than they do now.

  8. The T-Cross is well positioned to compete against Geely CoolRay, Chery Tiggo7 Pro and MG ZS Turbo. But it's only let down by its Anemic engine. They should have brought the 1.4Turbo Gas engine of it's brother Tiguan. A perfect match against the competition.

  9. Going back to this article in Feb. 2022.
    The T Cross was not the bestseller VW Philippines expected it to be ☹️
    441 vehicle sales for the whole of 2021 (up from 177 in 2020, but still...)
    I'm sad as a VW fan ☹️
    - Mark J.

  10. Is the S variant lighter than the SE? By how much?

  11. Is autonomous emergency braking available for both S and SE variants?

    1. It was supposed to be a standard feature for the SE, but the feature has been turned off for the Philippine market.

      Geature hasn't been given the go-signal from Volkswagen Global. In short, autonomous emergency braking isn't available for our market yet.

      Once the feature has been approved for our market, VW PH will be able to activate it via a software upgrade.


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