What sets the T-Cross apart

2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 180 MPI AT SE

The appeal factor has never been more important than in this highly crowded and competitive subcompact crossover segment; the cuter (and more colorful) the better.

It’s no surprise then that of the five hues of the T-Cross, Volkswagen reserves three solely for the SE. These are Syringa Violet, Romance Red, and this, Tribu. But more than the bright exterior, this very compact body manages to avoid looking cartoonishly small — like some of its competitors — and instead appears like a sophisticated, proper SUV, just in miniature form.

There are very few distinguishing marks on the body as the lines are simple and discreet, and the overall shape is conventional. What gives it presence on the road is the contrast between the colors and the cladding, that glossy garnish around the lower grille, and the silver accent on the front bumper.

Adding a bit of toughness and sportiness are the front and rear underbody garnishes, the roof rails, and a couple of chrome gills.

The rear is probably its best angle with the flat taillights and the wide black panel connecting it across the tailgate, plus the unusual centered position of the badge name, definitely unique in the segment.

It doesn’t completely separate itself from the S variant but its aesthetics get a bit of an edge with exclusive features like LED headlamps, daytime running lamps, front fog lamps with corner light function, and a panoramic sunroof.

Nothing flashy about the entire package, in fact, I’d consider it very sedate. Surprisingly, that’s what makes it attractive. It doesn’t try too hard to look good and that effortlessness makes it very easy on the eyes.

Getting in is much easier with Volkswagen’s KESSY (Keyless Access System); just press the button on the front door handles to unlock.

If it’s colorful on the outside, wait ‘til you get a load of this — it has a bright dashboard bathed in Tribu and two-tone, leather and fabric, plus manually adjustable seats with visible white stitching. How’s that for eye candy?

There are no soft-touch materials here though but one thing I like about the cabin is there’s plenty of space. It isn’t tall on the outside by any measure but it still offers great headroom. Having only basic necessities inside means there’s plenty of elbow room as well.

While it shares similar features with the S variant, such as the multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, Apple CarPlay, four-speaker system, three USB ports (two Type-As and one Type-C) and manual aircon with pollen filter, it does get some premium stuff like its LED reading light, ambient lighting, an extra Type-C USB port in front, rear aircon vents, a 9.2-inch touchscreen, and my favorite, gesture control (swipe your hand in the air, in front of the screen, left and right to browse the various pages).

I actually like the colored dashboard. It breaks the dullness of a monochromatic cockpit and makes everything feel just a bit more lively and fun. The big question is, is this just a fad, and will the attraction fade over time? The bolstered seats pair very well with the hues of the headliner and the rest of the black panels so that it looks like it’s following a color scheme.

Its 1.5L multi-point, fuel injected gas engine has 113-PS and 145-Nm of torque, which is quite enough for city driving purposes. But no matter the throttle pressure, it launches gracefully and steadily. So don’t expect any head-snapping, seat-sucking action. On normal driving speed, upshifts happen at about 1,900 to 2,100 RPM but it went up to 2,600 RPM when pushed. It maintains 100 km/h quietly and keeps the revs at around 2,100 RPM. Fuel consumption is 8-km/l over seven days of mixed driving.

Comfort is pretty good even over very rough, uneven roads but its weakness is poorly-made tall humps with sharp angles that slightly stress its McPherson independent front suspension. Noise, vibration, and harshness levels are very low as well.

The electric power steering gives off a true feel of the vehicle without making it hard to handle. It’s easy to maneuver even on very tight streets and even fits around and through double-parked vehicles. Cornering is very good with its high rollover resistance.

Even with an understated design, it’s what’s in the 2021 Volkswagen T-Cross 180 MPI AT SE that counts. Modern amenities, high-tech equipment, and more safety features like driver and front passenger side airbags, head curtain airbags, and even a rear camera. All of that for just P1.168-million (promo price and good only while supplies last). After, the price goes up to  P1.198-million.