Volkswagen’s T-Roc sets new small SUV standards

New crossover brings much-needed style and fun to carmaker’s crossover range

The Volkswagen T-Roc is sure to tap into the Irish car buyer's love of the SUV crossover, but is it a good car to drive? We take it for a test drive to find out. Video: Neil Briscoe

Volkswagen’s T-Roc proves that the German car giant still boasts top-class engineering talent

Make: Volkswagen

Model: T-Roc

Year: 2017

Fuel: Petrol

Date Reviewed: October 20, 2017

Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 01:00

   

Volkswagen has finally come up with a crossover to challenge its own Golf hatchback.

The German brand has earned billions building hatchbacks and saloons over the last 70 years or so. When the crossover craze emerged several years ago, it’s hardly surprising it didn’t want to mess with its hatchback success. So it offered the solid if rather lacklustre Tiguan.

Someone at head office in Wolfsburg has finally studied the sales statistics and realised the game was up: the market is moving to crossovers en masse and even a giant like Volkswagen needs to follow the crowd.

So they’ve come up with the oddly named T-Roc. This is not a direct replacement for the Golf, rather it is a replacement for the Scirocco, which came to the end of the road earlier this month. That car divided opinion, and the T-Roc is likely to do the same. Out goes a coupe that wasn’t selling, and in comes a crossover that certainly will.

The T-Roc means that VW has two offerings in this all-important segment: the Tiguan for those who put spaciousness over styling and the T-Roc for those who care about looks and, well, fun. And behind them all there’s the rock-solid Golf. In principle at least, that seems like a hefty line-up that should cause rivals a good deal of angst.

The all-important styling isn’t as divisive as the equivalent image-conscious rival from Toyota, the C-HR. The Japanese entrant is awash with folds and creases and the more we have encountered it on Irish roads, the more we like it. The T-Roc on the other hand is straight up good looking.

Sacrifice

With both these cars, and the Audi Q2, with which it shares its platform and underpinnings, the sacrifice for all these styling is space. While it has a decent 445 litres of bootspace, it’s not up there with the more boxy, family-oriented alternatives. Back seats are also not as spacious as those cars, like the Nissan Qashqai or Hyundai Tucson for example. However, it looks – and drives – better than those.

Our test car was the high-end 2-litre TSI 190bhp with the firm’s 4motion four-wheel drive and featuring the firm’s always impressive DSG automatic transmission. This engine has Golf GTi pedigree and it shows. In this guise the T-Roc is a joy to drive.

Tested on a mix of muddy country roads and motorways in Denmark, along with some slalom testing on a closed runway, the T-Roc excelled. All the more so as I expected it to be another dull if solid effort from earnest engineers who really don’t like crossovers.

Of course it’s still a higher set crossover so there is more roll than you get from the squat low-set Golf of equivalent power, but it’s remarkably refined and poised for what it is. If its nearest rival is taken as the Toyota C-HR, then it highlights just how much the Japanese rival needs more potent engine options in its range.

Of course the bigger selling diesels will not deliver the potency of the 2-litre – nor for that matter will the diminutive 1-litre petrol entry-level – and VW urgently needs to offer an alternative powertrain to the range, for the likely buyers of these style-conscious crossovers are usually not high-mileage motorists. That’s why sales of the C-HR hybrid are proving so strong for Toyota.

Tech features

Starting at €24,750 for the 1-litre 115bhp it’s up against more spacious and family-orientated fare, along with the aforementioned Golf. The T-Roc’s standard features includes tech features like Bluetooth, split-zone climate, and a 6.5-inch screen. Step up to the Design grade in the 1-litre and the price rises to €26,995. Move to the 150bhp 1.5-litre petrol and it will set you back €29,750. Opt for diesel and the price moves swiftly to €34,795, although this is for the top-level Sport grade. Throw in the DSG transmission and the top end price is €36,695.

Features in the Design pack includes the firm’s App Connect system, voice control and park assist along with a variety of extra safety features. The Sports version additionally adds LED headlamps and VW’s Active info display dashboard.

It’s clearly not as practical as similarly-priced rivals, and in that regard many will regard the Tiguan, Tucson, Qashqai – not to mention the new Seat Arona or Skoda Karoq, Hyundai Kona or Kia Stonic – as better value (and that’s just a snapshot of some of the entrants in this crowded crossover segment).

Yet the T-Roc deserves strong billing on every shortlist, based on evident build quality, driving pleasure and basic fun.

Competitive price

Another way of looking at this is through the perspective of the Audi Q2. This is effectively the more affordable version of that crossover, and the Q2 is a bit of a star in its own right, if overpriced. The general consensus – including from this reviewer – is that the Q2 is the most fun and character-filled Audi to be launched in years. The T-Roc takes those positive characteristics and offers it up with a different badge and a more competitive price.

VW may have deceived thousands of owners with its diesel scandal and is paying the price for that. Yet the T-Roc proves that the German car giant still boasts top-class engineering talent. It matches VW’s solid feel with smart styling and a spirit of fun.

Lowdown: Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0 TSI DSG 4MOTION

Price: Range starts from €24,750 for the 1-litre 115bhp, €29,750 for the 1.5-litre petrol and €34,795 for the 2-litre diesel. No price yet for the 2-litre 190bhp as tested

Power: 190hp.

Torque: 320Nm.

0-100km/h: 7.2sec.

Top speed: 216km/h.

Claimed economy: 42.1mpg (6.7 litres/100km).

CO2 emissions: 155g/km.

Motor tax: €390.

Verdict: T-Roc brings much-needed style and fun to VW’s crossover range.