- The car Volkswagen T-Roc Design 1.0 TSI 115
- Run by Alastair Clements, special contributor
- Why it’s here Having rested its SUV aspirations on the larger Tiguan and Touareg thus far, Volkswagen is now hoping its smaller and funkier T-Roc can take on a wealth of small SUV rivals.
- Needs to Combine the quality, solidity and practicality we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen with enough flair to tempt buyers away from some seriously chic opposition.
Price £20,500 Price as tested £23,540 Miles covered 938 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 36.1mpg Options fitted Discover Navigation (£780), Car-Net ‘Security and Service’ (£350), 17in ‘Mayfield’ Atlantic Blue diamond-turned alloy wheels with anti-theft bolts (£40), Active Info Display (£405), Ravenna Blue dashpad (free), black roof (free), metallic paint (£575), luggage compartment mat (£70)
14 June 2018 – the Volkswagen T-Roc joins our fleet
Ever since the Nissan Qashqai changed the way people thought about SUVs in 2006, the race has been on to create the ideal high-riding alternative to the ubiquitous hatchback. Perhaps Volkswagen wasn’t keen to relinquish the Golf’s crown just yet, because it has been notable by its absence from this sector, relying instead on the long-serving Tiguan to appeal to family SUV buyers.
Now, at last, it has created a small SUV: the T-Roc, mating a fairly conventional hatchback body – albeit with a more raked rear roofline to give more of a coupé look – with the raised ride height so beloved by SUV buyers.
For me, the T-Roc is an unusually spec-sensitive car. This new model has a much greater challenge on its hands than either the Golf or the bigger Tiguan, because it has to mate the traditional Volkswagen values of rational design and a premium feel with a younger, funkier look. Spec it wrong and it can be disappointingly anonymous, but tick the right boxes – as we think we’ve done – and it’s a great-looking car that really stands out.
With that in mind, I reckon that mid-range Design trim is a must. It gives the no-cost option of a contrasting roof – black in this case – but to set it off, we splashed out £575 on the fetching Ravenna Blue metallic paint and an extra £70 to upgrade the standard 17in alloys to the diamond-cut versions with Atlantic Blue inserts. Chuck in a bit of chunky SUV detailing and a smattering of chrome and the result is a pretty sharp-looking little car.
Inside, the Design also gets a body-coloured dashboard panel, which looks fantastic and goes some way to distracting from the decidedly un-VW hard, shiny plastics to be found on the dash top and elsewhere in the interior. That gripe aside, it’s a very pleasant place to be – roomy enough for my 6ft 3in frame, with room for a full-sized passenger behind.
To complete the specification, I took our own advice with the rest of the options, adding the Discover Navigation upgrade – a hefty £780, but it’s slick and intuitive to use, with a superb 8.0in screen – and the brilliant Active Info Display (£405). First seen in sister brand Audi’s TT, this replaces the conventional dashboard with a 10.3in screen that shows either digitally rendered dials or a choice of information, from driving data to sat-nav (or a blend of all three). These are luxuries rather than necessities, however, because Design trim is actually pretty generous, with standard parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and adaptive cruise control just the tip of the iceberg.
There are three petrol and two diesel engines available, and like 80% of UK buyers, we’ve gone for petrol – in this case the entry-level 114bhp 1.0 TSI, with a manual gearbox. It’s a motor we’ve sampled in all manner of VW Group products and come away impressed – and the T-Roc is no exception. After a slight chatter upon start-up from cold, it’s uncannily quiet at lower revs, and it’s only at the upper reaches of the rev range – which you do need to disturb when lugging up inclines – that the vibrations of the three-cylinder engine make themselves known, albeit accompanied by a pleasantly sporty thrum.
Use those revs and the gearbox feels slick, but short-shift to save fuel – something the neat ‘Think Blue Trainer’ encourages – and it can be notchy, particularly from first to second; I’ve found this a little frustrating on a stop-start commute. Like most modern small SUVs, the only jungle this T-Roc is likely to tackle is an urban one, and here the VW’s sweet ride quality is a boon; it can be a touch jittery over broken road surfaces, but in the main it’s very comfortable – and feels smoother still with a couple of passengers on board to settle the suspension.
Although it’s a relatively compact car, the T-Roc is surprisingly spacious, with plenty of room for a family. Those pronounced rear pillars mean that it can feel a little dark in the back, and the raked roofline certainly results in a boot that is not the last word in practicality – although there’s 445 litres to play with if you drop the boot floor to its lower level.
Two kids and a pair of energetic dogs should give the rugged interior a real test. In fact, the dogs did force one more dip into the options list for a luggage compartment mat with bumper protector. This already looks like being £70 well spent.