The good looking T-Roc is VW’s intriguing newcomer in the hugely competitive compact SUV sector.
Slotting in below the Tiguan and above the upcoming T-Cross, in terms of size it sits somewhere between the two Nissans that arguably started the small crossover craze – the Juke and Qashqai.
Looking not unlike its Audi cousin, the Q2, the T-Roc is sharply styled and sporty with a heavy emphasis on personalisation thanks to a variety of bold, contrasting exterior body, roof and pillar colour combos, plus interior trim options.
Only available as a five-door and with prices starting at £18,950, it’s definitely not at the budget end of the market and will have to compete with everything from the Mazda CX-3 to the MINI Countryman and Peugeot 3008.
There are four trim levels (S, SE, Design, SEL and R-Line) and there’s a generous standard specification with dual zone climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, full connectivity, DAB radio and alloy wheels, plus passive and active safety equipment including Front Assist – VW’s autonomous emergency braking system.
The T-Roc is also blessed with a strong petrol and diesel engine range, six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes and the option of 4Motion four-wheel drive.
Petrol units include a 113bhp 1.0-litre TSI, 148bhp 1.5-litre and a 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI. The diesels on offer are a 1.6-litre TDI with 113bhp, or a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Volkswagen expects the three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol in SE trim with manual transmission to be the biggest seller.
Sadly the diesels weren’t available to test so I drove the petrols. The 2.0 TSI T-Roc with seven-speed DSG auto is the fastest, sprinting to 62mph from standstill in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 134mph, while the 1.0 TSI is the most frugal, returning 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 117g/km.
VW’s eager 1.0-litre is the star of the show. The car’s sound insulation is so good, you’d barely know there’s a thrummy three-cylinder under the bonnet, while its 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds is respectable, but seems faster.
The 1.5-litre TSI EVO performs well too and doesn’t have to be worked so hard while also returning a claimed 52.3mpg and emitting 121g/km.
And we haven’t even mentioned the T-Roc’s biggest surprise – it’s one of the best handling crossovers on the road with little body roll, crisp steering, decent grip and a comfortable ride.
However, if it’s extra grunt and serious traction, you’re after, then the range-topping 2.0 TSI with 4Motion might be for you.
Yes, it’s pricey at £31,485, but I tested it in wintry conditions and it coped admirably in snow and slush, offering noticeably more traction than its front-wheel drive siblings.
Awarded a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, the T-Roc is safe, while extra safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Dynamic Road Sign Display, Lane change system with Rear Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor and Lane Assist lane keeping system.
It’s comfortable inside and there’s a surprising amount of space for two good-sized adults in the rear too, though the centre position is slightly perched and most suitable for children.
VW claims the T-Roc has one of largest luggage compartments in its class, measuring 445 litres and extending to 1,290 litres with the rear seats folded.
Now to the new car’s only significant negative. The quality of the interior materials isn’t as high as we’d expect from a Volkswagen with a distinct lack of soft-touch plastics, while the coloured personalisation trim looks and feel cheap.
However, it’s well built, the dashboard is clear and well laid out, while the driving position is suitably raised. The 10-3-inch digital Active Info Display ahead of the driver (available on higher spec models) is especially slick. Interacting with the centre console screen, it allows you customise everything from basic driving info to sat nav maps.
Frankly, except for the slightly disappointing interior, the T-Roc is hard to fault.
Verdict: Engaging to drive, stylish, practical and blessed with a solid set of engines and a 4×4 option, the Volkswagen T-Roc is a great compact SUV choice.