First Drive: Volkswagen T-Roc
Volkswagen has big plans for its compact crossover, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR Crossover PRICE £19,000-£28,000 (TBC) FUEL 51-55.4mpg CO2 116-133g/km
For Volkswagen, the T-Roc is a sign of the times. Not only because it’s taking the newly-discontinued Scirocco’s space on the production line, but also as it’s expected to outsell established cars like the Passat in true fleet, trailing only the Golf and Tiguan among its biggest-volume sellers. There are hints of a seemingly unending appetite for crossovers.
Positioned between the Juke and Qashqai in terms of size, it’s a component of what will be a 19-strong Volkswagen SUV line-up within a few years. In Europe, it slots in below the Tiguan, leaving space for the smaller Polo-based T-Cross to follow next year. Platform shared and almost identical in size to an Audi Q2 – with which it has the potential to compete head-on – it’s a threat to the Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V and Mini Countryman too.
Consumers may have fallen out of love for coupés, but the T-Roc is still focused on kerbside appeal, with large wheels and options including a contrasting roof and body-coloured dashboard sections. Once the range is complete next April, it will span the familiar S, SE and SEL trims, plus Design and R-Line versions, with equivalent petrol and diesel engines at 113bhp and 148bhp, and a 188bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The two 2.0-litre TDI engines are the only ones with four-wheel drive.
The expected biggest-seller, the 113bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol, wasn’t available to drive at the launch, and neither was the 1.6 TDI at the same power level. However, other Group cars with the same platform suggest the former will offer the more appealing drive of the two, plus similar CO2 emissions to the diesel (around 115g/km), and a price advantage. So it could make sense for some company car drivers in another sign of changing times.
But the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI offered for early drives bodes well; it’s lost little of the Golf’s sure-footedness despite the raised ride height, but Volkswagen hasn’t used back-breakingly stiff suspension to stop it rolling around while cornering. All versions also include a multi-link rear axle, which deals better with bumpier surfaces than the simpler beam used on some entry-level versions of the Golf.
Likewise, merging coupé and SUV hasn’t resulted in a worse of both worlds situation inside. The relatively long wheelbase offers plenty of head and legroom for all occupants, and the windowline isn’t swept up to restrict the view for those sat in the back.
However, even colour accents, an optional digital instrument cluster and the excellent high-resolution infotainment system can’t distract from the abundance of shiny, hard plastics. It’s not up to Volkswagen’s usual high standards, nor the price bracket this car is positioned in. Even the cheaper Polo feels more premium than the T-Roc.
Not that it’s likely to dissuade buyers. The T-Roc has the Golf’s strong points without its ubiquity, and some of the Scirocco’s sporty styling without the impracticality of a coupé. It’s not hard to see why consumer demand for products like this is showing no sign of slowing down.
What we think
It’s joining, rather than redefining, a segment, but the T-Roc is a safe bet, offering badge cachet and a Golf-like driving experience in a booming sector.