VW’s new small SUV is succinct, sharply-styled, and a sweet drive
You can never have too many SUVs, apparently. 27 per cent of all new cars sold in Europe are in that category, and that percentage will have grown to 34 per cent by 2022.
So, here’s another one, this time from Volkswagen. The T-Roc drops into the VW range below the monster Touareg and the middling Tiguan. It’s another creation from the MQB modular platform, but this time the bodywork that’s been put on top of that basic structure is a long way from ‘one look fits all’. This is a very individual design that successfully blends sleekness with the crossover shape. The sharpness of the body panels will be a source of great pleasure to VW fans who may have been wondering whether their company had dropped the ball.
Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0 TSI Sport
Price: £34,000 approx
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Torque 236lb ft
Gearbox: Seven-speed double-clutch auto
Top speed: 134mph
CO2 rating/BIK 155g/km, 26%
A choice of four contrasting roof colours on the T-Roc Sport gives 24 body colour combinations in all, while the T-Roc Style also has coloured dashboard, console panels and door-trim trim panels.
The Sport and Style that will both be sold in the UK (there’s still uncertainty about the base model’s availability here) will have an Audi-style configurable Active Info Display plus an eight-inch central infotainment display with a no-touch input facility and the full set of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink apps. T-Roc drivers can personalise their ignition keys with settings for the radio and chassis dynamics.
Three of the all-turbo engines are petrol – a 1.0 113bhp triple, a 1.5 147bhp four and a 2.0 187bhp detuned GTI unit – and three are diesel – a 1.6 113bhp and two 2.0-litres of 147bhp or 187bhp. The top power engines in both fuel ranges have four-wheel drive and a seven-speed double-clutch transmission; the 147bhp diesel is also 4WD, but here the DSG box is an option.
Inside, although everything is beautifully shaped and textured, all the surfaces that can be hard to touch are exactly that. Soft-touch surfaces are so yesterday, it seems. Today’s young buyers don’t have soft iPhones and don’t expect softness in their cars, we’re told.
The embracing feel of the cabin generated by shallow windows can make it difficult to judge where the body’s extremities are during parking exercises. You can always improve that by lifting the seat and steering wheel but you’ll lose some of the car’s sporting character in doing so.
And that would be a shame because the top-spec T-Roc 2.0 TSI Sports we tried are brilliant to drive. Variable-ratio steering works really well on tight roads, and there’s strong grip and excellent traction when extra torque goes to the rear wheels. The car feels very rigid, facilitating a suppleness in the suspension without any undue shuddering from the body. Of the three damper modes, Normal offers a fine and quite un-SUV-like mix of integrity and precision. If there is to be a GTI of SUVs, a T-Roc Sport could well be it.
That 2.0 turbo petrol engine is as smooth, punchy and lag-free as ever, and the DSG gearbox functions superbly in automatic mode. You can pick Sport mode or manually shuffle the gears via the small steering wheel paddles, but the chances are that you’ll soon revert to letting the DSG do its clever stuff.
You’ll probably like the selectable surface modes and hill-descent control offered by the 4motion four-wheel drive system, but you might not be so keen on the electric parking brake if you’re the sort who enjoys testing a car’s talents on rocky hillsides.
The T-Roc is a good drive but it’s practical too. Those aforementioned young owners will be satisfied by the amount of space available inside. The commodious boot is nicely shaped and accessed by a power tailgate.
A lot of compact SUVs try to carve out a place for themselves by way of overdone styling. The confident T-Roc isn’t like that. It’s the sort of vehicle that will reassure existing devotees and recruit new ones.
There’s likely to be a big price spread in this range. Although a figure of £19,000 has been talked about for the base 1.0 TSI, these Sports are going to be nearer to £34,000. Even so, buyers in this market are going to find it hard to resist.