16.12.2017VW T-Roc First Drive
VW's T-Roc might be a little late to the crossover party, but it aims to make up for lost time by pitching for class-leader status. The Golf-sized SUV takes the fight to established rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Toyota C-HR - plus fellow VW Group models including the Seat Ateca and Audi Q2. We take a first drive for first impressions as to how the VW stacks up.
Review by Chris Lilly
The T-Roc's engine line-up is made up of established VW Group units, and as such there isn't a weak pick amongst them. The 1.0 TSI 115hp petrol is the entry level powerplant, but performs admirably in the T-Roc. For those looking for more power, the 1.5 TSI EVO unit is also installed, with 150hp on tap, or there's a 2.0 TSI with 190 horses. The diesel choice is made up of two TDI options, a 1.6 litre with 115hp hp, and a 2.0 litre with 150hp. The smallest petrol and diesel engines are available in front wheel drive and six-speed manual gearbox configuration only, but the 1.5 TSI and 2.0 TDI models come in various six-speed manual / seven-speed DSG, and front-wheel drive / 4Motion four-wheel drive specs. Any of the engine choices will be a good bet, but it's best to tailor your pick to common driving situations. Those sticking to local trips will find the 1.0 TSI has all the power required, while those that run between towns / villages and open roads will likely find the 1.5 TSI best. Regular motorway drivers are going to be best off with the 2.0 TDI, but even then the 1.6 TDI isn't a bad choice - just not as refined at speed as the larger unit. Performance times range from 7.2 seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint - from the 2.0 TSI - to 10.1 seconds for the 1.0 TSI.
The T-Roc offers a quiet and composed ride across a broad range of surfaces, displaying the kind of refinement you would come to expect from a Golf-sized VW product. Wind noise can be noticeable at higher speeds thanks to the larger frontage caused by the SUV-ethos, but it's not bad at all, and the T-Roc is a well mannered drive, despite the youthful image portrayed by the styling and marketing teams. It's not a dull drive though, with the VW able to be driven enthusiastically when the mood takes and situation allows. Surprisingly agile and fun to chuck down a twisty road, the T-Roc is far from a staid family crossover. VW made a point of saying that the ride and handling was worked on and signed off by the same engineer who brought the Golf Clubsport S and Polo GTI to life. While you can't expect true hot-hatch thrills with the T-Roc, its clear that the suspension has been set-up to let owners have some fun whilst driving, with a relatively flat cornering style, sharp steering, and a precise nature to the handling that belies its family-car intentions.
Whilst definitely a VW, the T-Roc also manages to look very different to anything else on offer from the German brand currently. Sure, it shares styling elements with the Polo and Arteon, but it's definitely not just a photocopied version of those with the scaling tweaked a bit. Crossover styling isn't for everyone, but I reckon that VW has done a good job with the T-Roc, and it's a car that works well in the metal - perhaps better than in photos. The design sees what are large sides broken up by creases and styling lines, while the lights front and rear add plenty of drama to the overall look. The style is backed up by some substance too, with a light interior, visibility isn't as bad as you might fear because of the large rear-pillars. A wide and sensibly-sized rear window helps with that. What this translates to in practical terms is a boot that is reasonable in size, though not nearly a match for the Ateca for example. It's still perfectly usable for day-to-day family chores, but don't expect to be able to use the T-Roc's load space as some sort of Mary Poppins-style receptacle for a week's work of camping holiday kit. Further forward, and the space for passengers is good throughout. Rear legroom is similar to a Golf's but headroom is naturally better. It's not particularly wide though, so only try and carry three adults on an occasional basis, and keep trips short to minimise discomfort. Stick to children in the back though, and there won't be a problem at all. Those in the front have no such worries, and there are plenty of cubby holes etc for stuff to be stashed in. It's a decently practical bet then, but if space is a priority, there are better options in the class.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
If you expect a VW to be somewhere between mass-market and premium in terms of fit and finish, your expectations will be spot-on with the T-Roc. It's not the most luxurious cabin, with some materials used of average quality rather than describable as plush. Still, the controls are well laid-out, and everything important falls nicely to hand. The kit and controls on offer are all good too, and the T-Roc comes with flashes of colour throughout the cabin to link with the exterior paint job. The seats are good and offer good support for occupants. The driver can set up a decent driving position too. Although not the most premium feeling interior on the market, the T-Roc is still far from the bargain-basement end of the spectrum, and the only real cause for comment is the T-Roc's price. Since the T-Roc is essentially a tall Golf, comparisons with the famous VW model are inevitable, and the hatchback is the more premium and better rounded choice in terms of cabin quality.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Despite a decent range of engines to pick from, there isn't too much in the way of variety when it comes to fuel economy. The most thirsty model in the range is the 2.0 TSI petrol, which has an official figure of 41.5 MPG, but it is very much the outlier in the T-Roc range - and still isn't bad considering it has knocking on for 200hp. The rest of the range sits firmly in the 50s MPG, whether petrol or diesel. The 1.5 TSI EVO has figures around 52-53 MPG according to NEDC tests, the 1.0 TSI is at the mid-way point in the 50s MPG, while the 2.0 TDI diesel returns around 56-57 MPG. Tax costs will all feature the standard rate after the first year, since the T-Roc doesn't cost more than the Â£40,000 premium rate threshold. First year rates will essentially cost Â£160 for most engines, though the 2.0 TSI will cost Â£500. First year rates are included in the car's OTR.
The T-Roc features a few systems to help maximise efficiency. The 1.5 TSI EVO engine features Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) which deactivates half of the cylinders when the car is not under load. All engines are downsized units, using turbocharging to make the most of their power despite relatively compact capacity. Driving Profile Selection is also available which allows drivers to put the car into Eco mode, reducing throttle response, improving the DSG transmission's gear changes where fitted, and reducing the impact of auxiliary systems on the engine. The T-Roc charges the battery under braking, recuperating energy otherwise wasted, and is fitted with an engine stop/start system to cut emissions when stationary in traffic. VW's Think Blue Trainer coaching system gives feedback on how economically the car is being driven too. According to our calculations, the VW T-Roc range has a Next Green Car Rating from 41.
The T-Roc range is well equipped across the board, with all models fitted with elements such as 16-inch alloys, air conditioning, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. However, the value really begins at SE trim which upgrades the wheels to 17-inch alloys and adds a leather trimmed multi-function steering wheel, smartphone compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, climate control, and DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB. Further up the trim levels elements such as front fog lights, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, sports seats, 3D mapping, Car-Net, and VW's excellent Active Info Display become available. This last feature is a large customisable digital screen that works very well, though it a bit of a luxury item. Across all trims, there is a high level of safety equipment as standard, with active features including Automatic Post-Collision Braking, active lane keep assist, front radar with pedestrian detection, and city emergency braking. Driver alert is standard on some trims, while available elements include adaptive cruise control, park assist, and blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert.
It's not the most practical or cheapest model in its class, but the T-Roc is still one of the market leaders. A range of good engines keeps running costs down but performance levels excellent, and the driving dynamics on offer are surprisingly good for a car of this type. VW might have taken its time bringing the T-Roc to market, but it's been worth the wait.
Model tested: VW T-Roc
Body-style: Family SUV
Engine / CO2: 1.0, 1.5 & 2.0 litre TSI petrol; 1.6 & 2.0 TDI diesel / from 117 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Design, SEL
On-road price: From £20,425
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars