Volkswagen T-Roc SUV (2017 - ) review
The T-Roc hopes to appeal to style-conscious younger buyers who want looks, practicality and the latest tech in an urban 4x4. Will it tempt buyers away from the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2?
Interested in buying a Volkswagen T-Roc?
How good does it look?
Volkswagen has made a big fuss about the exterior of the T-Roc, knowing full well at this end of the market, looks and image are a big influence on buying decisions. That explains the relatively bold exterior looks, which are considerably more radical than the usual conservatism you might expect from the brand. Although its dimensions mean it is relatively compact, it has big presence on the road.
There are five trim levels to choose from, starting with the S, which comes as standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, while the SE model gives you 17-inch wheels for a sportier look, and tinted rear windows. The Design model allows you to customise a tonne of colour options, including the roof and alloy wheels, while the SEL gives you brighter LED headlights and distinctive LED running lights, as well as 18-inch alloy wheels. The top-of-the-range trim is the R-Line, which comes with big, 19-inch wheels and a beefier bodykit.
What's the interior like?
Unlike many other cars in the class, there has been a clear effort to bring some of the style and impact of the exterior to the interior. On all but the entry-level SE model, large panels on the dashboard and the doors are finished in the same shade as the exterior colour, making a welcome change of the usual mass of dark grey plastic. It does mean it is worth giving the exterior colour choice a little more thought than usual.
The materials used inside the T-Roc are a little mixed in quality. The important contact points like the steering wheel and gearknob are finished in leather, and the seats are swathed in leather or cloth and are nice to touch. Many of the plastics used are hard however, although they feel sufficiently robust to survive family life.
The T-Roc’s cabin has a central 8.0-inch touch-screen to navigate the infotainment system, while the climate control is operated by more conventional rotary and button controls. Getting a good driving position should be easy for all shapes and sizes too. Although the raised ride height gives a slightly higher view out, it is still possible to lower the driver’s seat down for maximum head-room.
How practical is it?
Those sat in the front should have no issues getting comfortable, with head, leg and elbow-room sufficient to suit those more than six foot tall. In the rear, leg-room is acceptable for average height, although head-room is cleverly maximised by a curved rooflining. The rear bench is clearly optimised for two rather than three passengers, as the middle seat is uncomfortable and has less head-room.
You can fold the seats through the rear doors or boot, which is a sensible shape with no awkward bits. The T-Roc also comes with a removable boot floor as standard, which can be fitted into two positions (it is worth noting cars with the Beats audio system or 4Motion four-wheel-drive cannot make use of the lowest position). Storage space in the car is below the class best, with only a small cubby between the front seats and two cupholders too shallow to hold anything but the smallest drinks.
What's it like to drive?
The T-Roc has a very impressive ride quality. Although riding on larger alloy wheels generally has a negative impact on this, the T-Roc deals with large and medium bumps well, filtering out the worst bits. Smaller, sharper imperfections are not dealt with quite so well, but for a car this size, the vast majority of buyers should find it more than comfortable in town and on the open road. Better still, this ride comfort does not mean the T-Roc can’t cope with tight and twisting bends. Should you choose to push it through a corner, it responds with impressive composure and eagerness. The steering is quick to respond but not too sharp, and there is very little body roll even through tighter corners. The T-Roc never feels out of its depth, and provides a surprising amount of fun to a keen driver.
How powerful is it?
The T-Roc is offered with a wide choice of engine and gearbox combinations, including the option of two- or four-wheel-drive depending on the model. There are three petrol engines available in 1.0-litre, 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre forms, and the 2.0-litre diesel is available in two power outputs. All engine options use turbocharging to maximise efficiency and performance.
Of the diesel range, we tried the 2.0-litre 150 horsepower version with the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive. It starts quietly with no diesel rumble, but initial acceleration can seem a little sluggish. Although the engine offers good power low down, the accelerator can require a significant push to deliver decent progress, although it is fitted with a system to maximise economy.
Switch the car into the Normal or Sport modes and it is more eager to respond. The combination of the highly efficient gearbox and unstressed diesel engine makes the T-Roc a relaxing car to drive, rarely being caught in the wrong gear and always with plenty of acceleration available to serve the driver. Cruising is especially comfortable, with the engine happy to operate at low revs while still making good progress.
We've also tried the little 1.0-litre petrol engine with the manual gearbox, which makes for impressive fuel economy and straightforward progress most of the time, but sometimes feels underpowered and requires a lot of gear shifting to get the most out of it. For someone on their own in the car it'll be fine, but if you regularly carry passengers or like more power, you may find it a bit lacking.
How much will it cost me?
The T-Roc is more expensive than most of its mainstream rivals, and based on price alone, it’s more comparable to premium competitors from Audi and Mini. For the 2.0-litre 150 horsepower diesel version, fuel consumption and emissions are class competitive if not the best available, while running costs are similarly mid-table rather than outstanding, although very close to its chief rivals. Volkswagen models typically perform above the average in terms of residual values, with the same expected of the T-Roc. Its standard warranty offers a typical three-year/60,000 miles cover, with four and five-year extended policies available at extra cost.
How reliable is it?
Recent Volkswagen SUVs have had mixed results in terms of reliability, falling somewhere in the middle of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. A more recent indication of quality is the 2017 JD Power vehicle Dependability Study, which saw VW score better than the industry average, The T-Roc shares a lot of parts from the latest generation of Volkswagens, so that should improve things somewhat.
How safe is it?
The T-Roc comes with above average levels of safety equipment, including active cruise control, city emergency braking, side assist and lane assist fitted as standard on all models. It scored the maximum five star score when crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, which rated it as the best small off-road car of 2017.
How much equipment do I get?
The standard specification for the entry-level T-Roc S is slightly above the class average, offering climate control, an 8.0-inch touch-screen with DAB and USB input among the highlights. Upgrade to SE and you'll get adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and smartphone integration.
The mid-level Design trim adds exterior and interior detailing and plenty of colour customisation options, rather than any significant equipment highlights, but the SEL is well loaded with kit, including an uprated infotainment system, extra security features and extra pedestrian protection safety systems.
The top spec R-Line model brings sports seats and a general sportier demeanour, with sports suspension included too.
Options include a Beats sound system, keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof and an electric boot lid.
Because you want a small car with a distinctive look in the popular SUV style, and are less concerned about practicality and running costs. The T-Roc is a decent car with plenty of customisation options, and we expect the majority of customers will be happy with their purchase. But this is a hard-fought sector of the market, and we'd recommend that if you're considering a T-Roc, you also look hard at cars like the Volvo XC40, Toyota C-HR and Audi Q2, all of which are excellent in their own way.