Volkswagen T-Roc review
The Golf-based VW T-Roc SUV is practical and fun to own and drive, but its cabin quality is a bit of a let-down
As a relative latecomer to the compact SUV segment in 2017, you might wonder why it took so long for the VW T-Roc to arrive. The Golf-sized SUV is a strong contender in the class, as well as being a sales hit for VW, and one might have said ‘predictably so’.
That’s especially true as the T-Roc ushered in a new level of design emotion for the brand, with a cute, compact shape and lots of personalisation options. Best of all, it’s great to drive with spirited engines and a chassis that blends control and fun with a fair degree of comfort.
Inside there’s more space for passengers and luggage than in a Golf (thanks to the increased height), plus plenty of hi-tech connectivity, autonomous driving and safety kit available. However, somewhat surprisingly for a VW, the quality of the plastics in the cabin are poor – more in keeping with a budget brand than a Volkswagen. That’s especially so given the list prices, which are close to premium.
About the VW T-Roc
The Volkswagen T-Roc is an SUV-style spin-off from the best-selling VW Golf. Like many crossover-type vehicles the T-Roc is blessed with off-road style chunky design cues, but the reality is that it’s configured to be easy to drive on tarmac, to be practical and affordable, and not to look like a boring old family hatchback.
Like its very many rivals, the T-Roc is designed to tap into the booming market for stylish yet family-friendly SUVs, while also bringing a younger audience to the VW brand. The sort of owners who might be put off by VW’s typical design conservatism, or the grown-up and sensible image the Golf projects.
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Yet behind the racier image, the T-Roc shares all its technology and engineering with its hatchback sibling, and is all the better for it. You pay a little more for being fashionable, but the advantages don’t stop there as the T-Roc is actually a little roomier than the Golf hatch due to its taller body dimensions.
The T-Roc comes with a similarly broad range of engine options to the Golf, and you can get versions ranging from the entry-level 1.0-litre S on one hand to the high-performance T-Roc R on the other - the latter boasting almost 300bhp and 4MOTION all-wheel drive for impressive grip. In 2020 the range was even extended to include the T-Roc Cabriolet which, as the only drop-top SUV of its type around, will surely be a ‘must have’ for people inspired by such things.
As the T-Roc is based on the Golf, it slots into the VW crossover range between the larger Tiguan and recently introduced T-Cross. Prices start from just over £21,000 and climb to over £40,000 for the hot R version.
The T-Roc has a variety of rivals, including the Audi Q2 (which shares running gear with the T-Roc), Mazda CX-3, MINI Countryman, Mercedes GLA and lower spec versions of the Volvo XC40. There's also the Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V to consider, and also the BMW X1 and X2 and Lexus UX.
Where the T-Roc breaks away from the Golf is with its funky looking interior. Rather than use the Golf's cabin wholesale, VW has added splashes of colour inside, including dash panels that are colour coded to the exterior. However, there is also more use of hard plastics inside, which might be a bit of a disappointment if you're moving from a Golf to a T-Roc.
There are a variety of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines offered. For petrol power, you can choose the 1.0 TSI 115PS turbo, which is surprisingly capable in the T-Roc, VW's latest 1.5 TSI Evo 150PS with cylinder deactivation, the 2.0 TSI 190PS petrol and the range-topping 2.0 TSI 300PS. All petrol engines come with a six-speed manual except the 2.0 TSI, which has a seven-speed DSG auto - this is available as an option with the 1.5 TSI Evo engine. 4MOTION four-wheel drive is also standard with the 2.0 TSI.
Diesel power is handled by either 115PS or 150PS variants of VW’s familiar 2.0 TDI. The former is only available with a six-speed manual box, while the latter has the option of a seven-speed DSG auto transmission.
Volkswagen offers a range of trim levels, comprising of entry-level S, SE, United, Black Edition, Design, SEL, R-Line and the top-of-the-range R model.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Golf-based VW T-Roc SUV is practical and fun to own and drive, but its cabin quality is a bit of a let-down
- 2Engines, performance and driveEngine choice is broad, while the T-Roc provides a spirited drive without being uncomfortable. It’s an ideal, fun, urban runaround
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsLatest VW engines are strong all-rounders offering refinement, performance and decent running costs
- 4Interior, design and technologyStylish inside and out with plenty of hi-tech options, but there are some cheap plastics considering the price
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIt's Golf-sized on the outside, but the T-Roc offers more space inside. It’s comfortable, too, in spite of the sporty drive
- 6Reliability and SafetyStrong safety is one of the big benefits of using the VW group’s MQB platform – there’s plenty of active tech and even more on the options list