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First drive: Volkswagen T-Roc. Image by Volkswagen.

First drive: Volkswagen T-Roc
VW's fashion-conscious Qashqai rival will sell well, but it's not a rational purchase.


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Volkswagen T-Roc

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The Volkswagen T-Roc pushes all the right compact crossover buttons - it has intriguing styling, a funky cabin, a decent chassis and some nods towards practicality. It's not a sensible purchase though, as it's too keen on being fashionable and not enough on being useful.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0 TSI DSG 4MOTION
Pricing: 31,485, range starts from 20,425
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: crossover
CO2 emissions: 155g/km (First year road tax 500, 140 a year thereafter)
Combined economy: 42.1mpg
Top speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,180-6,000rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,500 -4,180rpm
Boot space: 445-litres (seats up), 1,280-litres (seats down)
EuroNCAP rating: Not yet tested

What's this?

This is the Volkswagen T-Roc, the firm's answer to the Nissan Qashqai. Well, it's one of VW's answers to the Qashqai - the bigger, more expensive and roomier Tiguan is already available, pouncing on and pinching customers from the higher end of the Nissan price list. The T-Roc is designed to to the job lower down.

It's more closely price-aligned with the Qashqai, but if it's rather less practical, it is also most certainly more fashionable, majoring on funky design and badge appeal rather than outright practicality.

The styling is certainly distinctive. There are cues from other VW models, of course, but it also strikes out on its own course, with lots of chunky detailing and a sense of being slightly over-styled. Is it a success? We'll leave you to be the judge of that, but for our money it looks as if it's trying a bit too hard, and moves too far away from VW's clean-and-crisp design policy, as best exemplified by the Golf and Tiguan.

Inside, there are also some differences from more mainstream VWs. There's more colour, for a start, thanks to contrast-coloured plastic panels on the fascia and instruments. There's also a new 10.3-inch digital instrument panel, which is not as impressive as the 12.3-inch version we've already seen in other models, but is still quite pretty (and costs 400 as an extra). Standard models come with VW's impressive eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system (which also includes VW's App Connect internet connectivity technology, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

The driving position is comfortable (great seats) but the cabin does suffer, as do some other cars in this class, from less than brilliant plastics. They're fine in general, but not as good as we'd normally expect from VW. Rear seat space is also an issue, with just about enough room for two full-sized adults in the back, but no more than that.

The boot is competitive though, at 445-litres. Essentially, the T-Roc sacrifices the practicality needed to meet the Qashqai head on, in favour of more fashionable styling that it hopes will allow it to pull at the heart-strings of buyers. With all the research pointing to the fact that buyers rate style above all else in this segment, that's probably not a bad tactic.

How does it drive?

It performs well enough up to a point, but the T-Roc is ultimately hampered by its weight and height. With a DSG dual-clutch transmission and 4MOTION four-wheel drive, it stumbles out of Weight Watchers with 1,400kg on board. The engines, or at least the ones we've tested thus far, cope well enough with that weight. We first tried the range-topping 2.0 TSI, which is essentially the Golf GTI engine with, at 190hp, a 17 per cent power reduction.

VW makes much play of the T-Roc being 'an SUV from the company that invented the GTI' and for the first few miles, you could almost kid yourself that this is a GTI with shin extensions. The steering feels smooth, and the T-Roc turns into corners with a brisk but composed, enthusiasm.

It is initially quite good fun to chuck about, but you soon start to realise that the body is swaying and rolling rather more than you would like, and with all that weight on board you have to keep a close eye on your braking distances coming into tight hairpins. Basically, the T-Roc has decent balance, and some capacity to entertain, but it's no GTI, whatever the marketing may say.

The 2.0 TDI diesel, with 150hp, isn't as potent as the top-spec TSI, but as it has an extra 20Nm of torque, at 329Nm, it's hardly any slower in real terms. It is less refined than the petrol engine, and actually rougher than we have found this same engine in other cars. There's a constant gurgle of diesel compression, and you're never left in any doubt about which fuel you're burning.

You can also feel the extra weight of the diesel in the nose. The front wheels are definitely less keen to turn into a given corner, and the ride is firmer, bouncier, and less composed (the TSI model actually rides pretty well, for a tall-ish crossover with big optional alloys). Of course, the TDI is significantly more economical, averaging better than 45mpg on a route where the petrol engine struggled to break through the 30mpg ceiling. So if you're buying your T-Roc for long journeys, it's a bit of a no-brainer. We haven't yet had a chance to try out either the 115hp 1.0-litre TSI or 1.5-litre 150hp TSI petrols in the T-Roc, but suspect that one of these will prove to be the sweet spot in the T-Roc range.


The problem here is two-fold. First off, the T-Roc is clearly a car built at the behest of the marketing department. If VW wanted to, it could have created a cut-price version of the excellent Tiguan to take on the bottom end of the Qashqai range, but instead it decided to chase the fashionable end of the market with a purpose-built car. Essentially, this is VW's answer to the Audi Q2 - you're buying it primarily for the looks and the image (and the fact that such items as a surf-board rack and snowboard holder are on the options list).

It compromises its rear seat space in favour of styling, and downgrades its cabin plastics in search of profit. If you're smitten by the styling and are happy to make those trade-offs, then great. But for our tastes, we'd rather spend the same money on a well-specced Golf Estate (better to drive, nicer cabin, more space in the boot) or a nearly-new Tiguan, which is a superior car in every respect to the T-Roc, and to our eyes more handsome.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 22 Oct 2017    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- T-Roc images

2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.

2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.2017 VW T-Roc drive. Image by Volkswagen.


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