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Driven: VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI. Image by Volkswagen.

Driven: VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI
Volkswagen’s style revolution continues, as here comes the highly attractive T-Roc crossover.


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Volkswagen T-Roc

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Volkswagen is certainly turning on the style lately, with crisp, eye-catching models such as the Tiguan R-Line and Arteon hitting the company's dealerships. And here's the latest recruit to the German firm's new design wave - it's the T-Roc, an MQB-derived crossover. We're sampling it here in the UK for the first time, to see if it can convince us it is good enough to compete with the likes of the SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Volkswagen T-Roc SEL 1.5 TSI Evo 150 manual
Pricing: T-Roc range from £18,950; SEL 1.5 TSI Evo from £24,520 OTR, car as tested £25,520
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover SUV
CO2 emissions: 121g/km (VED £160 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 52.3mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 150hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500- to 4,000rpm

What's this?

Our first chance to have a go in the funky Volkswagen T-Roc crossover in the UK, having sampled its wares overseas a few months back. This time around, Volkswagen UK has only brought along petrol-powered models for the drive event, but at least the company managed to get an example of all three spark-plug engines available - the 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI, the 1.5-litre four-cylinder TSI with the Active Cylinder Technology (ACT) that occasionally turns it into a twin, and then a T-Roc with the 2.0-litre four-pot TSI from a Golf GTI, only turned down a bit to 190hp and 320Nm. That's the only petrol T-Roc which comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive (and a seven-speed DSG as standard) by the way, something VW is proud of; a lot of these crossovers that look like SUVs don't actually have four-wheel drive even as an option.

The UK range structure runs thus: there are three familiar trim lines, which run S, SE and SEL, while the T-Roc is the first Volkswagen to sport the Design grade, which is sandwiched between SE and SEL. In 2018, these four specifications will be joined by R-Line. Volkswagen UK expects most of the 75 per cent retail, 25 per cent fleet buyers (most VWs sold here are on more like a 50:50 split, showing how important the T-Roc is to the brand) on these shores will go for a 1.0 TSI in SE spec. Prices start at less than £20,000 for this newcomer, although in reality most T-Rocs will be up in the mid-20s, at the very least.

Anyway, while we've not yet tried them, the diesel options amount to a 115hp 1.6 TDI and a 150hp 2.0 TDI, although the 1.6 will be a little longer in joining the launch line-up. Prices start at a reasonable £18,950 for a 1.0 TSI S, rising to a rather more robust £31,485 for a 2.0 TSI SEL. The 1.0-litre petrol is available up to Design level, the 1.5 TSI starts at SE and runs all the way to the top, and the pair of 2.0-litre motors come in SEL specification only. Phew! Sorted it all for you?

Equipment levels are good across the board, with all T-Rocs getting at least 16-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch Composition media infotainment system incorporating DAB and Bluetooth. The strong safety kit list includes Front Assist and Lane Assist. Adaptive Cruise Control and front and rear parking sensors. 17-inch wheels and Car-Net App Connect including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink all appear at SE level, while Design basically bundles the two-tone exterior colour schemes, the bright interior dash pad finishes, snazzy upholstery choices and ambient lighting into the mix, as well as a Driver Alert fatigue detection system.

But if you want those oh-so-distinctive separate LED daytime running lamps in the front bumper, or the lovely Active Info Display fully configurable TFT instrument cluster, or factory-fit Discover Navigation, then you have to have the SEL. All other models only gain these features by ticking certain options boxes - meaning the 1.0 TSI, which cannot be had as an SEL, gets quite expensive if you spec it up to a similar level to the range-topping trim.

How does it drive?

We sampled all three engines, a 1.0 TSI in Design spec and then the two four-pot motors as SELs. All of them were lovely; charming crossovers with strong drivetrains and plenty of character. But, if we're honest, as fizzy as it tries to make itself out to be, the 1.0-litre triple is trying to haul along a chunky 1,270kg of Volkswagen, so it sometimes feels out of its depth. The 2.0-litre is more raucous than its siblings and worse on fuel; 30.2-, 33.9- and then 39.5mpg averages were recorded by the three TSIs (going from largest in capacity to smallest, obvs) on the same 32-mile test route.

That leaves us with the 1.5-litre TSI Evo as our preferred engine choice, much as it is in the ordinary Golf range. And, speaking of the Golf, that's how the T-Roc drives - much like a slightly taller Golf. This is praise, mind, not us simply signing the T-Roc off as of little interest. There's a wonderful clean, informative bite to the crossover's steering that speaks volumes about how far Volkswagen's dynamics have come from its fairly recent days of humdrum, understeer-led stodginess. With such a nice set-up in your hands, you can best exploit the T-Roc's surprisingly excellent body control; it stays remarkably upright for a high-sided vehicle during faster cornering and has gigantic reserves of grip to call upon, as well.

There's a good six-speed gearbox, too, with a precise and positive throw that has a distinctive feel to it - kind of like how all BMW's manuals have that unusual, notchy-but-nice action through the gate, Volkswagen's boxes now seem to have a particular shift sensation all of their own. We like it, and we also like the fact you can heel-and-toe effectively in the T-Roc, even if 99.9 per cent of owners would never do such a thing (and wouldn't really need to, either).

What we're not so keen on is the ride. It's very good, superbly controlled and capable of soaking up much of the hardships that will come its way on our varying roads. It's also particularly pleasant on motorways and big A-roads, but there is an underlying firmness to the T-Roc's secondary ride that never quite goes away on lumpier surfaces. It manifests itself most apparently in rather abrupt vertical movements of the body, making the Volkswagen sometimes feel skittish on back roads. It's by no means a deal-breaker to having one of these cars, but we know there are rivals which offer comparable handling to the T-Roc, only with a more cosseting ride for more of the time.

And while we're on complaints, rear passenger space isn't great. Obviously, that's a by-product of that rakish, coupe-like body, possibly the T-Roc's chief weapon - it really does boast impressive showroom allure. That silver 'hockey stick' detail running over the side windows and down the C-pillar is a feature on all cars, but bright paintwork and a contrast roof are not; buyers need to specify those at cost. It's worth doing it, though, because the edgy, attractive bodywork looks fantastic when you're standing up close and personal to the crossover. It really doesn't deserve to be slathered in boring silver, grey or the strange off-white colour that Volkswagen is so keen on right now. Moving back inside, while it's not the most spacious cabin, it is beautifully resolved - especially in higher specification as on the SEL, where it feels a cut above everything (including the Ateca) in this class... apart from the magnificent cockpit of the Peugeot 3008.

Nevertheless, the T-Roc is refined, handsome and - crucially for VW - youthful. It's also blessed with typically strong group-product drivetrains, the 1.5 TSI being the best of the lot because it's so unreally smooth from idle right up to its redline. It also delivers more than adequate road-going performance on the T-Roc, it's the very definition of imperceptible when it shifts from four cylinders to two and back again (you need to look for the round 'Eco' logo in the instrument cluster to know when you've lost half your pistons), and it's also affordable; for instance, the 1.5 Evo SEL we tried for the day weighed in at £25,520, while the 1.0 TSI Design with some choice extras was £24,385. That's simply not a big enough gap to ignore the advantages of the 150hp motor.

And, by the same token, the 2.0-litre 4Motion we tried was £32,865, a comical amount of cash for a crossover like this. Volkswagen admits the 4Motion cars will make up a tiny percentage of UK sales, which is easy enough to work out - the kind of people who want a T-Roc will never need 4Motion traction, while the kind of people who genuinely need all-wheel drive wouldn't even dream of buying a T-Roc. Therefore, the 1.5 Evo seems like the sweet spot of the range.


As you'd expect of a Volkswagen, the T-Roc is a highly polished and amiable machine that is more than capable of challenging for class honours, and customer sales, with the strongest rivals in this class. It is a little bit pricey and not the most practical of crossovers, given its limited rear-seat space, while the ride can be crunchy on occasion, but there's enough here to make recommending the T-Roc an easy call. And, if you're going to go for one, here's our advice: get a 1.5-litre TSI in SEL trim like this, but then do all the designers' hard work a favour by blessing the T-Roc with a fantastic, bold body colour (Turmeric Yellow is a good shout), a black contrast roof and then an interior replete with wild colour pads and stripes on the seats. That way, you're getting the very best ownership experience this agreeable vehicle can serve up.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 22 Dec 2017    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- T-Roc images

2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.

2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.2018 VW T-Roc 1.5 TSI drive. Image by Volkswagen.


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