2017 Volkswagen T-Roc review: A fashion-first VW

The VW T-Roc is a small SUV that sits in between the Nissan Qashqai and Nissan Juke in size. Its main rivals include the Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman, but it’s more practical than both, so if you’re after a high-riding, funky-looking hatchback with a range of spry petrols and diesels, you’re looking in the right place.  

Body Style: 5 door SUV

Seats: 5

MRP from £20,425-£31,485 

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Did you know? In 2017, one in every three cars sold globally is an SUV 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The VW T-Roc is a small SUV that promises good practicality, slick dynamics, affordable running costs and those all-important chunky, high-riding 4x4 looks and contrast colour options. It does the job of a fashion-first compact crossover in typically efficient, capable VW way. Even so, our main quibbles are that the interior plastics feel cheap in areas, and the low-speed ride is firm. Pricing is a touch punchy, too, since the Audi Q2 has the more desirable badge but is similarly priced – albeit the Audi isn’t as well equipped and has older engines.

We Like

Masses of equipment even on base model

Chunky, distinctive looks

More fun to drive than many rivals 

We Don't Like

Top-end models are expensive

Interior feels cheap

Nav is a pricey option on core trims

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

There’s a swarm of compact crossovers to choose from these days, but the bluff-edged VW T-Roc is one of the more distinctive. Even entry-level SE models get roof rails, a chrome surround for the grille and 17-inch alloy wheels, while Design trim adds a contrast roof – there are 24 colour combinations, no less – privacy glass, and chrome, trapezoidal twin exhausts. Range-topping SE L goes still further with 18-inch alloys, LED headlights and fog lights, but every model should look suitably sharp.

Being bigger and higher-riding than small cars like the VW Polo, but not as big as stuff like the VW Tiguan that sits above the T-Roc in the Volkswagen lineup, the T-Roc is a good size if you want a car that feels relatively roomy without being a pain to park and steer around torturous multi-storey car parks and the bedlam of the school run. It’s not dissimilar in size and even function, really, to a straightforward VW Golf.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The VW T-Roc has a straightforward dash layout and sensible driving position that offers enough adjustment to cater to most shapes and sizes. The pedals are well-placed, and the seats supportive, particularly the more heavily bolstered seats of SEL trim. Visibility is acceptable, but the view to the rear isn’t great – at least you get standard front and rear parking sensors across the range to help out in a tight spot.

What’s more disappointing is the perceived quality of the ineterior, which overall errs much more towards what you’d expect in the Polo class than in a car that’s realistically going to cost in the region of £25k. The plastics feel a bit scratchy and hard, and the colourful trim inserts that you can have from Design and above look a tad tacky and aftermarket. They’re blocks of colour that sit slightly uncomfortably in an otherwise impressively logical but very conventionally designed dash, as if VW remembered at the last moment that the T-Roc was supposed to be cool and youthful, so threw in some colourful trims. It’s not like the Mini Countryman’s interior, certainly, which manages to look both interesting and quirky as well as classy.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Practicality  

The T-Roc excels here. It has one of the biggest boots of its immediate rivals, plus you get a height-adjustable boot floor and 60/40 split rear seats that fold down to leave a smooth loadbay. Even the front passenger seat can be folded so you can thread a circa 2.0-metre long item into the car if you’re not carrying any passengers.

The boot aperture is a functional squared-off shape, too, although the load lip is high. An electric tailgate is optional.

Two average-sized adults will be comfortable in the back, and the high ride height and decent door opening will make this a good option if you’ve got to lean in and contort children into car seats regularly.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

All T-Rocs get an 8.0in colour touchscreen that sits high in the dash and is tilted slightly towards the driver. It responds quickly and has touch-sensitive shortcut buttons that allow you to hop about between functions easily, and you also get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink as standard. On top of that, there’s Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree, two USB inputs, DAB radio, a CD player and six speakers – even on base SE cars - making this one of the best systems overall in this class.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

However, the catch comes when you realise that factory-fit sat-nav costs a whacking £1130 on SE or Design, and is standard only on range-topping SEL. Sure, with the phone connectivity Apps included, you can always use that instead, but in our experience a factory-fit nav is much more reliable and is something that loads of buyers want, so it’s a shame that it’s such an expensive option.

You can also forego the T-Roc’s standard dials in favour of a very swank fully digital readout called Active Info Display (standard on SEL) that allows you to toggle through different views that favour the nav map, your music choices or the conventional speedo and rev counter. It looks great, but we found it a bit tricky to switch view easily, and we reckon you’d end up sticking to a standard layout in the end as the speedo is hard to see in quite a few of the view options. For that reason, we’d stick to the perfectly decent normal dials.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance

At launch, the T-Roc is offered only with petrol engines including a 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0-litre. A 1.6 or 2.0 diesel engine will join the range a bit later, and you’ll be able to add a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic to any engine in the range except the 1.0 TSI or 1.6 TDI.

Four-wheel drive will be standard on the highest powered petrol, and optional on the 2.0 TDI, making this one of the broadest engine ranges in the compact SUV class. The only notable omission is that there’s no hybrid option, as you get with the Mini Countryman PHEV.  

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

We drove the range-topping 2.0 TSI 4Motion model, which delivers a muted hot-hatch sprightliness that few rivals attempt to deliver. It’s refined and the auto gearbox smooths everything over very effectively whether you’re haring down a country road or puttering to the shops, so if you really want a pacey small SUV then this is a good option. But having experienced the 1.5-litre petrol in the Skoda Karoq recently, we’d say that even a front-wheel drive, manual 1.5 T-Roc is likely to feel perky and enthusiastic (and it’s cheaper by an eye-watering £7000), so don’t feel like this 2.0 TSI is your only option if you want a T-Roc with a bit of verve. Even the 1.0-litre three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol does a fine job in plenty of other fairly chunky cars in the VW Group range, so on balance of cost and effectiveness, that could be a great option if you’re mostly urban-based with the odd motorway journey.  

We haven’t driven any of the diesels yet, but if you do a lot of mileage or are buying as a company car user than the mid-range 2.0 TDI 150 would be our educated guess at your best option for strong performance and low running costs.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Handling and comfort

It’s quite a sporty-feeling number, the T-Roc. Sure, there’s a bit of body roll going on, and the handling in the 4Motion car errs more on the side of predictable and precise rather than fun. But the T-Roc turns in keenly, steers neatly and sweeps through direction changes with enough voracity to offer a spark of entertainment if you look for it.

You don’t get variable drive modes as standard unless you opt for range-topping SEL, but you can add them for just £160, which isn’t strictly necessary but at that price it’s worth it.

The flipside is that the ride is firm, even on optional adaptive dampers (mind you, the 19-inch alloys on our test car likely didn’t help). It’s quite restless over poor town roads, and thumps about over potholes even at higher speeds, although it does settle well on the motorway, where you'll be more bothered by the rather noticeable wind noise rushing over the windscreen. We’d certainly suggest you avoid the optional sports suspension, which is only going to make the ride more unforgiving.

Recommended engine

1.5 TSI Evo manual

0-62 MPH

8.3 seconds

Fuel economy

TBC

Emissions

120g/km

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The T-Roc gets six airbags, but no driver’s knee airbag which seems odd given that it’s standard fit on a VW Golf. You also can’t add Isofix fitting to the front passenger seat, although of course you get two Isofix fittings in the back.

Regardless, it’s got great safety kit and driver aids be class standards, which is why Euro NCAP has awarded it the full five stars in crash tests. Adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking at city speeds, lane assist, and automatic lights and wipers are all included across the range. Even front and rear parking sensors are standard on every T-Roc, which is a first in this class. You can add a rear view camera, and a park assist system that steers the car into a bay or space for you.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Design and SEL trims also include a fatigue monitor that warns when it thinks the driver should take a break, or it’s pocket money to add it to base SE trim.

High beam assist is another cheap option, and adding it will mean that the headlights dip or raise automatically depending on road conditions and oncoming traffic.

An alarm is standard across the range, and a space saver tyre is standard on Design and SEL but, oddly, can't be added to SE. 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Colours

Provided you go for Design trim or up, you can have one of four contrasting roof colours to complement the palette of 11 bright body colours, which means that there are 24 combinations on offer. There’s also a really good range of affordable wheel options that include a garish orange design, and a few rather more subtle grey or black wheels that are sure to be popular.

Grey is the only non-cost paint option, but red or white with contrasting monochrome roof is a cheap and very smart-looking exterior finish. We rather like the bright, Ravenna Blue metallic finish (pictured below on the left) with a black roof, which costs £575 – and you can have that with blue, yellow, orange, grey or black interior finish. Suffice to say, there’s a really good range of personalisation options to make your T-Roc your own.  

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Trim Levels

There are three trim levels, and even base SE is really well equipped with the full gamut of infotainment stuff (see Technology and Connectivity above), plus adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, electric windows, dual-zone climate control, and heated, electrically folding door mirrors.

Design adds the option of that contrast roof, the colourful interior trims, and some ambient lighting in the cabin, as well as a few exterior style tweaks. SEL adds sat-nav, the digital Active Info Display, drive modes, LED headlights and fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and sports seats.  

The only pricey things you may want to add are sat-nav (standard on SEL), and a panoramic glass roof. 

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,234mm

Width

1,819mm

Height

1,573mm

Max towing weight unbraked - braked

TBC

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The VW T-Roc has usefully better emissions than rivals like the Mini Countryman, and even the Audi Q2 – which makes do with an older 1.4 petrol instead of the VW’s newer and more efficient 1.5 (both can shut off cylinders to improve emissions and fuel consumption).

Having said that, VW is yet to confirm the official economy of the 1.5 petrol. The 1.0 does more than 55mpg on a combined cycle, and in our experience is more likely to return around 40mpg in the real world, so the diesels – which will be closer to 50mpg in everyday use – will still be the better bet for high mileage users.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

Insurance groups and predicted re-sale values are yet to be confirmed, but we’d expect the T-Roc to be very competitive on both fronts, albeit unlikely to hold its value quite as well as a Mini Countryman or Audi Q2. 

Reliability and servicing

Every T-Roc comes with a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty which can be extended up to four years and 75,000 miles for £250, or five years and 90,000 miles for £565. The car will tell you when it needs servicing with a message on your dash, but VW recommends  servicing every 10,000 miles, which is more frequent than many rivals that have much higher mileage service intervals. You can opt for a fixed price service plan that’ll be spread out in monthly payments if you wish.

Minor

12 months or 10,000 miles

Major

24 months or 20,000 miles

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Provided you go for the lower-end engines, the T-Roc is quite reasonably priced given the very high equipment levels. It’s certainly got more equipment than equivalent Mini Countryman or Audi Q2 models for similar list prices, although it’s worth considering that you can get bigger SUVs – the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq included – for much the same price as the T-Roc, or the smaller Seat Arona, Hyundai Kona and Kia Stonic are all usefully cheaper and will still seat for adults with relative ease. Ultimately, you are paying a premium for the style factor and badge appeal on offer in the T-Roc. And we’d recommend you stay away from top-end models like the 2.0 TSI, which cost well over £30k – a price arena that that the T-Roc doesn’t sit well in.

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc

PCP finance offers are reasonable, but this being a very new model, the big savings and offers are yet to appear. Stick a £2500 deposit down on a 1.5 TSI Design model with metallic paint, and you’ll pay some £350 per month over four years.

Company car users are well-served by the T-Roc, which has some of the best emissions in the class excepting hybrid alternatives, and therefore is also cheap on Benefit In Kind tax. A VW T-Roc 1.0 TSI Design will cost a 40% tax payer £6106 in tax over three years from 2017, while a much more sparsely equipped Mini Countryman Cooper will cost some £1200 more over that period.

However, a 1.0-litre Audi Q2 SE (also not as well equipped) will cost much the same to run despite its more desirable badge, while a high-spec Toyota C-HR Hybrid will cost about £600 less than the T-Roc.

Recommendations 

Tech Junkie

SEL gets nav and fully digital dials to keep you happy

Cost Conscious

The cheapest trim is SE and it has everything you need. You’ll have to live without factory sat-nav, though.

Trend Setter

Design trim offers all the visual wow factor you could want, with loads of colour variations inside and out

Rivals

Audi Q2

A more desirable badge, and much the same price, but not as well equipped.  

Peugeot 3008

Funky looks, an interesting interior, and more spacious, too.

Mini Countryman

Sparsely equipped as standard, but more overtly fun to drive than the VW and with better brand cache and a hybrid option

Seat Arona

Smaller and cheaper but ultimately still a compact SUV that seats four and has contrasting exterior colour options.

Skoda Karoq

Bigger and more practical for similar money, but not as fashionable.  

 

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