“Too much money isn’t enough money.” The point this hip hop artist was trying to make was that no matter how much money you make, you will always aspire to make more – case in point, Volkswagen. The company has had so much success selling SUVs that they are slowly killing off their sedans to make room for more SUV variations. So much so that when the T-Roc was launched, it left many (including myself) wondering whether, perhaps, their SUV line-up now has one model too many. So when one was offered to me to test, I looked forward to finding out.
The T-Roc marks the arrival of the fourth VW SUV and is positioned between the mid-sized Tiguan and the new entry-level T-Cross. The T-Roc is based on the Golf platform, which brands its identity as the stylish sibling targeting a more youthful audience who desire something larger than a T-Cross, but with a more daring style than that of the Tiguan.
The T-Roc offers two trim specs – Design and R-Line (not to be confused with the R performance models in VW’s other model ranges). The Design trim is available for both engine options, whereas the R-Line can only be accessed by those opting for the flagship 2.0-litre variant. The T-Roc also affords buyers a vast range of colour choices and is the first SUV in the VW range offered with dual paint options. The Design trim offers eight colour choices, four roof colour choices and four alloy wheel options. In addition, the R-Line is available in eight paint finishes and standard 19” alloys. With the right combination of colour and wheels, you can customise a visually arresting vehicle that will turn heads out on the open road.
The sculpted fenders add an element of athleticism to the car’s aesthetics, with the sloping roofline giving the T-Roc that SUV coupé look that buyers have been consuming in recent years. The daytime running lights on the R-Line add greater presence to the front of the car, their placement and design vaguely echoing those found on the new Aston Martin DBX SUV.
Cabin and Practicality
VW interiors have always been impressive, and the T-Roc is no exception, boasting advanced technology and appealing features aimed at a younger demographic. On the Design trim, an 8” touchscreen infotainment system with App Connect and Composition Media radio comes standard and includes automatic climate control, voice control and park distance control. The two USB ports encased at the helm have been future-proofed, thanks to modernised USB Type C ports. For a more enhanced system, one can request to include a 9.2″ screen equipped with a Discover Pro Navigation system and enhanced screen real estate. Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity are standard in the R-Line model. Audiophiles will be pleased to know that VW hasn’t “Forgotten About Dre” with a beats audio system available to belt out tunes.
The cabin is dressed in premium materials, although a few of the plastic panels seem out of place in an otherwise well-appointed interior. The same applies to the piano black trim around the dash, which looks pleasantly sleek but scratches easily and tends to retain dusty fingerprints. The R-Line includes Vienna leather and heated front seats, a digital instrument cluster, keyless entry, and a wireless phone charging pad for a more premium experience. Golf 7 enthusiasts will be quick to recognise the climate control buttons, gauge cluster and steering wheel, which these vehicles share.
Interior space in the cabin is decent, though rear leg and headroom will be tight for taller adults. It is just as snug as a Golf, albeit with a higher seating position. The optional panoramic sunroof should help make the cabin feel less claustrophobic. The T-Roc’s dismal boot space, however, is disappointing. Expecting the sloping roofline to impact load space, I was still surprised to discover that even the baby T-Cross has more room in the back. At 445-l, the T-Roc has the smallest boot capacity in VW’s SUV range.
The T-Roc has two engine options. The base model is equipped with a 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine exerting 110 kW and 250 Nm, which is mated to an 8-speed torque converter automatic. With that power hitting the tarmac through the front wheels, the T-Roc is geared for an 8.4 second 0-100 km/h sprint and approximately 6.1-l/100 km fuel efficiency. The flagship model makes do with a punchier 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol that delivers 140 kW and 320 Nm, which it transfers to its 4Motion all-wheel-drive system through a 7-speed DSG automatic box. VW claims a 0-100 km/h sprint in 7.2 seconds with fuel figures of 7.2-l/100 km. Other, more fortunate markets also get the more powerful R versions of the T-Roc, but this derivative will not be available in South Africa for the foreseeable future.
I was given a 1.4-litre TSI, and though I would have much preferred the punchier 2.0-litre unit, the smaller engine held its own. Where the base model misses out on downright performance, it does not sacrifice dynamism. There are rewards to being closely related to a popular hot hatch. A glance at the spec sheet will reveal that the T-Roc’s ground clearance is an unimpressive 158 mm. While this will not do the car any favours off-road, it more than makes up for it on the tarmac. The lower centre of gravity translates to a more sporty driving experience than the Tiguan or Toureg can offer. That, combined with the well-calibrated steering system, translated into a gratifying driving experience. The suspension also strikes the right balance between comfort and handling, keeping body roll in check while providing a supple ride.
On the safety front, theR-Line comes standard with safety features such as front-assist area monitoring with city emergency braking and pedestrian monitoring, an automatic post-collision braking system, as well as lane assist. Additionally, you could opt-in VW’s IQ.Drive, a safety system that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, park assist, and rear traffic alert.
I was impressed by the T-Roc’s driving dynamics as much as I was with its looks, even if its striking design comes at the expense of storage space and ground clearance. While the base model enters the market at a reasonable R489,400, the optional extras are relatively pricey. They will quickly inflate the price to Tiguan levels, which may be a more practical choice, depending on the use case. Then again, car buyers are often swayed by emotions rather than practical considerations. The Mercedes GLE Coupé and BMW X6 are testaments to how people are willing to compromise on practicality and spend more money for the sake of style and making a statement. The T-Roc is a stylish vehicle that stands out from its stablemates. If VW’s gamble pays off, this model will prove popular with the younger target audience. All that remains to be seen is whether or not the market will buy with their hearts and choose the T-Roc over the tantalising alternatives offered by the Mazda CX-3, BMW X2, Toyota CH-R and Hyundai Kona.
Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © VW South Africa