Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ready T-Roc the boat with VW's compact SUV? Would you buy it instead of a Golf?

First drive in Lisbon: Volkswagen T-Roc

Volkswagen T-Roc
Volkswagen T-Roc
Volkswagen T-Roc
VW T-Roc's boot space
VW T-Roc
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Volkswagen expect their new compact SUV/Crossover T-Roc to eventually outsell the Golf. It arrives next month but really goes on sale in January (from €24,750; 1-litre TSI 115bhp petrol) and they're predicting 1,800 buyers for 2018.

That's a lot of people coming to a new model for the first time and is a measure of the demand for these vehicles right now. The mere fact it is a Crossover is almost a guarantee people will buy it.

Obviously it will 'cannibalise' VW Golf purchases - its starting price is similar to the much-loved hatch - but ironically that will lower the number it has to sell to outstrip its stablemate too. It will take buyers from other brands and those for whom the likes of the Tiguan is too big.

I'm a fan of the Golf and convinced that while buyer numbers may shrink a bit, it will be a major player for years.

So I thought it might be useful after my first drive in the T-Roc to set out a few reasons for buying it instead of a Golf (or most family hatchbacks for that matter) - and a few reasons for maybe sticking with one of the great cars of our time.

1. For: Obvious. It's a compact Crossover/SUV. It's more coupe looks tick the box for what people want in a motor for this money.

Against: The Golf retains classic looks.

2. For: The T-Roc's interior, while not mould-breaking, is more interesting than the Golf's. The higher driving position is a key reason so many love the crossover/SUV. Is it a deal-maker? Probably. The colour inserts in the cabin, the wrap-around design catering for the driver make it a brighter, busier cabin.

Against: The Golf's interior is now decent following the most recent upgrade. It has a lovely, admittedly lower, driving position too. And so much of the T-Roc stuff is so familiar from the VW pool, no matter how hard they dress up the dash and cluster. Considering it is the first of a new wave of models, you'd expect something more catching. But then Volkswagen don't do that sort of thing, do they?

3. For: On our drives, the T-Roc was tidy in handling and didn't suffer from much bodyroll, something that afflicts most Crossovers. It still lags the Golf but was a smart and confident drive for the most part. Better than I expected.

Against: It still lags the Golf on drive; always will.

4. For: The T-Roc has a claimed best-in-class boot, and the ability to generate more by flattening the rear seats. Its basic 445-litre capacity is 65 more than Golf - 1,290 when the seats are folded.

Against: The Golf's boot is a bit of an Achilles heel, I'll concede, but is 65 litres fewer than the T-Roc such a wild differential? It's more cumulative than deal-breaker.

5. For: There's a nice engine line-up. I expect the 1-litre to be particularly sweet. Stupidly, they only had 2-litre petrol and diesels on test here. The diesel was really poor.

Against: That 1-litre petrol is lovely in the Golf too.

6. For: Good room out front; reasonable visibility.

Against: Rear legroom is poor. Probably the biggest drawback of all. The elevated seating position helps a bit. Thick middle pillars hinder access and I found they didn't help over-the-shoulder visibility either.

7. For: T-Cross straddles segments; it's not as roomy as the Nissan Qashqai nor as small as the Renault Captur. Bit confusing for buyers?

Against: You know exactly what you're getting with the Golf.

Overall score: The T-Roc wins more than it loses but a Golf is a Golf.

A few general comments. It was hard not to be impressed. Okay, it doesn't have the presence or cockpit of the Peugeot 3008SUV, the keen pricing of the SEAT Ateca nor the internal size of the Skoda Kodiaq. But it is a smart, well-made, nippy Volkswagen compact crossover. There's a sequence of words to sway buyers.

It's well engineered and takes points across the spectrum. I can see why Volkswagen say it could outstrip the Golf.

There will be a 1.6-litre diesel by March but I look forward to driving the 1-litre petrol (anticipated 50pc of sales; 1.5-litre - 13pc and diesel 37pc sales)in the new year, please God.

And there will be a smaller T-Cross (currently in concept mode) by 2019.

SOME KEY FACTS: l Prices: from €24,750 for 1-litre TSI 115bhp petrol. Initial line-up: 1-litre TSI 115bhp, 1.5-litre 150bhp petrol, 2-litre TDI 150bhp 4Motion diesel.

* Early next year: 1.5-litre DSG 150bhp, 1.6-litre 115bhp diesel.

*4,234mm long, 1,819 wide, 1,573mm tall. It's 252mm shorter, 11mm wider, 131mm lower than the Tiguan; 21mm shorter, 21mm wider, 120mm higher than the Golf.

* 445-litre boot (65 litres more than the Golf); 170 litres fewer than the Tiguan. Fold 60/40 rear seats for 1,290 litres.

* Standard spec (T-Roc, 1-litre TSI 115bhp) includes Front Assist, Lane Assist, Climatronic 2-zone air con, USB interfaces, Bluetooth connectivity, 6.5in 'Composition Colour' radio system.

* Design spec (1-litre TSI 115bhp petrol), €26,995, adds 16ins alloys, larger Composition Media radio system (8in touchscreen) chrome package, voice control, app connect.

* Top-of-range Sport - choice of 1.5-litre 150bhp petrol or 2-litre 150bhp TDI (6spd manual/7spd DSG).

* 1.5-litre TSI Sport from €29,750; 2-litre TDI 4Motion from €34,795. Spec includes sports seats, 17in alloys, LED headlamps, tinted rear windows.

* Number of Technology Upgrade Packs. For entry-level that includes adaptive cruise control, front fogs, 16in alloys (for combined €599).

* Upgrade on Design includes tinted rear windows, anodised roof rails, mirror pack (total cost €399).

* Loads of 'packs'. Example: €1,499 upgrade on Sport spec gets you 'Discover Media' sat nav, rear view camera, winter pack and panoramic sunroof.

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