Sunday 20 January 2019

T-Roc: a subtle 'crossover' of compliments, criticisms

Smart coupé looks but diesel a let down

Volkswagen T-Roc
Volkswagen T-Roc
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

This week's test car forced me to think anew about criticisms and compliments. I came to the conclusion that the Volkswagen T-Roc 'crossover/SUV' is a good example of how sometimes - not too often - a criticism can mellow into a compliment. And sometimes a compliment can morph into a criticism (in true 'crossover' fashion). Let me explain.

Previously - and on relatively short drives in the T-Roc - I had reservations about it being not sufficiently 'SUV-looking'. To me, it came across more as a large coupé than a muscle-hustle small SUV. I didn't feel it was distinctive enough.

But as I became better acquainted with it - I worked it hard in town and country for long periods - I found myself nudging from criticism to compliment on that front. Some might call that backtracking; I'd label it a crossover of opinion if you don't mind.

I also believe many people want a higher driving position: the one in this newcomer is excellent. And it was exceptionally easy to access and egress. But I really believe lots of people don't care for a bulky hulk of a vehicle - either in traffic or their driveway.

The T-Roc's less pronounced look and squat stance strikes a balance a substantial number will welcome.

I get enough correspondence from potential buyers looking for exactly that sort of more subdued outline.

But I'm not relying on such support to offer my preference. I've come to really like the look and feel of this. It has definitely grown on me. It's a proper smart crossover in several ways.

I can also see why Volkswagen says this could eventually outsell the evergreen Golf. Perish the thought but it is a reality given our growing fascination with SUVs and Crossovers. Would it be such a leap to go from the famous Golf to the less-than-SUV shape of the T-Roc? It wouldn't, you know, so give Volkswagen credit for looking ahead; the transition from hatch to crossover would be as near to being seamless as you'll get.

The high-specced 'Sport' version I had on test was ladled with comfort and safety elements. But there was little fuss or frippery; there was a simple, straightforward dash, excellent seats and that great driving position. Yes, the touchscreen interface/graphics lag those in the Peugeot 3008 SUV - but then so does every other rival.

However, the crossover to criticism from compliment kicked in when it came to the engine in my test version. Given the car had all-wheel-drive (4Motion, Volkswagen calls it) I expected a good, strong powerplant. In this case it was a 2-litre diesel pumping 150bhp. We know it well and have praised it in other models.

Not in the T-Roc, though. Nope. It felt and sounded unrefined (quite a boom out of it) when pressed for pick-up at reasonable speed, for example (a drawback in a car like this). On the face of it that shouldn't be the case at all when you look at its technical facts and figures. But, as can be the case, they don't tell the full story. I'd take a front-wheel-drive 1.5-litre, or 1-litre turbo, petrol over it any day.

Not helping the overall drive either were the 19ins wheels/tyres on my test car. They looked great and may satisfy the accessory-mad technophiles but I thought they relayed too many thuds on poorer roads compared with what the 17ins variants offer.

Thankfully most aspects of the car did not blur the critical/compliment divide.

Leaving aside the criticisms already levelled, this was an engagingly sharp drive, stemming from an energetic chassis and a good sense of engineering balance between sportiness and passenger comfort.

It was neat for town traffic, a dream to park and a comfortable companion on the journeys down and around the midlands.

I also have to say my drives were substantially improved by the excellent DSG (automatic) transmission. What a difference it made.

Yes, I can see why people are praising this newcomer. It's the sort of car that appeals on several fronts and will be a big favourite, I've no doubt.

But it still warrants one last criticism: for the poor space afforded to rear-seat passengers (that didn't suit the tall daughter at all).

The thing is, you see, there is a more-than-decent boot. The choice, obviously, was more boot space or rear knee-room and VW went for the boot. I feel that's a pity; it's undoubtedly a drawback. But even factoring that in, the T-Roc still emerged as an impressive package (especially as a 2WD petrol driven previously).

I think it accommodates, better than most of its ilk, the criticisms and compliments that go hand-in-hand with being a first-class Crossover these days.


Volkswagen T-Roc 'Sport' 2-litre (1,968cc, 150bhp), 4Motion ('4-wheel-drive'), 7spd DSG, 134g/km, road tax €280.

'Sport' price: €36,695; delivery charge €775. On-road price: €37,470 plus €5,496 extras = €42,966. Range starts €24,750.

Test car equipment: adaptive cruise control, park distance control, 'Composition Media' radio system (eight speakers), front sports seats, chrome mouldings, front fogs/cornering light, driver alert, voice control, app connect, lane assist, high beam control, active info display.

Options include: electric tailgate, Beats' sound system, 19ins alloys, satnav, tilt/slide sunroof; sports, winter packages.

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