FOR a company with so much SUV know-how it has taken Volkswagen long enough to come up with the T-Roc.
The compact SUV is almost last on the scene and facing a veritable army of well established rivals, some of them outstanding.
Volkswagen’s sport utility range already has Tiguan and Golf Sportvan so you can imagine the VW marketing team scratching their heads wondering ‘where do we fit the T-Roc in’?
They certainly would not want to clash with their Audi A2, Seat Arona and Skoda Karoq cousins.
Fortunately Tiguan has grown in size and moved up market leaving a slot for T-Roc which will be followed by the smaller T-Cross.
So what is T-Roc? In size it is a pumped up Golf, sitting between Arona and Karoq but smaller than a Nissan Qashqai so it sort of floats in its own pool but knocking on the door of those below like Hyundai Kona, Renault Captur and Nissan Juke, and those above like Seat Ateca, Karoq and Honda HR-V.
An interesting point about T-Roc is that it has a bit of character, even mildly funky, and you don’t normally get that from VW whose rigid styling is always right down the middle.
With everyone clamouring for crossovers T-Roc offers an alternative to a Polo or Golf. It is taller than most of the pack so it looks bigger than it is but still has a tad more room than the conventional family hatchback.
That said customers need to clue up before setting pen to paper. A two wheel drive has a decent sized boot (445 litres) bigger than a Golf, but you lose around 50 litres of space with the all wheel drive 4Motion.
Inside is another revelation. We have been used to bland same old, same old dashboard layouts but this is a different kettle of fish. It virtually mirrors upper levels of the Golf with the central 8in colour touchscreen for most of the car’s tech functions like navigation, Bluetooth and digital radio with the main event a 10.3in Active Info Display that fills the driver’s binnacle.
It is digital and can be easily customised with all manner of info pods from a conventional looking speedo and rev counter to a full width navigation map, or a combination of anything and everything.
The display is stunning yet it was let down by one tiny detail. The blue full beam light can barely be seen in its tiny window at the base of the screen. With all that space they should have done better. Just moving it to the top of the screen would help.
It will come as no surprise that driving T-Roc is an absolute joy. It feels just like a Golf which still reigns as my top hatchback, so steering and handling are top notch. The suspension set up is as near to perfect as you can get.
VW expect as many as eight out of 10 T-Roc sales to be petrol power, a total turnaround to a couple of years ago and indicative of the anti diesel move sweeping Europe.
The company is in a strong position with excellent 1-litre and 1.5 litre petrol engines but I have not been swayed by the dirty diesel argument. These engines are cleaner than ever and far less polluting than petrol engines and besides that offer sparkling performance and economy.
The 2-litre diesel powering my test car was smooth, refined and responsive and always hovering around the 50mpg mark.
Even though it is late to the SUV party T-Roc will have a broad appeal thanks to its styling, build quality and overall family package. What might put people off is the price. The range starts at £20,425 but people shopping around will find rivals offering more kit.
Take a look on this site at what £25k gets you in a Hyundai Kona. This SEL is one away from top of the range and does not have a rear view camera as standard.
T-Roc SEL 4Motion
2-litre TDI; 147bhp
0-62mph 8.7secs; 132mph
Road tax £140
Insurance group 19
£28,345 (£31,900 test car)