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Volkswagen T-Roc 2020 review: preview drive

Volkswagen's T-Roc is set to be a more upmarket small SUV offering.
EXPERT RATING
7.5
At long last Volkswagen is set to enter the small SUV market in Australia with a dual-pronged assault.

At long last Volkswagen is set to enter the small SUV market in Australia with a dual-pronged assault.

Arriving in the first quarter of 2020 will be the Polo-based T-Cross and the car we had a chance to drive here, the Golf-based T-Roc.

The T-Roc has been available for some time, but was held up internationally by supply constraints which has made VW late to the ever-booming segment.

Now though, VW is set to expand its SUV offering from three to five and we were able to preview drive an international T-Roc at Sydney’s Luddenham Raceway.

So, does it have the small-SUV chops to take on the segments now-entrenched juggernauts or is VW too late to the party? Read on to see what we can tell you so far.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

We don’t know an awful lot about the kind of exact pricing or specification the T-Roc will carry. We do know that VW is aiming to bring it to market at about $40k (before on-road costs) and that it will be pitched as a more premium offering than the T-Cross which will sit below it.

Volkswagen did let us know a little about the trim levels we can expect. The T-Roc range will consist of the 'Style' which will be available with contrasting exterior paints and colourful interior schemes, the 'Sport' – which will sit in the middle of the range and the R-Line which will get more sporty features like larger alloy wheels and racy highlights from Volkswagen's catalogue.

We're told that two-tone exteriors like this will be available on the 'Style' trim-level. We're told that two-tone exteriors like this will be available on the 'Style' trim-level.

A T-Roc R has also been revealed, touted to have a 221kW/400Nm engine, but it has not been confirmed for Australia yet.

The car we were able to drive on the day was an internationally specified R-Line. It had a 140kW/320Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with '4-Motion' all-wheel drive, gigantic 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED front lighting, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in sat-nav and a reversing camera, ‘Active Info Display’ digital dash cluster, dual-zone climate control, tinted windows and a powered tailgate.

Given Australian cars are generally well-specified compared to most international markets, take that as a fair indicator of the included features.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

The T-Roc carries that strong Volkswagen DNA, slotting in naturally among the cars of this generation already available here.

  • With its coupe roofline and sporty highlights, the T-Roc certainly looks good. With its coupe roofline and sporty highlights, the T-Roc certainly looks good.
  • The rear end carries references to other SUVs in VWs extended family. The rear end carries references to other SUVs in VWs extended family.
  • It's good to see the T-Roc not looking simply like a bloated Golf. It's good to see the T-Roc not looking simply like a bloated Golf.

There’s the same rhomboid light clusters, horizontally slotted dash and strong right-angled lines dashing down the sides.

To mix things up, the T-Roc has a less-than-traditional shape, with a coupe-like roofline and tapered tailgate, a common design theme of other SUVs in the Volkswagen Group, like the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5 and the new-generation Touareg. The rear three-quarter has light clusters which match those of the Tiguan a size above.

Other design bits add to its presence on the road, like the round LED fog lights and contrasted black body-panels. It certainly looks the part matched with the ‘Tumeric Yellow’ paint on the demo car we sampled.

Inside has that same Volkswagen stoic practicality. Inside has that same Volkswagen stoic practicality.

Inside is has the same sensible and ergonomic design themes that will be familiar if you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a Golf.

Our T-Roc didn’t exactly add dollops of extra spice with its grey-on-grey interior, but international examples of the Style trim level promise some more interesting interior schemes.

The colourful interior trim items will hopefully be available on the 'Style' grade. The colourful interior trim items will hopefully be available on the 'Style' grade.

The 8.0-inch multimedia screen is a slick unit with its gloss finish, and the Active Info Display dash cluster helps to class up the cabin from behind the wheel.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

The T-Roc is wider and taller than the Golf on which it is based, and naturally this adds to the amount of storage available on the inside.

The demo car we tested had generous trenches in the doors and dash, as well as four bottle holders for front passengers and a console box with a variable-height armrest in the middle.

Up front leg and arm room were good for a small SUV and I enjoyed leagues of headroom (I’m 182cm tall). The back seat offered a little leeway for my knees behind my own driving position, but it came as a surprise to find that headroom was still great despite the coupe roofline.

The boot on our test car came in at 392 litres which is slightly larger than the Golf’s 380 litres. Front-wheel drive versions of the T-Roc have a 445-litre boot capacity, so that will be worth considering if we end up with both front and all-wheel drive versions in Australia.

Despite the cropped roofline, the T-Roc still has a larger boot than the Golf on which it is based. Despite the cropped roofline, the T-Roc still has a larger boot than the Golf on which it is based.

With the rear seats folded flat space expands out to a really quite good 1237 litres.

The test car had a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, a feature which hopefully carries through to Australian-specified cars in a year’s time.

Making your choice between T-Roc and T-Cross harder, the T-Cross manages to have a spacious back seat and an even larger boot (455L) despite its smaller Polo underpinnings.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Nothing has been confirmed in terms of specification for Australia just yet, but the car we had on test had Volkswagen’s 140TSI 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine which produces 140kW/320Nm.

It has more power but the same torque figure as the 132TSI engine available in the larger Tiguan.

This engine will almost certainly be available on at least one spec level once the car arrives in Australia, but on the day Volkswagen representatives said a 1.4-litre 110TSI (110kW/250Nm) engine from the Golf was also a possibility.

One thing which will set the T-Roc apart from Golf hatchbacks is the availability of 4-Motion all-wheel drive which should be available on at least one T-Roc spec level when it arrives in Australia.

It also inherits the various off-piste driving modes which are available with the system on the Tiguan.

The T-Roc will be available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. No word on manual availability just yet (I wouldn't bet on it).

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Given we were only permitted to drive the T-Roc on the track, stating our fuel consumption figure would hardly be fair.

According to the spec sheet for the overseas car that we tested, the official combined fuel consumption is rated at 6.8L/100km - right between the Golf and Tiguan.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Volkswagen’s drive program for the day had us rotating between the Tiguan 162TSI Wolfsburg Edition, the yet-to-land Touareg 3.0-litre V6 TDI and the 140TSI T-Roc.

Needless to say, the much lighter T-Roc felt far nimbler than the other two. Having a 2.0-litre engine also helped it feel stronger under acceleration than the regular 1.4-litre Golf line-up, but it certainly didn’t have the performance credentials of the GTi.

It even took corners well… for an SUV. At the end of the day, there’s no escaping gravity, so it will never be as planted as a Golf, but the T-Roc has the advantage of all-wheel drive to keep traction in check. If anything I expected to feel more understeer in the corners.

Our drive of the T-Roc was brief, but it did give us a good idea of the little SUV's potential. Our drive of the T-Roc was brief, but it did give us a good idea of the little SUV's potential.

Steering, as with all Volkswagen products, is a breeze. It’s light and surprisingly direct, and from what I could make of the ride comfort, don’t expect any surprises, the T-Roc has every bit the ‘magic’ suspension qualities provided by the Golf.

At the end of the day its everything you’d expect from a Golf-based small SUV and that’s not a bad thing.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Again, local specification is yet to be confirmed, but the demo T-Roc we tested can at least give us an idea of the safety features the T-Roc is able to support.

Our car had city-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring (BSM), lane keep assist (LKAS) with lane departure warning (LDW), rear-cross traffic alert (RCTA), active cruise control and ‘park assist’.

That’s more or less the full suite of active safety features. ANCAP now requires AEB for a maximum five-star rating so we would be surprised not to see it across the range when the T-Roc launches in Australia early next year.

Stay tuned closer to its release date for an ANCAP rating, but in Europe where the T-Cross has been available for some time, it carries a maximum five-star EuroNCAP rating.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The T-Roc will fall under Volkswagen’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty promise. Again, stay tuned closer to the release date for capped price servicing.

Verdict

The T-Roc is set to blaze onto the scene in Australia, offering what appears to be a promising small SUV package. The touted $40k start price looks tall, but the T-Roc is very much a lifestyle vehicle rather than a budget one, and Volkswagen will have the latter segment covered with the Polo-based T-Cross.

For the money you will get all the character and style expected in a Golf, but with the addition of a larger cabin, bigger boot, more powerful engine and all-wheel drive.

We’ll be able to give you a more firm score based on pricing and spec levels closer to the T-Roc’s expected Q1 2020 launch window in Australia.

Are you excited to see Volkswagen hitting the market with small SUVs at long last? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

EXPERT RATING
7.5
Tom White
Journalist

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