At long last, after years of waiting, and delay upon delay, Volkswagen’s T-Roc has made it to Australian shores.
It’s landed here to fill an increasingly large small-SUV-shaped gap underneath the brand’s popular Tiguan mid-sizer, but it’s been on sale since 2017 internationally, so is it too little, too late for VW to take on the small SUV competition in Australia?
We drove a fully specified T-Roc to find out what this Golf-based small SUV has to offer.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
First things first, there’s some good and bad news for VW fans who have been waiting for the brand’s first small SUV.
The good news? The T-Roc is incredibly well specified despite its age, and, to make things easy, just one variant landing in Australia: the hero 140TSI.
The bad news? At a starting price of $40,490 (before on-roads) it’s the most expensive non-premium SUV in Australia.
The T-Roc is incredibly well specified despite its age.
But VW has a strategy here. It has brought in this bells-and-whistles small SUV as part of a dual-pronged assault with the Polo-based T-Cross, which is less powerful and less well equipped in base form, but perhaps better in terms of practical value for its small form factor. The brand admits it expects the T-Cross to outsell the T-Roc in the long term, due to this pricing strategy.
Also, the brand has repeatedly stated to CarsGuide that the door isn’t shut on a lesser specified (110TSI) variant of the T-Roc in the future. So, keep an eye out for it if you fall for the T-Roc’s charm.
18-inch alloys come standard with the T-Roc.
Where were we? Oh, yes: $40,490. Ouch. Our demo car too was fully specced out with the $5500 worth of options which can be fitted, including the ‘Sound and Style’ pack, which includes 19-inch alloys, adaptive chassis control, and the 300W Beats audio system ($2000), and the Luxury package, which includes the panoramic sunroof, Vienna leather seats, and an electric tailgate ($3500).
Very swish but, honestly, the base car has everything you need. This includes 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and built-in nav, a digital dash cluster, leather seats, leather wheel trim, keyless entry with push-start ignition, an auto-dimming rear vision mirror, full LED front lighting with adaptive high-beams, auto folding wing mirrors, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera and park assist, and rain-sensing wipers.
The base car has everything you need, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A lot of stuff. The R-Line styling pack (standard on Australian cars), 'Progressive Steering' and the full safety offering (which we’ll get to later), partially justify the tall pricing.
Again, pricey, but that includes all the equipment you could reasonably expect in this segment and more.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
Yes, there’s plenty to be stoked about when it comes to this little VW’s design. It’s just a fun little thing to look at. Despite having been on sale since 2017, the T-Roc has loads of styling touches at the forefront of VW design, like its honeycomb grille, LED light design, squared-off rear with little spoiler jutting out, and in the case of our car, massive wheels, which fill those arches.
Contrast black-and-chrome fittings do their best to accentuate this car’s sporty look, while my personal favourite touch was those integrated indicator/DRL fittings in the bumper.
There’s plenty to be stoked about when it comes to this little VW’s design.
Sure, it’s no Arteon, but I still think I managed to unintentionally sell three or four of them just having people ask me what it was on the street.
I was a little disappointed to find, however, that some of the more fun colour schemes, with contrast roof finishes available overseas, won't be making it to Australia for the time being.
Inside, things are predictably VW in the best possible way with fittings and design points, which blend the finer features of the Tiguan and Golf ranges. The screens, in particular, were bright and high-resolution and add a high-end feel to the whole cabin.
Contrast black-and-chrome fittings do their best to accentuate this car’s sporty look.
The seats are naturally comfortable in VW’s optional Vienna leather, and almost every surface you touch is soft in some way. Look too deep though, and you’ll notice the entire dash is hard plastics. Gloss finishes – while lovely to look at – will be a nightmare to keep clean for owners, too.
So long as you’re OK with VW design language then, this is among the best-looking and nicely put together small SUVs you can buy.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
Given the T-Roc’s tight dimensions, you might be surprised how big its interior is.
Front passengers get an airy space with loads of leg and headroom, and storage galore with large door bins (with integrated bottle-holders) dual bottle holders in the centre console, a variable height centre console box, a glovebox, and a large trench under the climate controls suitable for phones of any size or other tidbits.
In the second row I was taken aback by how much leg and headroom was available.
There are dual USB outlets and a 12V power outlet for front passengers, but no USB-C.
In the second row I was genuinely taken aback by how much leg and headroom was available, despite a descending roofline and panoramic sunroof. Seat trim matches the front, but middle passengers might suffer with limited room and a large transmission tunnel eating into leg space.
Rear passengers get pockets on the backs of the front seats, a set of adjustable air vents (nice in something this size) and a single 12V power outlet. There is also a drop-down arm-rest with bottle holders, but no USB ports.
There’s still quite a gap between the T-Roc's and the Tiguan's cargo capacity.
This fit our large case on its own or the two small cases, but not all three.
Despite a small looking boot, we were also surprised to find the T-Roc actually offers more space than a Golf at 392 litres. This fit our large case on its own or the two small cases, but not all three. There’s still quite a gap between the T-Roc's and the Tiguan's cargo capacity, although an alternative for the space-conscious could be the Polo-based T-Cross, which offers 445 litres in an even smaller form-factor.
Under the boot floor there’s a space-saver spare wheel and the base for the Beats sound system neatly tucked into it.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
The T-Roc’s single 140TSI engine choice has a namesake 140kW of peak power and 320Nm of torque which, as you might imagine, is plenty for a car this size and certainly among the most powerful options in the non-premium small SUV segment.
The engine is plenty for a car this size.
It’s a four-cylinder turbo engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, driving all four wheels via VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. It also offers several off-road drive settings, as its Tiguan sibling does, but we can hardly recommend venturing on anything other than gravel, especially with the 19-inch wheels as fitted to our vehicle.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
The T-Roc’s claimed/combined fuel figure is 7.2L/100km against which we scored a weekly figure of 9.4L/100km once you exclude our fuel-intensive video shoot. That’s over by a small margin, but understandable given how much fun it is to drive.
The T-Roc has a 50-litre tank and needs to be filled with at least 95RON premium unleaded petrol.
The T-Roc’s claimed/combined fuel figure is 7.2L/100km.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
Put simply, the T-Roc is now the new standard against which I will measure other non-premium small SUVs.
It’s not just that it has plentiful power from the 2.0-litre turbo engine either, it’s everything: ride, handling, refinement. The T-Roc brings much of the magic from the Golf into a small SUV package.
Comparing quickly to competitors, the CX-30 might have a swish interior, but doesn’t quite have the same urgency or ride quality, while the turbo-charged engine in Hyundai’s Kona can’t quite make up for its lack of cabin ambiance.
The T-Roc is now the new standard against which I will measure other non-premium small SUVs.
Again, that 140TSI engine, with its abundance of power, makes the T-Roc light on its feet, and blisteringly quick in a straight line for an SUV, which is not pitched as a performance variant. Weight and confidence are added through the all-wheel drive system, which keeps the ride height in check through the corners.
Adding to its cornering confidence is the progressive steering. It’s heavier than the ‘regular’ VW steering common across most models. While it’s not as much of a cinch to flick around a U-turn, it has a nice character in the bends.
Noise-wise, the T-Roc is quiet. I found all sorts of built-in noise-reducing features, such as foam stoppers hidden all over the engine bay, and glass, which were so effective I couldn’t hear someone talking to me on the other side of a wound-up window during our video shoot. The main noise, which eventually makes its way into the cabin, is the gruff, satisfying rasp of the engine at higher revs.
Adding to its cornering confidence is the progressive steering.
Any downsides? My main complaint is the necessity of watching out for the 19-inch wheels on our test car. With so little rubber on the road, the wrong pothole will mean a chip or bulging tyre, and, while the suspension does a phenomenal job of keeping this car stable and planted, corrugated and potholed roads can upset it on these wheels.
One of the option packs listed on our car was adaptive chassis control, so it would be interesting to see what a ‘base’ car without this option fitted (and perhaps with the standard 18-inch wheel) drives like. Stay tuned for future variant reviews.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
One of the most impressive parts of the T-Roc’s spec list is active safety, which comes standard and is not part of an option pack as it does on most variants of its larger Tiguan sibling.
Front and rear parking sensors are standard, as are a high-res reversing camera, six airbags, two ISOFIX child seat mounting points, and three top-tethers across the back seats.
The T-Roc scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating dated back to October 2018 – at the time of writing, this rating applied only to New Zealand T-Roc variants, but VW Australia assures us that the rating will apply to the cars which arrive here, too.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Just like all its other passenger vehicles, VW covers the T-Roc with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise. This is now up to date with the industry standard.
The T-Roc’s service interval is once every 12 months or 15,000km.
Service pricing for the T-Roc was not available at the time of writing, however, we expect it will be offered with the option of pre-paid service bundles in three- or five-year packs. These offer services at a discounted rate and can be bundled in on finance at the time of purchase.
The T-Roc’s service interval is once every 12 months or 15,000km whichever occurs first.
The T-Roc is a bit of a different take on the small SUV formula from Volkswagen. It’s youthful, well specified and smartly packaged, but its tall cost of entry will make it perhaps only for those seeking a truly superior small SUV drive experience.
Time will tell if the smaller, more affordable T-Cross covers all of VW's bases.