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Volkswagen T-Roc 2021 review: 140TSI 4Motion Sport

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Is the Volkswagen T-Roc a Golf in drag?

That’s a compliment, given the charisma, nerve, uniqueness and talent that such a transformation implies. More importantly, does T-Roc deserve to carry the Golf-of-crossovers tiara?

Sat below the related Tiguan but above the Polo-derived T-Cross, the Portuguese-built T-Roc might be aimed at people who may long for an old-school coupe like the Scirocco (is this what ‘Roc’ suggests?), but who are also resistant to SUVs and their mundane ubiquity – despite actually needing one. The ‘T’, therefore, could stand for torn.

But let’s avoid an imbroglio as this is only our assumption, and instead dive into Germany’s latest crossover, and how it works in an urban setting.

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

Starting from $40,490 before on-road costs, the T-Roc 140TSI 4Motion (all-wheel drive) Sport doesn’t really have a Golf specification equivalent, since it’s priced between the latter's $35,000 110TSI Highline and $47,000 GTI.

Like the Golf hot-hatch legend, the 140TSI uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and dual-clutch transmission (dubbed DSG in VW-speak) rather than the former’s 1.4-litre turbo, but brings extra ride height, AWD and, of course, a completely different body and interior.

As a result, you can look at this T-Roc in two ways – as either a cut-price GTI-lite crossover in stilettos or – since you can’t buy a Golf with AWD unless it’s a wagon with the Alltrack badge on the back – the brand’s cheapest new SUV with AWD, for now. The Tiguan equivalent costs $3500 more. 4Motion also includes an Off-road mode in this instance, adding another feather to the VW’s capability cap.

Equipment levels are frankly impressive. Equipment levels are frankly impressive.

Not that the 140TSI 4Motion Sport looks like it’s ready to go bush, not with its standard R-Line body kit, 18-inch alloys, lowered suspension and dark window tinting. Finished in a fetching Flash Red (a standard solid colour, along with Pure white; the metallics add $600), the T-Roc appears set for the urban streetscape.

Equipment levels are frankly impressive. A full suite of safety is included, along with adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam acceleration/braking assist and a gentle lane-keep nudge at higher speeds, rear-cross traffic alert, automatic parking, auto on/off wipers and LED headlights with auto high beam, digital multi-screen instrumentation, 8.0-inch touchscreen housing sat-nav, reverse camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/start, folding door mirrors, ambient cabin lighting and leather wheel with paddle shifters.

Niceties like a panoramic sunroof, leather, heated front seats and a powered tailgate (conveniently bundled as part of a $3500 Luxury Package) weren’t fitted to our utterly standard test vehicle. Seriously, even without these though, our T-Roc looked like a $50K-plus proposition. Which brings us to value.

Finished in a fetching Flash Red, the T-Roc appears set for the urban streetscape. Finished in a fetching Flash Red, the T-Roc appears set for the urban streetscape.

By their very nature of being essentially small-car based, crossovers put a bit more emphasis on style and desirability compared to big boxy SUVs, so getting your head around finding suitable rivals for the I40TSI 4Motion Sport requires some deeper thinking.

We’d include the Toyota C-HR Turbo Koba AWD (from $37,665), Mazda CX-30 G25 Touring AWD (from $38,490), Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Exceed AWD (from $39,490), Hyundai Kona Highlander AWD (from $40,200), Ford Escape ST-Line AWD (from $40,990) and Kia Seltos GT-Line AWD (from $41,400).

Yet the T-Roc transcends these in terms of perceived quality and presentation, to also bother far-pricier like-sized luxury-branded crossovers, such as the Lexus UX, Volvo XC40, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X2.

Advantage: VW.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Striking rather than sexy, the angular T-Roc lacks the aesthetic purity of a Golf – there are one too-many body creases and fussy detailing all over the vehicle for that – but somehow the overall effect works anyway. 

The face is one of the friendliest of all current VWs, with a big smiley grille, pretty headlight treatment and daytime running lights that look like big dimples ringed with LEDs. Distinctive and clever.

Shod with an R-Line body kit and 215/50R18-wide rubber that fill the arches nicely, the 140TSI 4Motion Sport has an aggressive and purposeful stance, but the rear haunches are a little heavy handed, while the rear is utterly generic-VW. As the Sport badge might suggest, the suspension is slightly worked compared to the imminent T-Roc 110TSI, sitting 3mm lower with 158mm ground clearance.  

Striking rather than sexy, the angular T-Roc lacks the aesthetic purity of a Golf. Striking rather than sexy, the angular T-Roc lacks the aesthetic purity of a Golf.

Lightly bolstered and colour-coded seating, piano-black trim contrasted with matt metallic highlights and a flat-bottomed three-spoke wheel do much to keep the cabin from also looking like a Wolfsburg Identikit interior, but then again, when the overall result is as cohesive as this, that’s hardly a criticism.

So, after reading all this, are you shocked to know that there is a T-Roc convertible offered elsewhere? Yep, underlining the deep coupe thinking underlying this car’s existence, VW has seen fit to engineer a two-door ragtop version of this SUV as a belated replacement for the unloved 2000s Eos and Beetle Cabriolet.

How practical is the space inside?

The T-Roc’s cabin is a deftly executed combination of style and substance.

You won’t find flocked door pockets, sadly (maybe that’s the provenance of the Golf), but otherwise there is a racy, almost sports-trainer look about the interior.

Like a GTI, the flat-bottomed three-spoke red-stitched leather wheel, two-tone bolstered front seats, grey-gloss trim, metal-look pedals and black themes certainly add a sense of athleticism inside, adding some Scirocco sass to the T-Roc.

The T-Roc’s cabin is a deftly executed combination of style and substance. The T-Roc’s cabin is a deftly executed combination of style and substance.

Just as importantly, there’s a premium feel in here for the $40K ask as well, underlined by VW’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation (with its numerous instrumentation views, vehicle data and multimedia displays to scroll through), a huge touchscreen, sat-nav, auto parking, colourful mood lighting, paddle shifters, kerb-side mirror dip when reversing and that Teutonic solidity infusing most German vehicles. Weighty, solid doors do their best to remind you of that.

Still, what there is most is functionality. Good vision out (aided by cushion-height adjusters for both front buckets), fairly deep side windows, big-bottle-able door pockets, under-seat storage and a hungry glovebox. Note, though, that the centre armrest-cum-bin is a bit on the small side.

The rear seat offers sufficient knee room, but we’re not talking sprawling space back there. The rear seat offers sufficient knee room, but we’re not talking sprawling space back there.

Additionally, the usual Golf plus points apply – sprawling space up front, thoughtfully executed driving position options, excellent build quality, supportive outboard seating (with lumbar control up front), ample ventilation, chunky grab handles on doors and ceiling too and solid plastics too.

There’s a bit of SUV packaging smarts sneaking into this stylish crossover anyway, as the easy entry/egress, high ceilings and generous headroom figures attest. The rear seat offers sufficient knee room (and lots of comfort) for most folk up to about 180cm tall sitting behind another 180cm person, but we’re not talking sprawling space back there. Amenities include reasonable door pockets, auto up/down windows that drop all the way, reading lights, face-level air vents, coat hooks, overhead and door grab handles, wide centre armrest and cupholders.


But we can’t help thinking that the T-Roc misses a trick by not offering a sliding/reclining rear seat or any form of second-row USB access.

Beneath the tailgate is a wide, long, flat but not-very-deep floor, hiding a space-saver spare, as well as room for odds and ends to be stored out of sight, four hooks to tie things to, and a 60/40 backrest with ski-port access to the cabin. Boot capacity is rated at 392L VDA.

As with the rest of the interior, the finish and fit back here is exemplary, as per brand expectations.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Volkswagen manufactures many brilliant engines, and the 1984cc 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder petrol unit engine with Start/Stop system (to help earn it the Bluemotion Technology badge) is no exception.

Silken yet strong, it delivers a heady 140kW of power between 4900-6000rpm and 320Nm of torque between 1500-4800rpm with effortless ease, assisted by a very slick and responsive seven-speed wet-clutch dual-clutch transmission. It includes a ‘Sport’ mode as well as a ‘Manual’ mode – though the latter won’t hold a gear at the red line as in some rivals, namely Mazdas, but will instead change up a ratio.

Volkswagen manufactures many brilliant engines, and this one is no exception. Volkswagen manufactures many brilliant engines, and this one is no exception.

Being a 4Motion, and electronically-controlled multi-plate ‘Haldex’ clutch sends drive from the front wheels to the rear wheels when additional traction is required, constantly shuffling torque to and fro. VW says that while the T-Roc is predominantly front-wheel drive, the instant nature of the AWD system means it can be regarded as a permanent set-up since sensors redirect drive to the rear wheels before the front wheels actually start spinning.

Despite weighing in at around 1500kg, the 140TSI 4Motion Sport DSG needs just 7.2 seconds to scoot to 100km/h on the way to a 216km/h top speed.

How much fuel does it consume?

Officially, 7.2L/100km is the combined average fuel-consumption figure for the Australian-spec 140TSI 4Motion Sport DSG, although a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol is required.

A 55-litre fuel tank means that nearly 764km between refills is possible. However, during our testing, the T-Roc averaged 10.7L/100km, which is some way off the official figure. On this basis, just over 513km on one tank is more realistic.

Carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 163 grams per kilometre.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Being a VW means most of the expected driver-assist safety features aren’t only present, but also bang up-to-date.

These include Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Monitoring, Manoeuvre Braking that automatically applies the brakes if an impact is imminent at speeds of up to 10km/h going forward or reverse, Lane Assist with adaptive lane guidance, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Assist, Traffic Jam Assist (in concert with adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality), Multi-Collision Brake (that applies the brakes after an initial collision to help prevent a second impact if a vehicle following behind rear-ends your car), driver-fatigue alert and Emergency Assist.

These come on top of six airbags (driver, passenger, and side and curtain airbags), anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, electronic diff lock, as well as stability and traction controls and hill-descent and hill-hold controls.

Predictably, the T-Roc scored a five-star European NCAP crash-test rating during 2017. Predictably, the T-Roc scored a five-star European NCAP crash-test rating during 2017.

There’s more of course, like a large rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic parking, LED headlights and with Light Assist, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming mirror and a kerb-side mirror that dips when reverse gear is selected.

There are two ISOFIX points in the rear seats, as well as three top tethers for straps, matching most rivals’ efforts.

Predictably, the T-Roc scored a five-star European NCAP crash-test rating during 2017. This translates to a five-star result for the Australian arm. However, showing the age of the VW, a cyclist collision avoidance braking function does not appear to be available.

ANCAP says the AEB works between 4km/h and 60km/h. The latter limit is outclassed by some newer competitors, such as the Mazda CX-30’s 80km/h threshold.

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

VW switched to a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty some time ago now, which is nowadays regarded as the industry average in Australia, but short of Kia’s seven-year and Mitsubishi’s 10-year warranties respectively.

Service intervals are 15,000km or every 12 months.

VW publishes a maximum price for a specified scheduled service for the 140TSI 4Motion Sport DSG on its website. Until December 31, 2020, at one year/15,000km it is set at $341, at two years/30,000km it’s $517, at three years/45,000km it’s $680, at four years/60,000km it’s $872 and at five years/75,000km it’s $458.

What's it like to drive around town?

The T-Roc 140TSI 4Motion Sport possesses a breadth of capability that elevates it beyond a regular mainstream small SUV and into a high-performance all-weather grand tourer.

Seeing this is an Urban Guide, however, we’ll start with its around-town manners.

On paper, with 140kW of power at your disposal, you might expect the VW to be brisk but nothing more. In fact, if you need to doddle about calmly, the powertrain is super-relaxed and ultra-smooth, reacting to driver inputs with a pleasing and direct linearity. There isn’t any of the hesitation, snatchiness or tardiness of some dual-clutch transmissions, even in heavy stop/start traffic. Cool as a cucumber.

This applies to the entire dynamic experience, from the light yet connected steering response to the quiet and contained suspension behaviour over a broad level of bad road surfaces. The T-Roc’s ride is firm but not hard, with sufficient cushioning and wheel travel as to not disturb or distract the occupants inside. Given the Sport has quite taut spring and damper rates on wide 215/50R18 tyres, this is impressive stuff.

The T-Roc’s ride is firm but not hard, with sufficient cushioning and wheel travel. The T-Roc’s ride is firm but not hard, with sufficient cushioning and wheel travel.

Find an open road, though, and the VW’s autobahn breeding becomes abundantly clear, thanks to the 2.0-litre turbo’s terrific performance that thrives as the revs rise. Press the throttle forward and the speed piles on with alarming/addictive ease, the DSG slicing precisely through each gear and always finding the right ratio. It’s hard to imagine how a Benz or BMW could top this T-Roc for refinement.

There are myriad driving modes for selection, with Sport firming up the variable-rate steering for some outstandingly fast and fluid point-to-point handling and roadholding. Despite (or perhaps because of) the sport suspension set-up, the 140TSI Sport’s chosen cornering line isn’t upset by bumps or sudden changes in surface camber, but instead hunkers down like a good warm hatchback might. If you’re game, the T-Roc really is that chuckable.

Downsides are few. There can be a fair amount of road-noise intrusion on certain types of Aussie blacktop, but this applies to most German cars, especially premium ones. VW won't offer this with a manual gearbox, sadly. And... well, that's all about it, really.

Finally, there’s an Off-road mode that plays with the throttle, traction and braking systems to help make gravel-road progress feel planted and secure. With 158mm of ground clearance, it’s good to know that the T-Roc 4Motion driver could venture off bitumen occasionally if there’s a call for it.

Like we said, a massive bandwidth of capability.

Small SUVs are suddenly becoming very, very accomplished. The Toyota C-HR moved the game on in 2017, followed by the Kia Seltos last year and, in 2020, the Mazda CX-30 and now the VW T-Roc.

However, the German crossover clearly harbours higher ambitions, as it strives to also reel in the premium offerings from Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

Wishful thinking? Don’t bet against it, because the T-Roc in 140TSI 4Motion Sport guise seems to cover all the bases, scoring strongly for design, quality, equipment levels, comfort, technology and safety, while hitting it out of the park for performance, refinement, efficiency and driving dynamics. And all at a price that meets the regular brands square-on.

If this all sounds faintly familiar, it’s a strategy that has worked for – give or take a few patchy generations – VW’s iconic small hatchback for a very long time now.

So, the answer is yes. The T-Roc certainly does seem to be the Golf of the small SUV set.

$34,700 - $57,988

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