If you think there are a lot of Volkswagen SUVs to choose already, wait till you see what’s coming in 2018. First there will be a new seven-seat version Tiguan Allspace, then a next-generation Touareg which, despite its considerable size, will be based on an extended version of the MQB platform also found in the Polo, and finally a Polo-sized convertible called the T-Cross.
Before all that, here’s the T-Roc, which will be available to order in the spring. Slightly smaller than the Tiguan in all dimensions, it’s built in Portugal and is of course, like almost everything else being built by the VW Group these days, part of the MQB family.
It sounds like it ought to be quite dramatic. It’s possible – as I have done a couple of times to my own amusement, if not necessarily anyone else’s – to yell “T-ROC!” in an American accent and make it sound like you’re referring to a rapper or the star of an action movie. “Yo, T-Roc!” That sort of thing.
In fact, it’s fairly conventional. It’s attractive in a sharp-edged way, but most of the design elements don’t really jump out at you, the only exceptions being the sodding great lumps of metal between the rear doors and the tailgate where any sensible person would have put in some extra glass.
Volkswagen Head of Design Klaus Bischoff suggests that the T-Roc looks “sassy”, but maybe he has a different definition of the word than I do. The T-Roc looks more or less as I expected it to before I saw it.
With the rear seats up, the luggage capacity is 445 litres up to the level of the parcel shelf if you don’t specify a spare wheel, or 366 litres if you do, and that’s fine. The interior isn’t as roomy as it might be, but as long as no more than two occupants are much over six feet tall there shouldn’t be a problem.
The drivetrains are familiar. Petrol engines range between one and two litres, and although there are also 1.6- and two-litre diesels they’re not expected to be popular – Volkswagen reckons that only a fifth of UK buyers will go for those.
Manual and DSG semi-automatic transmission are available, as is 4MOTION four-wheel drive if you really want. Half of the Tiguans sold in this country are 4x4s, but the proportion is predicted to be just 10% for the T-Roc. 4MOTION cars are more adventuresome but slightly less practical, with a luggage capacity of 324 litres.
The main disappointment with the T-Roc, apart from the poor rear side visibility, is the choice of interior materials. The dashboard and door coverings are made of fairly ordinary plastic which echoes when you rap it with your knuckles. More offensive are the dash inserts, which are available in several pretty colours but feel very tacky and unVolkswageny.
The driving experience is far more positive. The head of chassis development reportedly has a fine conceit of himself for the work he and his team did on the T-Roc, and rightly so.
A 148bhp front-wheel drive SEL and a 187bhp 4MOTION with DSG I drove both handled superbly on rural roads, to the point where I reckon there isn’t a more enjoyable compact SUV than the T-Roc on the market. A 114bhp one-litre version was less impressive, but that may be because I didn’t have the opportunity to take it on the same roads. It would be a surprise if it really were inferior, since my favourite Volkswagens in other ranges all have one-litre engines.
At the moment there are trim levels called S, SE, Design, SEL and R-Line. All of them have dual-zone climate control, an infotainment system with an 8″ colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and at least 16″ alloy wheels.
Most T-Roc variants currently available to order are priced between £20,425 and £24,520, though there is then a giant leap to £31,485 for the 2.0 SEL 4MOTION. The £20,425 car is the 1.0 SE, which is also expected to be the most popular.