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The T-Roc finally gives Volkswagen a rival to the Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca; just don't call it the Golf SUV

What is it?

If we’re chatting casually as friends, the Volkswagen T-Roc is Volkswagen's Volkswagen Golf SUV, or perhaps its Nissan Qashqai - but the brand won’t thank you for either description, because it wants this new model to have its own, more playful identity. 

The T-Roc is late to the family SUV party, of course, and that only makes VW's desire to seek a point of difference greater. Just how late it lands is emphasised by the fact it is based on the T-Roc concept car that was revealed as long ago as 2014, albeit presented in the lesser-seen (Land Rover Range Rover Evoque ConvertibleLand Rover aside) format of a convertible SUV.

Crucially, however, many of the more detailed designs of that concept can be seen even on this prototype, and so too can some of its slightly zany spirit: the T-Roc is here to usher in a new era of more 'emotional' Volkswagens that tug at the heart strings slightly harder than today’s defiantly rational line-up. There’s even talk of two-tone paint schemes.

Zany is also one word to explain how the car found its name: T is to link it to its bigger brothers, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Volkswagen Touareg, and Roc is a modification of the word rock, which, and I quote VW: “on the one hand refers to the off-road character of the vehicle and on the other reflects the powerful and avant-garde image of a crossover design”. Before we all wrinkle our faces in consternation, though, it’s worth a moment pondering the origins of Qashqai, Seat Ateca, Vauxhall Mokka X et al.

Vw t roc ac 285

What's it like?

The T-Roc sits on VW’s now-famous MQB platform, and owes more than a little nod of acknowledgement to the Audi Q2, with which it essentially shares the same underpinnings. That means the same 2.59m wheelbase, which is slightly down on the Volkswagen Golf despite the T-Roc's larger exterior dimensions. Such is the flipside of a more expressive exterior design, but it still leaves enough room front and rear inside to fulfil its family credentials.

Inside, there are hints in our prototype that VW is also trying to break beyond its reputation for solid, logical materials and layouts. On this car, there’s a disguise in place, but insiders suggest body-coloured mouldings across the dash could be used, for instance, adding a sense of colour and fun alongside the traditional qualities for which VW is famed. If they are carried off credibly, it can surely add an extra, appealing dimension to the interior ambience.

Vw t roc ac 284

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The 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine we sampled is straight from the VW engine pool, and is expected to be joined by familiar 1.0-litre and 2.0-litre petrol and diesel options, with four-wheel drive available as an option on bigger-engined models. Mid-spec this engine may be, but it’s plenty powerful enough to haul the T-Roc along at a decent space, and it works well with the slick-shifting seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.

On the mainly dusty, rutted roads of our test drive, it was difficult to form pin-sharp impressions of the ride or handling, but it felt likely that VW has erred towards a moderately sportier set-up than might traditionally be associated with an SUV in a bid to underline its shift towards more ‘emotional’ cars. Nor need that be a bad thing: the Seat Ateca proves that the Volkswagen Group knows how to sit just the right side of this line.

Vw t roc ac 289

Should I buy one?

Conclusions are notoriously hard to draw from a prototype drive, but on the evidence presented there’s few doubts that the T-Roc will deserve a place on small SUV buyers’ shortlists. It's a highly credible entry into the market, albeit thanks to the more traditional VW qualities of solidity, sure-footedness and value than the new characterful direction it has tried to embark on.

In time, VW might be able to make its 'emotional' side more prominent, but with the T-Roc standing alone in the line-up for now, it feels a little forced - especially when the test car is both partially disguised and so predictably decent to drive and be in.

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Volkswagen T-Roc

Price tbc; Engine 4-cyl, 1498cc, turbo, petrol; Power 148bhp, revs tbc; Torque tbc; Gearbox Seven-speed automatic; Kerb weight tbc; 0-60mph tbc; Top speed tbc; Economy tbc; CO2/tax band tbc; Rivals Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca

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drivenfromthere... 23 August 2017

22:39 23/08/2017

Why is 70% of your homepage Autocar dominated by VAG products..?? Give it a rest please. Tedious now...unless that's the point?

bowsersheepdog 15 April 2017

The succinct version of this article

It's another fat, shitty jeep.
whiteliner 14 April 2017

T Roc

Pile of over rated VW group crap.

Totally souless, bought by those who cant see past the end of the bonnet and can't see the road by hiding behind the steering wheel.

Please please VW crawl into a hole and rust away. Sorry you do rust away in the sunshine anyway.