2018 Volkswagen T-Roc Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Volkswagen T-Roc Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL The T-Roc is a shorter, style-oriented but less practical relative to Volkswagen’s family-oriented Tiguan crossover.
2018 Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0TSI 4Motion (European spec)
Price $NA + orc Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine (tested) 2.0l turbo 4cyl petrol Power 140kW at 4180-6000rpm Torque 320Nm at 1500-4180rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto Drive four-wheel drive Body 4234mm (l); 1819mm (w exc mirrors); 1992mm (w inc mirrors); 1573mm (h) Turning circle N/A Towing weight 1700kg (braked), 740kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1420kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 55 litres Spare Opt Thirst 6.7 l/100km combined cycle Fuel Petrol
VOLKSWAGEN WAS short of SUVs and crossovers, but now it’s piling into the market big-time. The Tiguan has gotten bigger in its new generation, and there is also a seven-seat Tiguan Allspace. Not to mention a new Touareg next year.
The new models are in the fast-growing small crossover space. Here’s the T-Roc, a very style-focussed vehicle that’s half a size smaller than the Tiguan. Next year there will be a smaller one again. That’s called the T-Cross, and is the size of a Nissan Juke.
So under its jazzy skin, the T-Roc is pretty much a jacked-up Golf, but on a slightly shorter wheelbase. It’s also a bit wider. Those short, wide proportions make it an arresting sight. To keep you looking it’s got jewel-like lighting, big wheels, lots of chrome and the option of a two-tone paint scheme.
The range in Europe starts with front-drive and VW’s well-regarded 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine. Then a 1.5 turbo, and finally at the top of the tree this 2.0, which has AWD and a seven-speed DSG transmission as standard. On the diesel front, there are also three engines with the same power as the petrols (85kW, 110kW, 150kW), and again they start with front-drive manual and end with all-wheel drive DSG.
VW is making a big deal of the cosmetic customisation options, the infotainment/connectivity, and the driver assist technology. It says the list of tech is unique for the class, but depending on local pricing the T-Roc can fall across two classes, and in Europe the top versions cost as much as the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, cars that are stacked out with those sorts of features.
What’s the interior like?
One of the cars we tested had grey and orange leather seats, and orange panels running across the dash and front door inners. Keep the headache remedy to hand.
But the point is, this stuff is custom. You can have ordinary grey if you want, or cloth with grey and coloured panels and contrast stitching. At the moment VW is offering grey, blue, orange or yellow, but those will change over time. It’s probably possible to find a combo you like. Of course you have to get the cabin to co-ordinate with the bi-colour exterior. Blue and white outside, grey and yellow inside? Tragic idea.
Of course these things often have a bad effect on resale, or they stick around on the dealer lot for a long time until along comes a customer of very particular taste. So VW Australia might order its allocation of cars in the more conservative shades.
What is sure to feature over here are lots of cabin tech options and indeed standard fixtures. Even the smallest central screen is 6.5-inch colour touch job.
The next trim level gets an eight-incher encased in glass. Very classy looking. This has Apple and Android phone mirroring, so you can get your maps, apps and streaming audio via Carplay or Auto. It retains two actual hardware knobs, one for volume and the other for menu selection and zooming if you don’t want to prod virtual menu buttons or pinch to zoom.
On top trim levels, that same eight-inch screen has a connected satnav system with various of VW’s own online apps. In Europe those include fuel station and fuel price search, and even one that tells you in real time how many spaces are available at local car parks.
The top models also get VW’s Active Info panel to replace the driver’s instrument cluster. It’s vastly configurable, with loads of trip computer or navigation data, and nav arrows. You can also flick the map from the nav screen onto this panel, either filling the area alongside the speedo or even running the entire width of the Active Info screen. That’s a silly way to use the screen though. If you use maps heading-up, you want a map that devotes most of its area to what’s ahead of the car, not what’s alongside. So you need a tall narrow map not a shallow wide one.
In the end I revert to running the screen with a pair of simulated dials for the speedo and revs. In which case its value is hardly transformative versus the actual dials they’re imitating.
VW likes to say the interior colours and the pair of screens are a big deal for crossovers, but in fact all the same stuff is available on the new Polo supermini.
The seats are supportive and the driving position superb. But if you’re expecting a commanding high eye-point look at other crossovers. This one doesn’t raise you much above a car’s view out. Mind you, its relative lowness does help it feel car-like to drive.
In other respects the T-Roc’s interior is disappointing for a crossover. It’s not very roomy or versatile. Those things are what the Tiguan is for.
The back seat isn’t that great for leg or headroom, but it has just enough width for three grown-ups abreast. There are three sets of belts and head restraints, but just two sets of Isofix points in the back. A pair of vents, a 12V socket, central armrest and reading lights help make it habitable.
The boot is a bit shallow on the 4WD cars if they have the optional Beats Audio subwoofer – its under 400 litres, whereas a Golf Alltrack is 650 litres. The back seat doesn’t slide and its backrest doesn’t adjust in angle. There’s a drawer under the driver’s seat but no other clever storage around the cabin.
Another surprise for a VW of this price is the kind of plastic used in the cabin. A Golf has lots of soft mouldings on the dash and door casings. Here it’s all hard and scratchy. The Golf has cloth on the A-Posts and flock lining inside its door bins. Here again, nothing so lush. Still, an ambient light package on the up-level trims does lift the cabin at night.
What’s it like on the road?
This top-end petrol version gets along very strongly. Flat out it’ll do 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds. However, the engine comes over loud and tinkly-sounding when you wring it out. It’s definitely noisier than the same engine is other VW Group cars. Just as well the generosity of turbocharged torque at lowish rpm means you don’t need to chase the needle round the rev dial.
The auto transmission clicks though its changes decisively, and if you don’t like its choices it has sports mode or a set of manual paddles at your fingertips.
Cornering is pretty good fun. The steering has a natural progression and weighting, and the T-Roc resists roll stoutly, so the overall effect is agile by crossover standards. In corners the strong traction keeps things secure. Some models have a mode switch that lets you alter the bias of the centre diff, and a sports ESP setting, to make it shove more urge rearward. It makes the car feel slightly playful, especially on wet bends.
But the sporty cornering hasn’t come at the expense of ride over big bumps, where the suspension is decently supple. However, on 18-inch wheels, the tyres kick up a fair bit of noise and the car shudders over small high-frequency road impacts.
That’s the issue: refinement. The engine is noisier than other VWs of comparable price, the tyres make more racket, there’s even a fair dose of wind noise. As with the cabin plastics, the T-Roc lacks the final polish that VW usually gives its cars.
What about safety features?
No NCAP test has been run yet. But the related Tiguan and Golf both get solid five-star ratings. Side airbags for the front seats are augmented by curtain bags, which also protect people in the back, though they don’t get full side bags.
The system for avoiding frontal accidents is strong, and it’s standard-fit. It uses lasers, radar and a camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians. Most such systems have fewer sensors, which reduces the things they can see and the distance and speed they can operate at. It warns the driver if a crash looks likely, and when the driver touches the brake it gets straight to full stopping force. If the driver doesn’t get on the pedal at all, it will brake autonomously.
Also standard-fit is a lane assist system. Again these aren’t uncommon, but this one is particularly smooth in nudging the car towards the middle of its highway lane.
Radar cruise control comes on most versions. With that and the lane assist, it really can help reduce driver fatigue on long journeys. But just to be sure, there’s also a system to detect when the driver’s inputs get patchy, it flashes a warning to stop and get a rest.
What if there’s no response from the driver to a prompt from the car including repeated brake jolts to wake him or her up, and there’s no input in the steering? The assumption is the driver might have had a heart attack or similar disaster. So the car slows down, using its radar cruise and lane assist sensors to keep it clear of other vehicles, stops and turns on its hazard flashers.
VW was one of the first to introduce a post-collision braking system. A lot of injuries result when a car is in an accident, but instead of stopping is pinballed onward, often into the path of another vehicle. So the T-Roc applies its own brakes after the first impact.
Blind-spot warning and cross-traffic reversing alert are in an options package. Some versions have reversing cameras too, and park sensors are standard.
So, what do we think?
On the surface the T-Roc is very attractive. People will fall immediately for its styling and tech, and the powertrain choices. But among crossovers its interior isn’t at all practical – just a taller hatchback really. And it doesn’t have the quietness or cabin material that VW has made its hallmark.