Volkswagen has been building SUVs since the mighty Touareg landed in 2002, and was similarly quick off the mark when it then launched the smaller, Golf-based Tiguan five years later. Both have been hugely successful for the German firm, to the extent that even pushing the Tiguan more upmarket for its second generation come 2016 hasn’t stopped it from outselling all other VWs bar the Golf and Polo.
While good for profits, repositioning the Tiguan has left VW exposed when it comes to offering the kind of smaller and more affordable SUV that buyers have been flocking to, which is where the T-Roc comes in.
In many ways what we have here is a revamp of that first-generation Tiguan, in that it’s a Golf-sized SUV that’s been designed to ride and handle more like a car than an off-roader. This time around though much more of an emphasis has been placed on style and customisation.
The fact that VW has created a whole new personalisation-themed trim level for the T-Roc says all you need to know about how it is positioning its new Qashqai-rival. Called Design, it sits between SE and SEL in the line-up and allows buyers to select contrasting colours for the roof and interior panels, making the T-Roc quite unlike any other Volkswagen you can currently buy.
Combined with the much sharper exterior styling with its coupe-like roofline the result is a genuinely striking addition to the crossover class. Better still, this aesthetic appeal doesn’t come at the cost of interior space, because there’s enough room for four tall adults to travel without cause for complaint, plus a boot that’s large enough to swallow their luggage – although it is worth noting that opting for the space-saver spare wheel rather than its full-sized equivalent results in a significantly larger load bay.
For the fastest T-Roc you’ll need to spend more than £30,000 on the 2.0-litre (190PS) petrol engine which also comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, giving a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds. However, in reality both the 1.0- (115PS) and 1.5-litre (150PS) TSI units offer a decent turn of speed, with even the former capable of propelling the T-Roc from 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds. OK, it’s no hot hatch, but to think a 999cc three-cylinder engine can punt a relatively big car along at such a pace is still pretty impressive.
What’s even more remarkable is that these two smaller petrol engines offer almost diesel-like levels of fuel economy and CO2 emissions, returning 55.1mpg and 53.3mpg respectively in official EU tests.
With demand for crossovers showing no signs of slowing the reality is that it is perfectly possible to sell large numbers of these cars without them being particularly good. What’s so impressive about the T-Roc is that VW has clearly shown it so much care and attention, for this is a crossover that it actually exceeds expectations in all the important areas. So, whether it’s the sharp handling, the composed and comfortable ride, the punchy performance or the way it combines a slick design with decent interior space, this VW really doesn't disappoint.
When you then add in all the bits you expect to be good anyway, such as the top-notch infotainment system and thoughtful ergonomics the result is one of the very best cars of its type.