Driven: 2020 Volkswagen T-Roc 1.4TSI
Teased as a concept at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the striking T-Roc was merely supposed to be a canvas for Volkswagen to test out ideas for future Volkswagen SUVs and crossovers. Just three years later it was introduced as a production model, marrying the style of an SUV with the practicalities of a Golf. South Africans eagerly awaited its local launch but were sadly disappointed. Thankfully, the brand’s local arm has decided to introduce it in SA three years later.
Finished in Energetic Orange, the T-Roc cuts an attractive figure. Under the chunky body of our test unit sat optional (R9,100) 18-inch Montego Bay alloy wheels. It may not boast the aggressive styling of the range-topping 2.0 TSI R-Line, but it’s still a handsome car. The design is available with a few optional extras to enhance the styling, namely LED headlamps (R13,850) and a panoramic sunroof (R13,400).
The spacious interior features comprehensive instrumentation and an easy-to-use eight-inch touchscreen. VW’s Composition Media radio and App-Connect are intuitive and easy to navigate through. While the cabin is logically laid out and feels well-screwed together, the plastics feel far harsher than they should for a car priced at nearly half a million rand. Even Volkswagen’s smaller offerings, the Polo and Polo Vivo, have soft-touch dashboards.
Aside from that, it is typically Volkswagen. Well-considered and conservative. The climate controls (dual-zone) are easy to use and, thankfully, haven’t been relegated to the infotainment system. Equipment-wise, the T-Roc sports a lengthy list of standard features. Indeed, parking sensors (front and rear), USB-C ports, hill-start assist, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with shift paddles) and gear lever are all part of the package. Leather remains an option, but the standard cloth-trimmed seats look good and offer plenty of support.
The boot is particularly large, measuring 445 L with the seats up. With the rear bench folded down, you’re left with a simply cavernous 1290 L, besting rivals like the Hyundai Kona. Space for passengers, front and rear, is decent and on par with other cars in its class.
Behind the wheel
Under the tall bonnet sits a turbo-petrol 1.4-litre, four-cylinder which produces 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque. It may not sound like much, but the T-Roc puts that power to good use. This is thanks to a fantastically smooth and quick responding eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s sharp, without being violent, and blurs through the gears seamlessly. Also seamless in its operation is the stop/start system. Often, this can be jerky or dim-witted. It reacts quickly and smoothly without disturbing the driver or occupants.
The powertrain is refined in town and on the highway, with very little engine noise permeating the cabin. 0-100 km/h is dealt with in 8.4 seconds - perfectly acceptable for a car of this ilk - while the top speed is rated at 205 km/h. Despite the impressive performance and impressive refinement, the T-Roc is able to sip fuel at a conservative rate, too. VW claims 6.2 L/100 km, but we saw a figure closer to 8.0 L/100 km. Not bad, considering we weren’t trying to drive uber-efficiently.
Through corners, the tall crossover does a fine job of imitating a hatchback. It remains composed at all times, and although not inherently dynamic, does provide plenty of feedback through direct steering. Once you’ve settled down and had enough fun in the corners, the T-Roc settles down nicely and is a fine motorway cruiser. With 17-inch alloys, the ride is silky-smooth. The optional 18-inch alloys on our test vehicle didn’t take away from the ride quality, though.
As a stylish midsize crossover, the T-Cross has very few peers. An impressive powertrain melds performance, economy, and smoothness exceptionally. The exterior is visually arresting while still retaining those classy Volkswagen design cues that make the brand’s offerings so popular. While the interior plastics leave a lot to be desired, it is at least solidly constructed. However, the near R500 000 asking price cannot be ignored - it strays dangerously close to the more practical, more premium Tiguan 1.4 Trendline. Still, those who want a T-Roc won’t be put off by any of the small foibles. If you’re one of those style-conscious buyers, the 1.4 TSI is the pick of the bunch. The 2.0 TSI may offer more power and some added toys, but the value is to be found in this base model. It’s a refined, classy, and stylish crossover that turns heads with ease.