Volkswagen SA has now crossed all its T SUV models with the launch of the T-Roc that slots between the T-Cross and the Tiguan range, while the latter is succeeded by the Touareg perched at the highest rung of that ladder. With a bit of something for everyone, Volkswagen too is responding to the clarion call of the market that has an insatiable appetite for SUVs. It has, of course, taken quite a while for the model to get here, which was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic as it scuppered initial launch and shipping timelines.
Based on the outgoing Golf MQB platform, the T-Roc is set to appeal to the more extroverted buyer that although panders to the SUV lifestyle, also wants something a tad bit more individualistic. And when you factor in the driving poise, it's also decidedly sporty in its overall disposition.
Lower and wider yet shorter than even the T-Cross, the T-Roc is arguably the most flamboyant looking member of the T SUV family. It is the one wearing a rear facing cap and swinging on the chandeliers at the family festivities get-together. And this is quite evident in the colour palettes and contrasting roof options on offer - the latter a first in the marque’s SUV offering. Thanks to its blistered rear wheel arches and a wide variety of alloy wheels that go up to 19-inch in size, it is a great looking thing indeed. There are rectangular-like LED daytime running lights located in the lower valance, which also double as indicators and make the vehicle really standout.
You can choose between two trims; the Design and the sportier R-Line Packages, the former offering cosmetic differences such as bright colour coded cabin inserts that appeal to those buyers looking for a more youthful exuberant appearance. The latter, meanwhile, adds sportier trim elements and would naturally be my preference, too. It boasts more chrome lashings on the grille replete with the R-Line logo, while the side sills and 19-inch alloys lend it an even more distinct look.
Current Golf 7 drivers will feel at home in the T-Roc as its architecture and layout mirrors that of the former and includes an infotainment screen and even the digital info display among others. However, there is an anomaly, and that is the use of rather low-rent plastics expanses on the dashboard and door sills. They simply let down an otherwise classy cabin and are misplaced in a vehicle of this stature and price. While the Design trim uses a tiller similar to that of the T-Cross and Polo, the R-Line uses a helm from the GTI models, replete with a thick, leather bound rim and the obligatory red stitching.
There’s ample space for both front and rear passenger quarters, while the boot space measures 445-litres for the front-wheel drive 1.4-litre (110 kW and 250 Nm) TSI model, while the 4Motion all-wheel driver 2.0-litre (140 kW and 320 Nm) TSI engines make do with 392-litres. This size discrepancy is due to a higher boot level in the 4Motion variants in order to accommodate the rear drive shafts and ancillaries. Interestingly, the 1.4-litre is paired to an 8-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox, while the 2.0-litre utilises a 7-speed DSG gearbox.
How does it drive though?
At the vehicle’s launch in the picturesque Western Cape, it was the 2.0-litre R-Line that we managed to commandeer for most part. There’s a familiarity in its drive polish that harks back to the Golf despite the slightly higher centre of gravity. Damping is exemplary and the handling surprisingly good when driving spiritedly, with the slightest hint of understeer when pressing on, but nothing to perturb potential drivers. The T-Roc’s repertoire is one of a stylish SUV with a streak of sportiness for those who do not conform to convention. And it is this very aspect that will net it a very unique buying audience.
At a starting price of R489 400 rising to R593 600, the T-Roc is also priced as a niche product and will appeal to those shopping for a boutique styled SUV. It’s a similar approach that we’ve seen with Audi and its Q2 model. As an addition to the Volkswagen SUV portfolio, the decorated T-Roc is quite a welcome footnote.