Volkswagen T-Roc SUV review
"The Volkswagen T-Roc looks good, drives well and offers plenty of space, but it's pricey and some rivals have a nicer interior"
- Easy to personalise
- Good to drive
- Rivals offer better value
- Interior quality issues
- No hybrid
If you’re after a Volkswagen SUV but a T-Cross is too small and a Tiguan is too big, you’re in luck - the Volkswagen T-Roc is right in the middle of the two. It shares a lot of tech and engineering with the excellent VW Golf, but with a stylish SUV body. It’s proved a popular recipe, too – Volkswagen has sold more than a million since its launch, giving it a mid-life update in 2022.
Direct rivals to the T-Roc include the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA, but you could also consider models like the Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-30 as alternatives – all are attempting to grab the attention of buyers who want the practicality and low running costs of a family hatchback, but looks of a small SUV.
To stand out from the crowd, each of these small SUVs has a distinctive look and the T-Roc is no exception. It features large LED daytime running lights, plus plastic cladding over the wheel arches and around the door sills to give it a more rugged look. There are a wide range of paint options, plus you can also add a contrasting roof.
Volkswagen gave the T-Roc a facelift in 2022, but only eagle-eyed drivers are likely to spot the changes. The headlamps now use LED technology as standard, and selected models get an illuminated stripe across the grille. A silver bumper element gives a tougher look, while the rear light signature has been tweaked, the lenses are darker and the rear indicators now have a scrolling animation when activated.
Inside, a bigger ‘floating’ touchscreen is the most obvious change, while the climate control panel is also new (but more fiddly than before, unfortunately). Elsewhere, there are higher quality materials to help distinguish the Volkswagen from its rivals, including in-house competition from the likes of Skoda.
There are plenty of engines to choose from in the T-Roc, starting with the 109bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol. This model will offer enough performance for most urban drivers and should be economical, but there’s always the option of the 1.5-litre TSI with 148bhp or even the 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI model. This model has 4MOTION four-wheel drive and seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox and comes in high-spec trim levels only. There’s also the T-Roc R (reviewed separately), a range-topping, high performance version for keen drivers, and even a T-Roc Cabriolet convertible if you must.
While the T-Roc feels well-suited to petrol power, there are some diesel options that are well suited to long-distance driving. The range starts with the 2.0-litre TDI making 113bhp, though there’s a 148bhp version of this engine as well. Buyers after any sort of hybrid power or electrification will have to look elsewhere, at rivals such as the Kia Niro.
Trim levels consist of Life, Style and R-Line, which replace the old line-up of S, SE, Active, Design, SEL and R-Line. The new simplified range makes it easier to choose the T-Roc that’s right for you, although the discontinuation of the more basic trim levels has pushed the starting price up.
Considering it’s the new entry-level model, Life trim brings an awful lot of standard features. These include wireless phone connectivity, a ‘basic’ version of VW’s digital instrument cluster, two-zone climate control, parking assistance and high-beam assist. Style adds upgraded headlights and that illuminated grille, plus bigger digital dials, sat nav and tinted windows. R-Line gets a sporty visual makeover and heated front seats.
The T-Roc's greatest attraction has to be the way it drives. It's built on the same MQB platform as the Volkswagen Golf and models from other brands within the VW Group, and therefore feels very un-SUV-like to drive, with a good balance between comfort, responsive steering and acceleration. Even the entry-level 1.0-litre TSI petrol is a pleasure to drive, which begs the question as to whether many will feel the thirsty range-topping 2.0-litre petrol is necessary.
Any T-Roc makes a genuinely enjoyable family car that isn't averse to a little adventure, while a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating proves that it has the strength its stocky looks suggest. Our pick is the 1.0-litre TSI petrol with a manual gearbox in Life trim; it offers a great blend of performance, low running costs and decent equipment, which makes it good value too.