Jaco van der Merwe
Carmakers have been rolling out new models left, right and centre in the one segment the industry has shown significant growth in: the compact SUV space.
In fact, the battle for market share has become such a mad rush that some manufacturers who didn’t even have a footprint in this segment not that long ago are now offering no less than two models. One of these carmakers is Volkswagen.
Only 18 months ago Volkswagen’s local SUV line-up consisted of the Tiguan, the Tiguan Allspace and the Touareg. Today you need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of siblings in its SUV family since the T-Cross and T-Roc’s arrivals. The T-Roc is the youngest after joining ranks towards the end of last year and is probably set to be VW’s biggest mover and shaker in a while. Where the T-Cross is based on the Polo, the T-Roc rides on the same platform as the Golf 7/7.5, but it is much more than just a gap filler as we found out during our recent week in the range’s flagship, the 2.0 TSI R-Line.
A recent survey among compact SUV buyers has determined that exterior styling and appearance are the number one motivating factors for buyers in this segment. It is therefore not surprising at all that Volkswagen decided to make the T-Roc its most expressive SUV in terms of exterior styling, a virtue that makes it stick out between the more practical T-Cross and the bigger and more family-orientated Tiguan.
Wolfsburg has eliminated any chance of the T-Roc being referred to as a “Golf on stilts” by differentiating it from its hatch back sibling through some unique design elements. The roofline structure at the rear gives it a sports coupe appearance, while the T-Roc in R-Line guise also benefits from an innovative light signature frame, adopts a two-tone colour concept and rides on striking 19-inch Suzuka alloy wheels.
And to back up the good looks is a healthy dose of grunt, something not usually associated with compact SUVs from non-premiums brands due to the obvious price implications. But while VW does cater for affordability with the 1.4-litre TSI derivative that produces 110kW/250Nm, the 2.0-litre TSI is an offering for those who don’t only want to look good at the traffic light, but also taken off when it turns green.
The brand new turbocharged powerplant produces 140 kW at 4 500 to 6 500rpm and 320 Nm of torque at 1 500 to 4 400rpm which is sent to all four wheels via seven-speed DSG. Volkswagen claims that it will get to 100 km/h from a standstill in 7.2 sec and reach a top speed of 216 km/h which we did not put to the test but have no reason to doubt. The claimed fuel consumption of 8.3L/100 km is a bit off the mark though as we struggled to keep the number below 10 over the course of the week.
To put its capabilities into context, it’s only 0.8 sec slower from 0 to 100 km/h than the Golf 7.5 GTI which is quite a mean feat considering its powertrain produces 29kW/30Nm less than the GTI’s 2.0-litre engine and that the T-Roc weighs around a full 100kg more than the Golf as a result of the 4Motion system where the latter is front wheels driven.
The fact that the 2.0 TSI T-Roc is four-wheel-driven adds to its superb driveability. While there is never a lack of urge through smooth gear changes and handling is effortless as the car’s surefootedness makes it as steady as a rock. T-Roc if I may. Standing 155 mm off the ground, the T-Roc rides lower than its two siblings either side of it in the Volkswagen SUV family, the T-Cross (180 mm) and the Tiguan (191 mm). But then again, that is kind of expected from the sportiest of the lot.
Inside the T-Roc is a tech fest of note with the combination of the optional 11.7-inch infotainment system and latest version of Active Info Display creating a state-of-the-art digital and interactive cockpit which includes Voice Control and connectivity via the We Connect Go app. A two-tone colour concept which is also utilised on the standard Vienna leather seats and red ambient lightning adds to its unique interior character. What we didn’t like though, is that the upper dash consists of hard plastics, which does slightly detract from a very stylish package.
Safety features are top notch and in addition to a decent list of standard features, the R-Line also feature Front Assist area monitoring with City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Monitoring, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System and the lane keeping system Lane Assist plus Adaptive Cruise Control. For something with a suffix like “compact” in its title, the T-Roc does offer generous boot space of 445-litres, while this can be extended to 1 290-litres with the rear seats folded flat.
You could argue that R593 600 is a lot of money for a non-premium compact SUV, but the product no doubt justifies the price tag. While competitors might rival the T-Roc 2.0 TSI R-Line in terms of looks, its performance should clinch the deal for many a fence-sitter. The T-Roc comes standard with a three-year/120 000km warranty and a five-year/ 90 000km service plan.
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