VW’s smallest and grooviest SUV goes on sale this autumn. We drive the prototype
You might wonder at the wisdom of VW building an SUV version of its Golf. After all, won’t that cannibalise Golf sales?
But that’s exactly what they’re doing, and the T-Roc will be on our roads later this year. Where does the name come from? The T connects it to the Tiguan and the Touareg, while Roc is nothing more complicated than a rework of ‘rock’, suggesting ruggedness.
The reasoning behind the T-Roc is that it will attract a whole new emotionally-driven market, and that’s why VW has given it a completely new name. Plus of course they need to give Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca buyers a reason not to buy. That’s a decision that will come from the heart as well as the head, so expect the introduction of such un-VW-like touches as two-tone paint schemes and body-coloured dashboards.
We had a go in a disguised prototype on an appropriately rocky track with no Tarmac sections. Our impression was of a quite sporty suspension set-up, giving flat cornering, a ride that is firm but not intrusively so, and a general sense of sure-footedness. Which is pretty much the path currently being trodden by the excellent Seat Ateca.
Our car had a 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine. Sitting in the middle of a familiar range of 1.0-litre and 2.0-litre petrol and diesel choices, and hooked up to the latest slick-shifting seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, it felt well up to the job of delivering a good everyman mix of speed and smoothness. Four-wheel drive will be optionally available on larger-engined T-Rocs, and VW development head Frank Welsch has not discounted the likelihood of a hot R version.
Though the T-Roc is built on the new Golf/Audi Q2 platform, and its body is slightly larger than the Golf’s, cabin space is slightly reduced. Rear adult passengers’ enjoyment of longer journeys might be similarly reduced, though space front and rear space is acceptable for the class.
Inside the prototype, large swathes of spy-proof cloth prevented us from making judgements on the final look of the cabin. We’re fairly sure there will be body-coloured mouldings across the dash, as shown in the 2014 T-Roc concept, which if true will contribute a bit of fun and style not just to the T-Roc but to the VW brand in general. The production car will have five doors rather than the concept’s three, and that’s good news for the young families who are expected to be the car’s biggest customers.
So, should you wait for the T-Roc to arrive in autumn? We have no information on price, ownership costs relative to the opposition, or on-road behaviour, but our limited experience of the car’s dynamic abilities and its cabin space strongly suggests that you should at the very least include it in your considerations. We hope to get a more comprehensive go in the car this summer, at which point we’ll be better placed to make a recommendation.