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Volkswagen's fashion-conscious T-Roc compact SUV looks a little more appealing in this updated form. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
From launch in 2018, the T-Roc provided an entry point to Volkswagen's SUV range, but these days two models, the Taigo and the T-Cross, sit beneath it. So the T-Roc, which unlike those two Polo-based designs rides on the underpinnings of a larger Golf, needed a bit of a spruce-up to justify its continuing place in the range. Hence the mid-term facelift we examine here. With over a million sales on the board, it's supposed to appeal to customers who want something larger than a supermini-based crossover design, but don't want to stretch up to Volkswagen's mid-sized Tiguan SUV. People who want something trendier - which is why the T-Roc also comes in Cabriolet and hot hatch T-Roc R forms. There's lots of competition these days though, for this type of car. So this improved T-Roc will need to be good.
There are no petrol engine changes as part of this update: surprisingly, Volkswagen isn't introducing its mild hybrid tech. So, as before, there are four TSI petrol engines, a 115PS 1.0-litre three cylinder unit, a 150PS four cylinder 1.5 and a 2.0-litre powerplant offered either with 190PS - or with as much as 300PS in the top T-Roc R. Diesel options have been updated: you can select between a couple of the brand's latest, now-cleaner 2.0-litre TDI diesels, these offering either 115PS or 150PS. You'll also get the option of DSG auto transmission on most models - which you have to have with the T-Roc R. Engaging drive dynamics won't be a priority for T-Roc customers, which is just as well given what's on offer here, but as usual with a Volkswagen, you get a very well judged standard of ride. All-wheel drive isn't an especially popular customer option in this segment, but Volkswagen offers it with the 2.0 TSI and 2.0 TDI 150PS models - that's another thing that's mandatory on the T-Roc R. The brand has packaged up its 4MOTION system with plenty of extra features, primarily a driving profile selection system (which you can also order on a 2WD variant). This set-up gives you a choice of two on-road profiles ('Street' and 'Snow'). There are a couple of off-road modes too: 'Offroad' (which automatically sets the car up for 'off piste' use) and 'Offroad Individual' (which allows you to set various parameters). Other extras you can add include 'DCC' 'Dynamic Chassis Control' adaptive damping and 'ACC' 'Adaptive Cruise Control'.
The exterior styling tweaks made to this updated model are subtle. LED headlights and darkened rear tail lamps total the changes but you can add to them by paying extra for the brand's 'IQ LIGHT with LED matrix headlights' package. As before, there are three variants, the standard T-Roc hatch, the sporting T-Roc R and the T-Roc Cabriolet. In all cases, the fashionable looks stay much as before, a wide and long stance allied to a relatively low roofline, short overhangs and a steeply raked C-pillar. Inside, there's a smarter dash trimming panel. And a redesigned, more 'tablet'-like central infotainment screen, which can now be had in larger 9.2-inch form as well as the usual 8.0-inch size. All variants now get a digital instrument cluster too - optionally upgradeable to 10.25-inches in sizes in 'Digital Cockpit Pro' form. There's also a redesigned steering wheel and higher quality fabric door trim. As before, the two monitors combine to offer a wide range of online services and apps accessible via smartphone and the usual 'Volkswagen Car-Net' media connectivity system. As you'd expect, the 'MirrorLink'/'Android Auto' and 'Apple CarPlay' smartphone-mirroring systems are available, as is a 'Security & Service' package which provides support in a wide variety of situations. There's reasonable room for a couple of adults in the back. And luggage space in the fixed-top version is quite generous - measuring 445 litres when loaded up to the top of the second row seat backrests.
It's evidence of the current spiralling state of new car pricing that a car we tested as recently as 2018 costing from around £19,000 is, at the time of this test in Autumn 2022, priced in this only very lightly updated facelifted from around £26,000 just four years later. And that figure is anything but typical of the kind of sum people are likely to pay for T-Roc ownership. At the time of this test, getting on for £30,000 was more representative of the sort of sum you'll need for the T-Roc you might have in mind. That's the kind of price tag attached to the mid-range 'Style' variant, which sits just above the base-spec 'Life' and just below top-spec 'R-Line' grades. A word on your transmission choices. A manual gearbox is mandatory on the base 1.0 TSI petrol and 2.0 TDI 115PS diesel variants. If you want auto transmission, you'll have to stretch to either the 1.5-litre TSI 150PS petrol engine or the 2.0 TDI 150PS diesel - and either way pay an extra £1,685. Auto transmission is mandatory on the rapid but thirsty 2.0 TSI 190PS 4MOTION petrol model - and you'll also have to have it if you want the 2.0 TDI 150PS 4MOTION diesel - that 4MOTION system an extra £1,310 over the cost of the ordinary front-driven 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG variant. Got all that? Good. The top T-Roc R, which of course has auto transmission and 4MOTION as standard, is almost a separate model - and very much commands a separate price - of around £42,000.
OK, let's assume you're amongst the growing number of buyers switching into a fashionable little SUV like this one from a conventional family hatch - so in this case, you're moving from a Golf into this T-Roc. What'll the running cost penalty be for that higher-set driving position and those more fashionable looks? To answer that, let's consider what's predicted to be the best-selling T-Roc engine, the 1.0-litre TSI three cylinder petrol unit. It manages up to 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and up to 136g/km of CO2, returns that until recently, a diesel model would have struggled to reach in this class. But it's still a chunk behind an identically-engined Volkswagen Golf, which manages up to 52.3mpg and up to 122g/km, mainly due to the fact that this T-Roc's kerb weight is around 60kgs more than its conventional hatchback counterpart. You may well decide you could live with that. And if you can, you might very well also decide to upgrade yourself to the 150PS 1.5 TSI petrol model, because its fuel and CO2 returns are virtually no different. That's thanks to a cylinder-on-demand system that cuts off two of the engine's four cylinders under light-to-medium throttle loads. As for the TDI diesels, well if you opt for the base front-driven 115PS variant, it should be possible to get up to 60.1mpg and up to 122g/km of CO2. For the gutsier 150PS 2.0 TDI variant, it's 58.9mpg and 125g/km. All these by the way are manual model figures, but there's very little efficiency downside in opting for the alternative 7-speed DSG automatic. A DSG auto in a T-Roc 2.0 TDI 150PS model fitted out with VW's heavy 4MOTION AWD system though, is a slightly different kettle of fish; one of those can only manage up to 51.4mpg and up to 145g/km of CO2. But of course that's still a much more efficient way of getting a 4MOTION T-Roc than choosing a petrol AWD version. The 2.0 TSI 4MOTION 190PS model manages only 38.2mpg and 168g/km - or, in top T-Roc R performance form, bests of 33.2mpg and 194g/km.
Strip away the funky bodywork and the cabin personalisation and what you've got here is a slightly less efficient but slightly more fashionable alternative to a Golf. But then, you could say similar things of just about any other compact-to-mid-sized SUV contender in this growing segment. It's all about giving the market what it wants. And with the T-Roc, Volkswagen has done just that. Are there problems? Interior space perhaps. But then if you wanted that in a compact Volkswagen SUV, you'd probably stretch to a Tiguan. This facelifted T-Roc model addresses the original model's issue that some of the cabin trimming felt a little down-market. Here, things are improved, though you might still want for more, given the pricing applied to plusher models. Fortunately, there's enough technology now provided to make this less noticeable. The top derivatives are quite expensive though, which brings into focus the fact that amongst rivals in this segment, there are plenty of slightly cheaper alternatives. Most of them though, lack this T-Roc's 'want one' factor. And the way this part of the market is these days, that'll probably be very significant in keeping this as Volkswagen's third best selling model.
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