2020 Volkswagen T-Roc 140TSI Review: One Well-Sorted SUV
Price & Specs7.5
Performance & Economy9
Ride & Handling8
Interior & Practicality7
Service & Warranty7.5
What we like:
  • Fun to drive
  • Very well equipped
  • Exceptional ride comfort and refinement
What we don’t like:
  • Expensive, especially with options
  • Not much more practical than a regular hatch
  • Interior not very high quality
7.8DiscoverAuto Rating

It’s fair to say that small-SUVs are anything but small these days, with manufacturers scrambling in recent years to spawn more and more of them. After quite a few delays, Volkswagen was finally able to launch the T-Roc in Australia earlier this year, coming rather fashionably late to the SUV party.

Based on the Golf, the T-Roc is positioned underneath the Volkswagen’s popular Tiguan mid-size SUV, but above the T-Cross mini SUV which is a tad smaller than it. Going head to head with rivals such as the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos and Toyota C-HR, we put the T-Roc through its paces to see if it has what it takes to take on its rivals in this hotly contested segment.

Price & Specs: 7.5/10

Volkswagen’s first ever small SUV comes in only one highly speced equipment level in Australia so far; the 140TSI which costs $40,490 plus on-road costs. That makes the T-Roc the most expensive non-premium SUV in Australia – quite the entrance, though a lower-powered 110TSI model is coming soon for $34,990 plus on-road costs.

On the plus side, the T-Roc is exceptionally well equipped. Standard includes 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Volkswagen’s excellent digital dials, a leather steering wheel, keyless entry with push button start, an auto-dimming rear mirror, full LED front and rear lighting with auto high beam, auto-folding/heated mirrors, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, auto parking, and auto lights and wipers. All T-Rocs in Australia come standard with the R-Line package which includes lowered suspension, a more direct steering system which only requires two turns from lock to lock and sporty styling touches both inside and out.

Two optional packages can be added onto the T-Roc: the Sound and Style pack ($2000), which offers larger 19-inch alloys, and a 300W Beats audio system as well as the Luxury package ($3500), which includes a glass panoramic sunroof, full leather seats with heating for the front row, and an electric tailgate.

All T-Rocs come loaded with the latest safety technology Volkswagen has. Just like on the larger Tiguan, the T-Roc comes with AEB that can detect pedestrians and cyclists as well as other obstacles, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Should an accident occur, occupants are protected with six airbags and a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Performance & Economy: 9.0/10

The T-Roc’s sole engine choice is the VW Group’s well known 140kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Those figures immediately place the T Roc as one of the most powerful models in the small SUV segment.

Power is sent to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Volkswagen’s clever 4Motion all-wheel drive system meaning that the T-Roc has plenty of grip no matter the situation it would find itself in. The engine is creamy smooth and pulls from low revs all the way to redline, offering a relaxed and punchy driving experience which is a world away from the frantic feel of some engines in this segment. Expect the sprint to 100km/h from rest to take just over 7 seconds.

The T-Roc offers selectable drive modes allowing drivers to customise the car’s engine response and all-wheel drive system. There is a dedicated snow mode which will most likely never be used by any Australian T-Roc, a series of modes for regular road use and a dedicated Off-Road setting designed to make venturing off the beaten track easier. On a brief gravel road stint, the T-Roc proved itself as a capable back road explorer.

Surprisingly, despite its AWD system and strong performance, the T-Roc claims to only use 7.2L/100km. In the real world we averaged around 9L/100km around town, whilst on the freeway consumption dropped into the 6s.

Ride & Handling: 8.0/10

Whilst the T-Roc is far from being a performance car or even a hot hatch, it has a solid and substantial feel on the road, aided by its confidence-inspiring AWD system.

Off the shelf, the standard Bridgestone Turanza T001 tyres on 18-inch alloys provide decent levels of grip, body roll is well controlled whilst the clever “Progressive Steering” system is super direct and well weighted. Opt for the ‘Sound & Style’ pack and the wheels are bumped up to 19-inches with sportier Bridgestone Potenza tyres, including adaptive dampers to offset the lower profile 225/40R19 rubber. With this option the dampers, gearbox and throttle mapping are all controlled via the drive mode selector – which includes everything from eco to sport modes, as well as rough terrain drive modes including sand, mud and snow settings. All of this combines to make the T-Roc a hoot to drive and much better than anyone would ever expect it to be. Make no mistake this is one sublime car to drive.

The ride comfort is exceptional with the T-Roc gliding over large imperfections in the road whilst soaking up bumps with ease. In many ways it feels like a Golf with a tad more suspension travel. It’s pretty quiet too, with excellent insulation from road and wind noise.

Interior & Practicality: 7.0/10

The story of the T-Roc’s interior is one of two tales. Some elements are superbly executed such as the infotainment system and the digital dials whilst most of the materials reek of cost cutting. Granted, everything feels well screwed together and well engineered, but the quality of materials leaves quite a lot to be desired. Put simply, all of the plastics are hard, with only the centre armrest and small parts of the door trims being soft to the touch. Moreover, the large grey shiny plastic in front of the passenger creates immensely frustrating reflections which get tiresome in the driver’s peripheral vision. On the plus side however, the steering wheels feels as good as it looks, and Volkswagen’s Active Info display is bright, sharp and intuitive.

One of the T-Roc’s highlights is how bright and airy the interior feels, no matter where you’re sitting. Up front, both the driver and passenger get plenty of legroom and headroom. The driving position is excellent for a high riding SUV and gives a much more commanding view of the road compared to say, a Golf. The glovebox is a decent shape and the door bins are large enough to fit one-litre bottles.

Back seat passengers are treated to decent amounts of leg and headroom, with two sitting comfortably in the rear. Three passengers in to the back seat would be a squeeze. In the rear, you’ll find large seat back pockets, air vents, as well as an armrest with bottle holders.

Despite its coupe like shape, the T-Roc packs a good-sized 392-litre boot. This fit our large case on its own or the two small cases, but not all three. Folding the rear seats yields a sprawling 1,237 litres. Under the boot floor, which is not adjustable, lives a space saver spare tyre (and a Beats subwoofer with the Sound & Style pack).

Running Costs & Warranty: 7.5/10

The T-Roc is covered by Volkswagen’s standard five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

The T-Roc needs a service once every 12 months or 15,000km whichever occurs first, with services costing $2,796 over 5 years or $559 on average each. A mechanically related Skoda Karoq Sportline will only cost $1,400 to service over five years at an average of $280 per service.

Over the same time period, the Mazda CX-5 2.5 turbo costs $2,019 ($404 per service) to service – but that’s only to 50,000km due to short 10,000km intervals. The Kia Seltos GT-Line costs even more at $2,025 ($405) over the same five years/50,000km – and again, it too features 10,000km/yearly service intervals. 

2020 Volkswagen T-Roc 140TSI DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.8/10

The T-Roc might not have the most impeccable interior plastics that we’ve come to expect of some Volkswagens, but it makes a compelling proposition in being well equipped, good to drive and a genuinely well sorted car. The price might be a bit high for some, but for those after the best non-premium small SUV, the T-Roc fits the bill nicely.

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