CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – After a three-year wait, the Volkswagen T-Roc is finally available in South Africa. The compact lifestyle-minded crossover enters a segment that is hotly contested by the likes of the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. Much like these rivals, the T-Roc presents itself with a trendy design that is quite far removed from the larger Tiguan’s more conservative cues.

Even sans the R-Line kit, the Design model boasts an athletic stance with its flared front and rear quarter panels, slightly sloped C-pillar and chrome trim along the front, profile and rear. The youthful styling is further accentuated by the optional black roof and “Grange Hill” 18-inch alloy wheels. Those who desire the sportier R-Line appearance will have to opt for the more expensive 2,0 TSI model as this package is not available on the entry-level engine derivative.

At launch, the T-Roc is available with a choice of two powertrain options. At the top of the range sits the aforementioned turbocharged 2,0-litre, four-cylinder EA888 mill with the brand's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and 4Motion all-wheel drive. The base model, which we anticipate will be the strongest seller locally, uses the tried-and-tested 1,4-litre four-pot turbopetrol unit coupled with an eight-speed Tiptronic torque converter driving the front wheels.

As in the Tiguan, this configuration features peak outputs of 110 kW and 250 N.m of torque (the latter delivered from just 1 500 r/min). While the maximum power figure matches that of the naturally aspirated variant version of the Hyundai Kona (and is just short of the likewise atmospheric Mazda CX-3's 115 kW), the VW engine offers far more torque thanks to forced induction.

On the road, perhaps thanks to the transmission change, the levels of refinement from this engine have been noticeably improved. Power delivery is almost immediate and the shifts are prompt and smooth. Thanks to the long-ratio top gear, the T-Roc is able to travel at 120 km/h at around 2 000 r/min, which should be great for fuel consumption. I saw an indicated figure of 6,9 L/100 km after my drive, which is on par with what the manufacturer claims on the combined cycle.

A pleasing mix of engagement and comfort further adds to the T-Roc's appeal. Running on the VW Group's MQB platform and featuring some 158 mm of ground clearance (and a 2 590 mm wheelbase), as well as a set of fairly high-profiled tyres, the T-Roc absorbs indentations in the road surface with composure, making it an ideal choice for long-distance journeys. Together with the nicely weighted electronically assisted power steering, the T-Roc is a joy to pilot through a set of intricate corners, just like many other MQB-based products.

NVH levels are low, too, with the engine proving pleasingly hushed and wind noise not an issue. Over coarse tarmac, though, a bit of tyre noise from the Bridgestone Turanzas filters into the cabin.

Considering this is a crossover aimed at the young active market, there has been quite a focus on packaging. The T-Roc’s wheelbase is 87 mm shorter than that of the Tiguan, while the claimed boot space measures 170 dm3 smaller. For taller occupants sited at the rear, both leg- and headroom may feel a little tight (as is common with products in this segment). The luggage compartment, though, offers enough storage for three suitcases, with a space-saver spare wheel tucked away under the boot board.

From the driver’s seat, the T-Roc provides a commanding driving position. However, like on the rear bench, headroom is not exactly generous. The tastefully finished cabin mimicks the trendy exterior design, adopting the Golf 7,5’s climate controls, gear selector, steering wheel, infotainment system and gauge cluster. Adding flair are some unique trim details along the dashboard and door cards. While most of the interior presents an impressive level of perceived quality, there are some inconsistent, cheaper plastic bits used for certain surfaces.

 

At R489 400, the Design variant comes across as fair value when you consider items such as front and rear park assist and dual-zone climate control ship standard. Where things start to get pricey, though, is in the optional extras catalogue, with the 8,0-inch Discover Media system featuring an asking price of R17 300, the panoramic sunroof some R13 400 and the LED headlamps R13 850.

The T-Roc may seem like it's attempting to squeeze into an impossibly tiny niche between the T-Cross and Tiguan, but it certainly offers a distinctive crossover experience well suited to a younger audience that finds the T-Cross too small and the Tiguan too conservative. The 1,4 TSI mill offers sufficient performance with impressive consumption. Given the fact the 2,0 TSI Design commands a R58 900 premium, the 1,4 TSI is all the more appealing.

Model: Volkswagen T-Roc 1,4 TSI 110 kW Design Tiptronic
Price:
R489 400
Engine:
1,4-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power:
110 kW @ 5 000 – 6 000 r/min
Torque:
250 N.m @ 1 500 – 3 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:
8,4 seconds
Top Speed:
250 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
6,9 L/100 km
CO2: 142g/km
Transmission:
Eight-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan:
Five-year/90 000 km service



FAST FACTS

Model: Volkswagen T-Roc 1,4 TSI 110 kW Design Tiptronic
Price:
R489 400
Engine:
1,4-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power:
110 kW @ 5 000 – 6 000 r/min
Torque:
250 N.m @ 1 500 – 3 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:
8,4 seconds
Top Speed:
250 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
6,9 L/100 km
CO2: 142g/km
Transmission:
Eight-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan:
Five-year/90 000 km service