Volkswagen T-Roc long-term test: report 6

Can What Car?'s 5-star small SUV of 2023 be the perfect companion for our senior videographer? That's what we're going to be finding out over the coming months...

Shifting gears in the VW T-Roc

The car Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI 110 Life Run by Kiall Garrett, senior videographer

Why it’s here To prove whether this five-star small SUV can be big enough and comfortable enough to meet the demands of regular long-distance load-lugging journeys.

Needs to be spacious enough to carry around lots of camera equipment and chew through long motorway journeys with ease while delivering good fuel economy on a town-based commute.

Mileage 2659 List Price £27,815 Target Price £26,414 Price as tested £30,585 Official economy 47.1mpg Test economy 39.1mpg

20 March 2024 – An automatic choice?

It seems as though more and more new cars are being sold with automatic gearboxes. Indeed, most of the new cars which come into the What Car? office don't have a traditional gear stick and clutch pedal in sight. So when I first got my Volkswagen T-Roc, you may remember, I mentioned how nice it was to be back in a car with a manual gearbox.

Such is its rarity among new cars I almost feel as if I should put the six-speed gearstick in a display case and stick it in a museum.

Even before the rise of the electric car – which are exclusively available as automatics – it seemed as though the manual ‘box was headed the way of the Dodo. Plus, the number of people passing their driving test in an automatic (rather than a manual) has nearly quadrupled in the last ten years. So, having ordered my car as a manual, is it a decision I've come to regret?

VW T-Roc on the road

Ask me this as I accelerate through the gears on a quiet country road and I’d never choose anything other than a manual. The satisfaction of timing your gear shift and slotting the gear in is, to me, a large part of what makes driving enjoyable. I know I’m talking about a small SUV here and not a hot hatch, but I’ve still been really impressed with the light and precise quality of the gearshift in the T-Roc.

However, ask me the same questions on my painful 90-minute commute through South London to the What Car? office in Twickenham and I may have a different answer. With a constant back and forth between neutral, first and – occasionally – the heady heights of second gear, my legs and arms tend to suffer from the low-speed tedium of it all, and at that point I’d perhaps rather be in an automatic, letting the car do the work for me. There are times when I miss the ease of just having two pedals to worry about.

The answer to whether I regret my gearbox decision, then, depends on the driving situation. But no matter what kind of driving I'm doing, there are some issues with the T-Roc's practicality which are beginning to grate.

Cupholder issues in the T-Roc

One bugbear I have is that I can only access both of my two cupholders when the armrest is as far back as it will go. For my driving position, I’d rather have it farther forwards which then only lets me have one cupholder – annoying if I’m loaded with cups of tea for a long journey.

I also have an issue with the boot, because while it's a great size, it’s a shame there aren’t any handy side pockets to store loose items in – many of my journeys are accompanied by the rattle of whatever loose item I've left in the boot.

Plus, when the adjustable boot floor is in its highest position, there’s a helpful amount of underfloor storage below it. However, there’s no covering on that underfloor area, and instead it's just exposed metalwork. That means anything I might store in there rattles around so I tend to only use it for soft bags.

Underfloor storage in the VW T-Roc

Even with those bugbears, though, the T-Roc is still an easy car to live with, and has had no trouble in swallowing all of the camera equipment I need to carry with me. 

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