Volkswagen T-Roc R long-term test
The 296bhp Volkswagen T-Roc R is one of our favourite sports SUVs, but how easy is it to live with? We've been finding out...
The car Volkswagen T-Roc R 2.0 TSI 300 4Motion DSG Run by Steve Huntingford, editor
Why it’s here To see if this thrilling sports SUV continues to impress when you live with it every day
Needs to Combine its undoubted pace and agility with practicality
List price £40,735 Target Price £38,604 Price as tested £46,709 Miles 3240 Official economy 32.5mpg Test economy 28.4mpg Dealer price now £32,455 Private price now £28,849 Trade-in price now £31,284
26 November – The same but different
What was the first hot hatch? It’s an age-old debate, with some people making a case for the original Mini Cooper S (even though it wasn’t a hatchback) and others the Simca 1100 Ti (despite its performance being decidedly luke-warm). However, personally I think the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI has the strongest claim; no, it wasn’t the first hatchback with sporting pretensions, but it was the first to offer acceleration that could genuinely entertain.
This helped make it a huge hit, as did the fact that it combined this driving fun with the vice-free everyday behaviour of lesser Golfs. And having hit upon such a successful formula, Volkswagen has largely stuck to it ever since, with its hot models generally being great all-rounders, rather than the sharpest cars of their kind.
In some ways, though, the T-Roc R is an exception. Not only is it the brand’s first sports SUV, but it sacrifices more in the name of thrills than any other modern Volkswagen, including the Golf R with which it shares its 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, four-wheel drive system and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Indeed, when we group tested the T-Roc R, we found that it was both firmer and less practical than the rival Cupra Ateca, and yet we still awarded it the win because we decided the fun outweighed the flaws. Indeed, I was sufficiently convinced to choose one as my next company car. But have I come to regret that decision?
Well, there’s no doubt about it; the T-Roc R demands compromises that something like the new Golf GTI doesn’t. On the motorway, for example, you’re bounced around quite a bit, even if you specify the £695 adaptive dampers (as I did) and set them to Comfort. And while the engine fades into the background once you’re settled at 70mph, road roar is intrusive enough to have you reaching for the stereo volume.
Here’s the thing, though: neither of these things are so bad that they stopped my three-year-old daughter falling asleep in the back, or caused my wife to berate me for choosing something that wasn’t suited to family trips. And on more challenging roads, with the dampers turned up to 11, the T-Roc R never failed to make me smile.
It’s only through particularly vicious S-bends that you can detect the extra height over the Golf R. And it’s possible to carry a great deal of speed across country without any fear that the car will turn around and bite you. Not only is there loads of grip, but it’s spread evenly front to rear. Plus, you can really feel power being sent to the rear wheels when exiting corners, with this helping to prevent the nose from running wide.
Speaking of power, the T-Roc R is a properly quick car, getting from 0-60mph in just 4.7sec at our private test track. But more important in everyday use is the way it feels pleasingly muscular from low in the rev range and revs out with no nasty spikes or flat spots.
I was also a fan of the seats, which are well bolstered to stop you sliding around in corners, but also kept me ache-free even after a couple of hours behind the wheel, partly thanks to their standard lumbar support.
And while the infotainment screen is actually quite small by modern standards, the system is much easier to use than the one in the latest Golf, because its menus are simpler and there’s a rotary knob for scrolling up and down lists. It’s just a pity the interior plastics aren’t as impressive, feeling hard and cheap.
Still, if you can live with this and the fact that average fuel economy is unlikely to top 30mpg, the T-Roc R is a fine choice. It may be more focused than your average hot Volkswagen, but this brings big benefits. And there’s still enough of the everyday usability that we’ve come to expect.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Best sports SUVs 2022
If you want thrills and performance as well as practicality and an elevated driving position, these are the SUVs that should be on your shortlist – and the models that are best avoided
Ford Puma ST long-term test
Our chief photographer wanted an SUV that brought more than a touch of fun to a gruelling daily routine. How does the Ford Puma ST stack up?