What Car? says...
VWs tend to be great box-tickers – cars that appeal to your rational side rather than your emotions. But when the Volkswagen T-Roc was revealed, there was a lot of talk of it having just as much style as substance.
Indeed, this small SUV now has more road presence than ever before, following a mid-life refresh. That's given the T-Roc bigger front air intakes, LED headlights as standard and an LED light bar on higher-spec models that runs the width of the front grille.
The question is, should you choose the T-Roc over any of those rival small SUVs? What’s more, is it a better car than its Volkswagen stablemates, the VW T-Cross – which is a similar size – and the sleeker-looking VW Taigo?
Read on to find out how the VW T-Roc compares. And once you've decided what to get, make sure you pay the lowest price possible by using our New Car Buying service.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The great news is that the T-Roc’s cheapest engine is rather good. The 1.0 TSI 110 is a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit with 109bhp, and gives you plenty of low-down shove so it rarely struggles in everyday driving. The 11-seconds 0-60mph time achieved in our tests may seem casual, but you’ll rarely feel left behind.
Of its rivals, only the Puma offers more oomph for the money. If you want a little extra power, the 1.5 TSI 150 gives you 148bhp and sprints from 0-60mph in 8.5sec, making overtaking easier, but we don’t think it’s worth the extra investment.
If you avoid the entry-level Life trim, you’ll be able to have the even more powerful 2.0 TSI 190 engine with 4Motion four-wheel drive. It can officially sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8sec, which is two seconds faster than even the top-spec Q2 Black Edition 35 TFSI S Tronic. There's an even quicker sports SUV version – see our VW T-Roc R review for that.
What about diesels? Well, the 113bhp 2.0 TDI 115 has solid pace, while the 148bhp 2.0 TDI 150 (which isn’t available with Life trim) pulls strongly from low revs and is available with an automatic gearbox as well as four-wheel drive. If you tow a caravan, the 2.0 TDI 150 makes the most sense, because it can pull up to 1600kg.
Suspension and ride comfort
The T-Roc in entry-level Life trim comes with 16in alloy wheels and higher-profile tyres than the other trim levels, making it supremely comfortable. On those wheels, it soaks up bumps better than the Audi Q2, the Puma and the Mini Countryman, but is not so soft that it bounces you out of your seat on undulating roads, as the Citroën C3 Aircross can.
With that in mind, we’d save a few pounds by avoiding the pricier trims that come with bigger 17in wheels, which make the ride knobblier. Meanwhile, R-Line trim adds stiffer sports suspension, and while it increases body control and makes for a settled ride, it's not as comfortable as our favourite Life version.
We’d also avoid the R-Line’s optional Dynamic Chassis Control. It lets you soften or firm up the ride to suit your mood (or the road), but the differences are subtle and the system isn’t cheap, so we wouldn’t bother adding it.
You rarely get something for nothing and, sure enough, the price you pay for the T-Roc’s forgiving ride is more body lean through corners than in some small SUV rivals. Around town, though, that makes little difference, and it's a light and easy car to drive through the cityscape.
Even on open roads, the T-Roc is reassuring. The well-weighted and responsive steering does your bidding and there's plenty of grip and balance so you feel confident with what's underneath you.
That’s especially true when it comes to the stiffer T-Roc R-Line but, while it feels more balanced than less-sporty rivals such as the Hyundai Kona, there are more entertaining alternatives, including the Puma which is ultra-agile, responsive and a lot more fun, even next to the stiffer T-Roc R-Line.
If you opt for the top-spec R-Line trim or the Style trim’s optional Sport Pack, you’ll get a Driving Profile Selection switch that lets you alter the weight of the steering and the response of the accelerator. As with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, it doesn't have a dramatic effect and we wouldn’t recommend adding it as an option to cheaper variants.
Noise and vibration
The T-Roc's entry-level petrol engine and our pick of the range, the 1.0 TSI 110, is very quiet around town. You’ll notice it becoming a little more vocal when you pick up the pace and work it hard, but it remains well isolated from the interior. Meanwhile, the 1.5 TSI 150, is smoother and generally quieter because it doesn't need to be revved as vigorously. The diesels produce a bit more rumble but are not bad otherwise.
If you opt for the manual gearbox, the lever is light and precise. Add to that the progressive brakes and an intuitive clutch that’s easy to feed in, and the T-Roc is no effort to drive slickly through snarled-up traffic. Meanwhile, the optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox can be a bit jerky in stop-start situations and has a tendency to hesitate when you go to pull off or demand a sudden burst of power.
Once you're up to motorway speeds, you'll find that the T-Roc does a fine job of isolating you from road and wind noise – better than all its rivals, as it happens – so if you value calm and relaxing progress, you'll like the T-Roc a lot.
Strengths Gutsy and quiet petrol engines; slick manual gearshift; very comfortable ride
Weaknesses Not as entertaining as a Ford Puma; optional Dynamic Chassis Control isn't worth the money; automatic gearbox hesitates a lot
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you like a raised driving position, you’ll like the T-Roc. It places you higher above the road than other small SUVs including the Kia Stonic, the Arona and the Kamiq. It’s a doddle to get comfy, with a supportive driver’s seat that has a good amount of adjustment and adjustable lumbar support as standard. All that is complemented by the reach-and-rake adjustable steering wheel.
The dashboard is arranged in a sensible way, with all the knobs and buttons within easy reach. All versions come with a clear digital instrument panel (in place of analogue dials) and controls on the steering wheel for cycling through the various displays. You can even show a full-width map on the driver display if sat-nav and the upgraded 10.25in digital cockpit pro driver display are fitted.
Unfortunately, no matter which version you go for, you can’t escape the masses of touch-sensitive buttons that control everything from the infotainment to the climate controls. On R-Line models, they’re added to the steering wheel too. They’re fiddly to use on the move and distracting, so we’d much prefer proper physical buttons and knobs, like the ones that you’ll find in the Kona.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The T-Roc's relatively lofty driving position helps to give you a great view of the road ahead. The windscreen pillars can obstruct slightly at junctions, but no more so than many of its rivals. Rear visibility is more restricted (the Kamiq gives you a better view out of the back) but because you get front and rear parking sensors as standard, that's not a massive problem. The T-Roc is fractionally easier to see out of to the rear than the Stonic and Arona.
For added support, there’s the option of a rear-view camera on all versions. We’d advise adding it, because it’ll make parking even easier and won’t set you back all that much, costing around the same as a fancy pair of headphones.
Bright automatic LED headlights, which offer great illumination at night, are standard on all trim levels. Style trim models upgrade those headlights to LED Plus, which dip automatically so they don't dazzle other road users.
Sat nav and infotainment
All versions of the T-Roc come with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, positioned high up on the dashboard. It responds more quickly to your prods than previous VW touchscreens, and there are useful shortcut buttons on either side of the screen. The rotary controller in the Countryman is still much less distracting to use, though.
Voice activation and built-in sat-nav come as standard on all trim levels except entry-level Life. Even so, if you have a smartphone, the lack of sat-nav won’t be an issue because Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is standard. It lets you use Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze and other apps instead.
Wireless phone-charging is available on all versions but only as a low-cost option. That’s pretty standard for the class, with the Puma and Kona also offering it as an option with lower trim levels.
You’re probably expecting the T-Roc to look and feel quite posh inside. After all, it's made by VW, which has a history of providing upmarket interiors – even in cheaper models, such as the VW Polo.
In the previous versions of the T-Roc, that wasn’t the case, and unyielding plastics were the order of the day. Thankfully, an update improved interior quality, adding soft-touch materials on top of the dashboard and bright plastic trim finishers on the fascia. There are still some scratchy plastics but they’re hidden better than before and there are way fewer than you’ll find in the Kona.
As you’d expect, top-tier R-Line trim gets the best interior – its sports seats are especially lovely. The quality matches that of the Kamiq and edges ahead of cheaper rivals including the Arona, the Toyota Yaris Cross and the T-Cross. It still doesn’t match the premium-badged rivals, the Q2 and the Countryman, though.
Strengths Lots of driver's seat adjustment; raised seating gives excellent view; infotainment screen is well positioned and quick to respond
Weaknesses Although quality is better than it was, it's still not class leading; fiddly touch-sensitive controls on R-Line models
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
It’s unlikely that anyone will be sitting up front in a T-Roc and thinking, "I don’t have enough room". The seats slide back a long way (although not quite as far as in the Countryman) and there's lots of head room.
The T-Roc is one of the wider small SUVs so you won’t be clashing elbows with the person next to you either. Storage space is impressive too. The T-Roc has a large centre cubby, space under the front armrest, wide door pockets and a big glovebox. You even get a drawer under the driver's seat on all trim levels.
Rear head room in the T-Roc is generous – assuming you haven’t opted for the panoramic glass roof – and leg room is good. In fact, there's more leg room than in the Puma, the Stonic and the Nissan Juke and as much as you get in the Q2. The Kona and the Kamiq both have more though.
The T-Roc is broader in the back than most of its rivals, meaning it’s less of a squeeze for three large adults. Leg room isn't as good for the middle-seat passenger because they have to straddle a large lump in the floor, but it’s still more accommodating than most in the class.
As for storage space, there's a pocket on the back of each front seat, a pair of cupholders in the centre armrest and space for a can of drink in each rear door.
Seat folding and flexibility
The T-Roc comes with folding rear seats as standard but they split 60/40 rather than in the more versatile 40/20/40 arrangement provided by the Q2, the Kona and the Countryman. What’s more, unlike the Countryman's, the T-Roc’s rear seats don’t recline or slide to allow you to set a balance between rear leg room and luggage space.
The thing is, most other small SUVs don't do any of those things either, and the T-Roc does at least provide you with a ski hatch, to make up for any versatility lost by the 60/40 seats. Electrically-operated front seats are not available in the T-Roc (or most of its rivals).
The T-Roc’s boot is a practical square shape, and at 445 litres (392 litres in the four-wheel-drive variants), it’s slightly larger than the one in the Q2 and the Arona.
To prove the point, we fitted seven carry-on suitcases into the boot of a front-wheel-drive T-Roc, and six in a four-wheel-drive version. That's more than we managed to fit in the Arona and the same number as the C3 Aircross and the Countryman swallowed.
The T-Roc comes with a useful height-adjustable boot floor as standard. In its highest position, it removes the load lip at the entrance and ensures that there’s no step up to the rear seats when they’re folded flat. When it's in its lowest setting, there’s more of a step down to the boot floor but it’s not a huge drop.
Strengths One of the more spacious small SUVs; lots of in-car cubbies; well-shaped boot features useful height-adjustable floor
Weaknesses Electrically adjustable front seats aren't available; rear seats don't slide or recline
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The entry-level T-Roc Life will set you back slightly more than the Puma, Arona and Yaris Cross but the extra cost is easy to justify because it comes with lots of standard equipment. The T-Roc is also predicted to have far stronger resale values than most of its rivals, including the Q2, Puma and Kona. We’d stick to the Life trim because top-end versions, such as the 2.0 TDI 150 DSG R-Line, are expensive and we reckon there are better options among larger family SUVs.
Running costs for cheaper T-Rocs look sensible, too. The 1.0 TSI 110 managed an impressive 44.7mpg in our True MPG testing, which is remarkably close to the 47.1mpg official figure. Decent CO2 emissions and reasonable P11D values make it competitive for company car tax although the Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 155 is even better on both counts.
On a PCP finance deal, the T-Roc is not that cheap generally, with the Puma, the Kamiq, the Stonic and the Yaris Cross potentially offering lower monthly payments. That said, it's always good to check what manufacturer-supported deals are available. You can find some on our New Car Deals pages.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Life is our chosen trim for the T-Roc because it keeps costs down but still comes with plenty of standard gear. As standard, it includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic wipers, two-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, 16in alloy wheels and digital dials.
Style trim is the next step on the T-Roc ladder and adds bigger wheels, upgraded seats, a larger 10.25in digital driver display, the larger infotainment screen and built-in sat-nav.
Top-spec R-Line is all about making the T-Roc sportier, adding sports suspension, switchable driving profiles, sportier styling and heated front seats into the mix.
As a brand, Volkswagen finished in a mediocre 22nd place out of 32 car makers featured in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s not great – Hyundai, Mini, Mazda, Skoda and Seat all did better. Meanwhile, the T-Roc itself achieved a middling result when compared to other small SUVs.
If you compare the T-Roc specifically with other small SUVs it does averagely well, falling behind the Countryman and Q2 but beating the Puma and Arona.
A three-year warranty, limited to 60,000 miles, comes as standard. Hyundai provides a five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty and Kia covers its cars for seven years/100,000 miles.
Safety and security
Euro NCAP awarded the T-Roc five stars out of five for overall safety, but that was back in 2017 when the tests were less stringent than now. Cars that were tested after it could be safer, but then it's tricky to compare results from different years. What we can say is that the T-Roc had no worrying issues regarding adult and child protection.
All T-Rocs have an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that can detect pedestrians as well as other cars, and lane-keeping assistance. Style trim and upwards will sound an alert if the driver is tired.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Strengths Sensible running costs; performed well in Euro NCAP safety tests; even entry-level Life trim comes well equipped
Weaknesses Plenty of rivals are cheaper to buy or finance; mediocre reliability record and warranty
|RRP price range||£27,815 - £44,915|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||32.8 - 60.1|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,704 / £3,204|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£3,407 / £6,408|