What Car? says...
Certain slinky, sporty cars seem destined to be offered as convertibles but others – like this Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet – can seem like an evolution too far.
That's especially true when you consider that, as well as the roof, VW has trimmed away one of the three rear seats in the Volkswagen T-Roc small SUV, along with two of its doors and its hatchback boot opening. In other words, what you gain in summertime fun, you lose in day-to-day practicality.
The only other open-top SUV we’ve seen in recent years was the Range Rover Evoque Convertible – and that was received with some bemusement when it was launched a few years ago (and vanished from sale as a new car a couple of years later).
Of course, while Volkswagen has cut back on the T-Roc’s roof, you can be sure there’s been no trimming of the price. The entry-level T-Roc Cabriolet costs thousands of pounds more than the regular car, and even more than the cheapest soft-top Mini.
It's available with a choice of two petrol engines and two trim levels, but is it worth the price premium in any guise?
Over the next few pages of this review, we'll let you know how it compares with rivals for performance, handling, driver enjoyment, running costs and more. We’ll also tell you the version we think makes the most sense.
If you’re sold on a topless T-Roc – or any other car for that matter – don’t forget that our free What Car? New Car Deals pages can take the pain out of your purchase by helping you find it for the best price. It lists lots of new convertible car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The regular Volkswagen T-Roc is one of the best small SUVs you can get, but turning it into a convertible has added 195kg of weight because of the extra strengthening needed. That affects the way this Cabriolet version drives in a number of ways.
For a start, the entry-level 109bhp 1.0-litre petrol – which is our favourite engine in the hardtop T-Roc – is likely to need thrashing to get up to motorway speeds. The 12.3sec 0-62mph time is distinctly unsporty too.
The other engine option is a 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp. That musters plenty of oomph from relatively low engine speeds, and is fine for scooting away from a junction or accelerating up to the speed limit. Still, its 0-62mph time of 9.4secs is slower than the entry-level Mini Convertible.
The T-Roc Cabrio's standard six-speed manual gearbox is a little notchy, but has a short shift action so it's not too much of an effort to change gear.
A seven-speed automatic is optional with the 1.5-litre engine, although it has a tendency to be jerky when setting off, and is very hesitant to change down when overtaking. You can stick it in manual mode and use the paddles behind the wheel to help, although that’s not what most people buy an auto for.
As convertible cars go, the T-Roc Cabriolet drives well enough, with plenty of grip, and nicely weighted and accurate steering. It gives you plenty of confidence that the car will point in the direction you want to go.
Like the Mini Convertible and the pricier Audi A5 Cabriolet, the T-Roc Cabrio suffers from a phenomenon called ‘scuttle shake’. That means you feel reverberation through the steering wheel caused by the car's body flexing after you hit a bump in the road.
We fear this effect will be exacerbated with the optional Sport pack or opting for sportier R Line trim, both of which come with firmer standard sports suspension. The test car we drove with optional adaptive suspension suffered from a lot of tremors when set in its hardest Sport setting, leading us to use the softest ‘Comfort’ setting.
We’d recommend sticking with the ‘entry-level’ Style trim because it forgoes sports suspension and should, therefore, give a far more yielding ride. Non-sport suspension models we tried before the model was facelifted smoothed out the worst impacts of poor road surfaces well enough, and potholes at low speeds didn’t feel as jarring as they would be in the less forgiving Mini. We’ll update this section once we’ve driven a Style T-Roc Cabriolet.
Unsurprisingly, having a fabric roof means you’re not as well isolated from the outside world as you would be in the regular T-Roc. Wind and road noise – including tyre roar from passing vehicles – are all fairly obvious from inside the car.
Our test car suffered an annoying wind whistle from the top of the windscreen, whether driven with the roof up or down. Generally, though, open-air motoring is calm and comfortable. You’re well protected from buffeting, even at motorway speeds. A wind deflector is available as a relatively inexpensive option if you want a little more protection from the elements.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet’s interior is essentially a carbon copy of the one in the regular VW T-Roc. That means the dashboard and centre console are logically laid out, with a vertical 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system standing proud of the facia.
You get touch-sensitive controls for the climate control system that you can either tap or slide to adjust the temperature. Neither action is as easy when you're driving as it would be if you had physical switches, though.
The top of the dash is covered in soft-touch materials, as per the regular T-Roc, with some brighter trim finishers on the face, and any hard plastics are generally well hidden. The Mini Convertible has an even more upmarket interior with squidgy plastics throughout.
That Mini also has a classier infotainment system with easy-to-use shortcut keys and a BMW iDrive-style rotary dial controller. The touchscreen in the T-Roc isn’t as intuitive to use on the move, even with voice activation. Sat-nav comes as standard though, as does Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. Wireless phone-charging is available on all versions as a low-cost option.
The driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment to help you get comfortable, including for lumbar support, but electric adjustment isn’t available. Naturally, being based on a small SUV, the T-Roc Cabrio gives you a raised driving position for a far more commanding view forwards than you'll find in the low-slung Mini. The driving position is slightly different to the regular T-Roc's, with the seat slightly further away from the steering wheel to give you an arms outstretched posture.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There are only two seats in the back of the Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet, rather than the three you get in a hardtop VW T-Roc. Space for those passengers is limited, too: the rear section of the fabric roof slopes down and reduces head room, while knee room is also restricted. Your hemmed-in passengers don't even get cupholders.
Still, two adults will actually fit back there – the Mini Convertible struggles to accommodate anyone with average length legs. While the T-Roc Cabrio has only two doors, they open quite wide, so as you long as you park in a big enough space, getting in and out of the back is easy enough. The front seats slide forward to help too.
In place of the regular T-Roc’s practical tailgate, the Cabriolet’s boot has a small lid that hinges upwards to reveal a narrow opening. On paper, it's 161 litres shy of the regular T-Roc, plus it has a high load lip, wheel arches that intrude and it narrows towards the backs of the rear seats.
However, because the boot is quite deep, we managed to squeeze in six carry-on suitcases – the same number as the standard T-Roc and our 2022 Convertible of the Year, the BMW 4 Series. The rear seats fold 50/50 if you want to attempt to carry longer loads.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet carries a hefty price premium over the hardtop VW T-Roc and is available in two generously-equipped trim levels: Style and R-Line.
Style comes with 17in alloys, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
R-Line brings a sportier feel, with unique alloy wheel designs, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, and a 10.25in digital driver’s display. A spare wheel costs extra on both trims, as does the wind deflector.
Running costs shouldn’t be too bad, though. The 1.0-litre engine officially returns 44.8mpg, which is a little bit less than the lower-powered engine in the Mini Convertible. Official CO2 emissions are the same as a 1.5-litre Mazda MX-5 but higher than both the Mini and the Fiat 500 Cabrio. Higher emissions mean company car users pay more benefit-in-kind tax.
The T-Roc Cabriolet hasn’t been tested for safety by Euro NCAP, and the rating for the regular T-Roc (which received the full five stars when it was tested in 2017) doesn’t apply to this convertible version. There are plenty of safety systems included as standard, including lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking (AEB).
As a brand, Volkswagen finished well down in 20th place out of the 30 manufacturers in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s not great because it was below many other car makers who sell convertibles, including Audi, Mazda and Mini.
A three-year warranty, limited to 60,000 miles, comes as standard with every Volkswagen. If you want more cover, you’ll need to pay extra.
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|RRP price range||£33,905 - £39,710|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||44.1 - 45.6|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,150 / £2,522|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£4,300 / £5,043|