Good: distinctive looks, Golf-matching solidity, loads of tech
Not so good: it's not especially spacious, this version is expensive
It's testament to the popularity of small crossovers across Europe that predicted sales figures for the new Volkswagen T-Roc are capped by the number of vehicles Volkswagen Ireland can get its hands on rather than market demand. And demand there will be for Volkswagen's brand-new compact SUV, starting at €25,525 on-the-road and sitting on the same MQB platform as the VW Golf. It matters not that the T-Roc is only marginally more practical than the Golf, as, well, just look at it. The T-Roc is one of the most interesting looking Volkswagens on sale right now, yet it doesn't use styling gimmicks to achieve that, so most will find it attractive.
Same story inside, though it's a relatively sedate interior design unless you customise it, as the dashboard pads can be finished in yellow, blue or orange instead of the default black and greys. Nonetheless, it feels as beautifully made as any Volkswagen interior, enhanced no end in our test car by the Active Info Display digital instrumentation and gorgeous glass-covered central infotainment system. The Active Info Display is standard on the T-Roc Sport, actually, and it's a new version of the system, so it's different to what's found in the Tiguan, but just as good to look at. Naturally, the T-Roc can be loaded with plenty of tech, and it's worth perusing the standard equipment list before you decide to spend any more, as the likes of App Connect (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink) and two USB ports are standard on the T-Roc Design and Sport. Buyers of the latter will also be tempted by the technology upgrade specific to that variant, costing €1,499. It adds the fantastic Discover Media satnav system, a rear-view camera, panoramic sunroof and the Winter Pack. Money well spent and all but irrelevant to your monthly repayments if you're buying the T-Roc on PCP.
Given all the discussion about a swing back to petrol power in Ireland, Volkswagen isn't quite sure which of the T-Roc engines will prove most popular. Petrol models are powered by either the well-proven three-cylinder 1.0 TSI unit (115hp) or a new 1.5 TSI petrol engine producing 150hp, both with front-wheel drive. For now, the only diesel is the one tested here, a 2.0-litre TDI unit with 150hp and 4Motion four-wheel drive. It pushes the price of the T-Roc up considerably, overlapping with entry-level versions of the larger Tiguan, which is why we've given this specific model a relatively low star rating.
In fairness, this T-Roc feels like a very substantial car. It has more performance than most will need, a slick six-speed manual gearbox, excellent damping and a surfeit of traction. It's quite fun to hustle down a twisty road and feels a lot like a slightly higher-up Golf. Notably, it's of high quality and refined with it. Still, the sweet spot in the T-Roc line-up is likely to be under the €30,000 mark and most Irish buyers don't need four-wheel drive. We expect the 1.0-litre TSI model to be awarded a higher rating when we get our hands on it. That's if Volkswagen doesn't sell every example it can get, of course...