TESTED: VW T-Roc 2.0 TSI 4MOTION is enticing, but where’s the cabin glamour?
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JOHANNESBURG - Volkswagen set an interior benchmark with its fourth-generation Golf more than 20 years ago that had rivals, often unsuccessfully, scrambling to catch up. While this wasn’t the most dynamic vehicle around, the Golf 4 had a truly classy cockpit that just looked and felt like it belonged in a larger and more luxurious vehicle.
These classy vibes have followed through in most of the products that the German car manufacturer has released since, and as such every time we jump into a modern VW, we expect to be impressed by the cabin furnishings.
Premium vibes lacking inside
But when we stepped into the company’s latest SUV offering, the T-Roc, something felt amiss. While there was no faulting the overall build quality or the design and layout, the upper and lower dashboard plastics were of the hard and scratchy variety that not only looked cheap, but felt that way too. We’re willing to forgive the T-Cross for its similar transgressions, but it’s much harder to justify in a more premium product like the T-Roc.
However there is at least a kind of high-tech ambience, thanks to the digital instrument cluster and the decently sized infotainment screen, with our test car being optionally upgraded to the 20.3cm Discover Pro with App Connect, which boasts crisp graphics and good all-round usability.
Thankfully the cabin also avoids being altogether bland, depending on which model and spec combination you choose. In the base Design derivative, for instance, you can choose blue or orange trim for the dashboard if the corresponding exterior colour is chosen. The R-Line we had on test, though, only offers Caribou Grey dash trimmings, although you can opt for a white and grey seat upholstery combination that does lift the ambience a bit.
On the outside: it’s got the look
While the cabin was a letdown, we were impressed with the T-Roc’s exterior, which looks both classy and purposeful. This is largely thanks to a coupe-inspired C-pillar as well as available two-tone colour options and huge wheels across the board, with Design derivatives rolling on 18-inch alloys as standard and the R-Line upgrading to 19” rims.
Incidentally, the T-Roc is closely related to Audi’s Q2, although you’d never say so as both have unique exterior panels.
Let’s take a spin
The interesting thing about the T-Roc is that even though it is slightly cheaper than it’s Q2 cousin, commanding between R489 400 and R593 600 versus the Audi’s R504 000 - R602 800 price range, the VW actually sweetens the deal with bigger engines.
Whereas base Q2 models make do with the 85kW 1-litre turbo triple, the T-Roc Design entry model comes with the 110kW 1.4 TSI turbopetrol, which is the flagship engine in the Audi! The T-Roc’s R-Line range-topper, meanwhile, upgrades you to a version of the familiar 2-litre TSI unit, producing 140kW and 320Nm. The front-driven 1.4 TSI is paired with an eight-speed torque converter autobox, while the 2.0 TSI comes standard with 4Motion all-wheel drive and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch tranny complete with ‘flappy paddles’ on the steering wheel.
Given that it’s a detuned GTI engine saddled with the extra weight of an AWD system, the T-Roc R-Line does not exactly feel like a hot hatch on stilts, and yet it felt impressively crisp and responsive and performance was certainly effortless. VW says it will surge from 0-100km/h in just 7.2 seconds and that is certainly impressive for an SUV that doesn’t parade around with a performance badge.
Around corners the T-Roc feels fleet footed for an SUV and the 4Motion AWD system will keep things tidy as you approach the limits. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and we suspect it would feel a lot cushier with wheels smaller than the 19” units fitted to our car.
What features come as standard?
The 2.0 TSI R-Line 4Motion is fitted with dual-zone automatic climate control, auto headlights, Active Info Display (digital instrument cluster), automatic tailgate, Radio Composition Media infotainment system, high-beam control, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and park-distance control.
However, advanced driver assist features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Traffic Alert are optional.
Although the cabin looks cheaper than you’d expect at the price point, the Volkswagen T-Roc does gain back plenty of ground with its other attributes, including funky exterior styling, modern cabin tech and good all-round performance and dynamic ability. It also offers better value than its Audi Q2 cousin.