Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Four petrol engines, two diesels
  • No electrification just now
  • T-Roc R packs a 300hp punch

Volkswagen has provided loads of engines for the T-Roc, including those balanced for economy and others more focused on performance. Hybrid or electric SUV buyers should look elsewhere, though.

Broad spread of petrol engines

Entry-point for T-Roc ownership starts with the baby 1.0-litre TSI  with 115hp and 200Nm of torque. Getting from 0-62mph is dealt with in a steady 10.1 seconds. This engine has a characterful engine noise with ample overtaking punch, but you may have to change down a gear or two if you’re in a hurry.

Making a better first of things is the 1.5-litre TSI Evo with 150hp and 250Nm of torque. This engine is one of VW’s newest, and features active cylinder deactivation technology to save fuel. It’s smooth and you don’t notice the cylinders cutting in and out at all – the car does it all automatically and without fuss. This engine even sounds better than the more powerful 2.0-litre.

Topping out the core petrol range is the 2.0-litre TSI with 190hp and 320Nm of torque. This offers plenty of sporty performance and a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds. It sounds dull and uninspiring, though, which may take some of the fun out of a spirited drive. We enjoyed the 1.5 more, despite its performance shortfall.

Pair of diesel options

There are only two diesel options in the UK. The entry-level 1.6-litre TDI is armed with 115hp and 250Nm of torque and is the current best performer in terms of fuel economy. What it is not, however, is the most sprightly unit in the world. It feels quite punchy when it's in its stride but takes a committed press of the throttle to get there, resulting in a model-worst 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds.

The 1.0-litre petrol, despite having less torque, is marginally quicker that this smallest diesel and that's where we'd spend our money if the car was going to spend its life in town, where the ability to get up and go is more important.

If you spend a lot of time on country roads or motorways however the 1.6-litre diesel is a great fit - swift enough once it's up and running, while offering less engine noise than the larger 2.0-litre.

Noise aside, the 2.0-litre TDI has greater appeal, with 150hp and 340Nm of torque. It’s not a very quiet engine, but the huge torque offers plenty of punch for overtaking manoeuvres and provides the best case for those who actually go off road more than once a century.

High-performance T-Roc R

Many SUV buyers have swapped from hatchbacks in order to enjoy the higher seating position that SUVs provide, but as the number of people making the transition continues to grow so does the demand for sportier versions. Volkswagen's got an enviable back-catalogue of hot hatchbacks, so the omens are good for the T-Roc R.

At its heart is the familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI producing 300hp and 400Nm of torque. Those numbers are sufficient to propel the T-Roc R to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. All of that grunt is sent to all four wheels via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

T-Roc gearbox options

The six-speed manual is exactly as we’ve become familiar with in other Volkswagen Group products. It’s easy to drive, with well-spaced gaps between the gears and a well-damped feel to the shifts.

The other transmission option is a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic. It’s a decent gearbox, with smooth and fast changes, and there’s a manual change option using paddleshifters behind the steering wheel. If you spend a lot of time stop-start driving in city centres, this is a welcome gearbox. 

What is Dynamic Chassis Control?

Optional for certain models, the Dynamic Chassis Control includes the ability to choose from one of four different drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual plus two off-road settings.

Sport makes the engine more eager to throttle responses, holds gears longer and firms up the suspension a little more. We got a very light experience of using the off-road mode using a steep, rutted decline. The suspension coped with even significantly large holes in the track and the drive mode braked for us going down the hill to manage our speed.

What is it like to drive?

  • Steering is precise with good feedback
  • Bodyroll is kept in check
  • Why can't all small SUVs be fun to drive?

It’s remarkably easy to drive and, despite its height, it doesn't seem to roll significantly when cornering at speed. Its compact dimensions also mean it's a doddle to park and manoeuvre in urban areas. The steering is light, but direct, meaning fewer mid-corner corrections, and there is plenty of traction available even if you’re a little too eager in your corner speeds.

We found the T-Roc a highly engaging car – much more so than the vast majority of its competition. It was developed by the same engineering team that worked on the outgoing Golf GTI, and it shows - not in outright performance, but in the way you feel involved in the driving experience.

Few smaller SUVs will give you grins per mile like the T-Roc.