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VW T-Roc R review: UK’s best roads vs a 300bhp crossover

£37,540 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£37,540
Brake horsepower
300bhp
0–62 mph
4.90s
CO2
176g/km
Max speed
155Mph
Insurance Group
34E

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The VW T-Roc R is really happening, then?

Yep, this is the new normal. Lower, sportier versions of taller, heavier cars. But we live in times where you need to recharge your cigarette and download software updates to your fridge. Why on Earth would cars keep making sense?

Now, my colleague Greg drove the T-Roc R last year, and came back into the office saying that – to drive – it was actually rather good. And once we’d all finishing laughing, he wrote a very comprehensive review you can read here, from which I’ll just cherry-pick one excellent point: you’ve already made your mind up about this car.

I guess you’re either for crossovers, or against them…

Exactly. Especially hot crossovers. Either you accept that carmakers are at heart businesses that need to make money and a no-brainer way to get those cash-monies rolling in is to make lots of different models using the same toolkit of bits.

Or, you refuse to accept that in times of a climate crisis, a Golf R that’s taller, heavier, less efficient and more expensive marks you out as anything other than, to borrow a term from our American friends, a douchebag.

Let’s pretend I’ve got an open mind here.

Indeed, and let’s also skip over explaining the concept and ideology and all the wonderfully flowery padding VW would love to surround the T-Roc R with, so you don’t just dismiss it as a Golf R that’s a few years late starting the January diet. You know the deal here. Near-enough 300bhp from a 2.0-litre turbo engine. Paddleshift instead of a manual, four-wheel drive, and about £40,000 once you’ve added posh paint or boomier speakers.

Let’s fast-forward to the part where the T-Roc R is pointed down a mildly moist B4560. Because that’s where this thing will win or lose the undecided minds.

The B-what?

It’s a road in south-east Wales, beloved of keen drivers, keener ramblers, and the most kamikaze of sheep. This is the definitive test for a hot hatchback in the land where hot hatches sell more regularly than anywhere else on earth. Blind brows, tightening bends, dodgy cambers, haphazard surfaces, disobedient ewes, and a good dollop of standing water. If the T-Roc R can make it here, to mangle a song reference, it can make it just about anywhere. With the likes of us stubborn ol’ purists, at any rate.

So, how does it get on?

It’s fine. Very competent, very easy to drive quickly, very composed and mature and assured. The awkward truth is that, while it does nothing better than a Golf R or Mercedes-AMG A35 would going down the same road, it’s not massively ‘worse’ either. Most other four-wheel drive hatches trade lunatic fun for predictable traction. The T-Roc is fast, and it makes the right growly noises.

Yes, it feels heavier and lazier than a hot hatch would on A Proper Hot Hatch Road. But will the people who will queue up to buy one because it’s the fastest T-Roc, and the most expensive T-Roc, and the best-looking T-Roc, care? I really don’t think so. They’ll be delighted with it, because it’s such an undemanding fast car.

Will it rattle them and the cabin to pieces?

Good news and bad news here. The good news is the T-Roc R is way comfier than its sister car, the Cupra Ateca. It isn’t afraid of a smidge of body roll and its handsome 19-inch rims enjoy enough travel to cope with the ruts and cracks of A Proper Hot Hatch Road.

There’s a catch, though – the T-Roc R I was supplied with had a secret weapon. Dynamic chassis Control, in VW-speak. Adaptive suspension, to you and me. There’s Race Mode, which is intolerable, Comfort mode, which is too loose, and Normal, which is just right. This tri-mode ride is a £695 option, and given how dreadfully the T-Roc R-line rides on its usual sports-suspension, we’d argue it’s vital. Problem is, most people never spend money on options they can’t see. Leather seats are much more popular than clever dampers…

No matter how much cow-hide and colour-trim you throw at the T-Roc R, the interior still won’t be good enough, though. It’s all very clearly laid out, but all the plastic is brittle and shiny, and has no business in a £40,000 top-of-the-range model. Plenty of space, mind you. No need to even look at an Audi SQ2, now.

So this is the least-worst of the hot crossovers?

Yep. It’s better value than the Skoda Kodiaq vRS, roomier than the SQ2 and comfier than the Ateca. Yes, we had also noticed these are basically all the same car, albeit the Skoda’s a diesel.

I still don’t think the T-Roc R will prove to be the blueprint for the future of the fast car. Crossover craze or not, this emits too much CO2 to be cost-effective for VW to keep making it, and to R-ify the T-Cross and Tiguan as well. But if you must, the T-Roc R has very little that’s wrong with it. Not that it matters, you’d already made your mind up, I expect.

6/10

2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 296bhp, 295lb ft
7spd DSG, AWD
0-62mph in 4.8sec, 155mph
32.5mpg, 176g/km CO2
1575kg

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