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Richard Bush gets behind the wheel of the Volkswagen T-Roc.
The words 'small SUV' have been on the lips of pretty much every manufacturer, petrolhead and daily driver for the last five years or so, in some capacity at least. They're being produced by the bucket load, and selling like proverbial hotcakes.
The Kia Stonic, Ford Ecosport, Audi Q2 - they have become as ubiquitous as the trusty family hatchback, which makes it even more surprising when you consider that up until recently, Volkswagen didn't have a horse in the race. Enter the T-Roc.
With its DNA floating somewhere in-between the Polo supermini and Golf hatch gene pool - thanks to its stumpy size and MQB underpinnings - the T-Roc aims to offer the enhancement of a slightly jacked-up SUV ride, greater practicality and overt style.
Stylish, for a Volkswagen
Manufacturers can go a bit overboard when it comes to jazzing up small SUV derivatives, ultimately leading to a design that will age quickly. Volkswagen has gone for a more subtle, timeless approach, just enough flair to turn heads.
The main sculpting has taken place at the front-end, with a new, angular bumper that houses low down LED headlights and slash lines that bend around to the front wheel arches and ripple to the rear. Think of it as a Tiguan with a rebellious lip curl. There's are also tons of alloy wheel designs and four different roof colours to choose from.
The youthfulness continues to the interior, with a choice of four different dashboard and door panel colours and a streamlined layout that centres around a slick 8in touchscreen with sunken touch-sensitive buttons either side of it. This system comes fitted as standard and, like other VW group tech, is straightforward and easy to get your head around. Other standard kit includes front and rear electric windows and two-zone air con. The Design trim we tested adds some significant treats like adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The only real pitfall with the interior is the quality of the plastics on the dash, doors and console. Hard, scratchy and cheap-feeling, they fail to surpass the Polo supermini in terms of plushness, which is a little disappointing.
With SUVs, packaging is just as important as figures on paper when it comes to practicality - and Volkswagen packages things really well.
In the rear, leg and headroom is ample, even if you go for the optional sunroof. The middle passenger seat sits slightly raised, and although headroom is reduced and leg room is limited somewhat by the transmission tunnel, it still accommodates smaller adults and, more appropriately, children.
Boot space stands at 450 litres with the seats up and just under 1,300 litres with the seats down, although storage space is flexible thanks to the availability of an adjustable boot floor, which comes as standard. Arguably the biggest boon of the boot, is the boot floor that can be brought flush with the boot lip for easy loading and can be propped open for convenient access to under-floor storage.
Not sporty, but not boring
The T-Roc manages to swerve the ever-popular vanilla feel of small SUVs with a fairly engaging drive thanks to its sharp, responsive steering. It's no Ford Focus, but it corners confidently - albeit with some body roll at speed. The payoff for that body roll is a cushy, Polo-like suspension.
Although the 1.5-litre 150hp petrol probably makes more sense all-round in terms of power and fuel economy, the 1.0-litre 115hp three-cylinder turbo petrol we tested is a competent little thing, with the perfect amount of punch for casual, A to B daily driving.
Yes, as it's a three-pot, it has a raspy note when revved out, but it settles nicely at motorway speeds, and we managed to achieve between 40-50mpg with a mixture of town and motorway driving.
Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI 115 Design P11D £21,415 CO2 119g/km MPG 54.3 Running cost (3yr/60k) 32.92ppm Key rivals Ford Ecosport, Vauxhall Mokka X, Citroën C3 Aircross