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News Cars | 2018 Volkswagen T Roc

First Drive Review
October 2017 By JENS MEINERS
View 20 Photos
The T-Roc may be among the most significant of many new Volkswagen models, even if it won’t be sold in the United States in the foreseeable future. It’s a new crossover that is roughly the same size as the Golf and is based on the same MQB architecture. For now, at least, the Golf will remain the mainstay of the brand’s lineup, but those within the company who are concerned with sales-growth rates are far more interested in the crossover-SUV segment nearly everywhere on the globe.
The T-Roc’s body sits relatively low for a crossover SUV, giving it a more carlike stance than, say, a Chevrolet Trax or a Buick Encore. There is only a little more ground clearance than on a Golf, but the seats are a full 3.1 inches higher, making clear that the appeal is not off-road capability but the “commanding” seating position in traffic, with a clear line of sight over ordinary cars—although not other SUVs.
The T-Roc features a conventionally proportioned, two-box body with somewhat expressive, bulging fenders. While the swollen fenders may appear contradictory to VW’s traditional styling language, they are a safe choice in this segment where customers prefer a slightly aggressive appearance.
The headlights are located directly adjacent to the grille, and in higher trim levels the LED daytime running lights also act as turn signals when needed. The chrome strip stretching from the base of the A-pillar to the bottom of the C-pillar may remind some of the Jeep Compass, although it was used on VW’s T-Roc concept of 2014, which previewed the company’s intention to enter this market segment—albeit disguised with two-door bodywork and a removable roof.
The T-Roc breaks new ground in the VW cosmos by offering an array of contrasting colors. Prospective customers can treat the online configurator as a coloring book and come up with a plethora of tasteful or not-so-tasteful choices. The same is true of the interior. This new Volkswagen is all about creative textures and color combinations, providing a cheerful reminder to its owners that they are special people with special tastes, no matter how conventional their choice of transportation appliance. It’s VW’s response to competitors such as the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade.
What this interior isn’t about is material quality, an area in which VW has set benchmarks since the mid-1990s. Some elements in the T-Roc cabin, such as the airbag cover, are made from high-quality materials, but others—like the upper dashboard, the glovebox, and the door trim—are made from hard plastic. On that note, we also noticed that the engine compartment is virtually devoid of a high-class paint finish.
To be sure, the T-Roc isn’t worse than its competitors—it just isn’t better, and we think the materials, fit, and finish are a class below VW’s own Golf. On the other hand, the T-Roc is brimming with infotainment and telematics features. Most of the driver-assistance systems developed for the MQB architecture are available here, intended to appeal to customers VW says will be “young, urban, lifestyle-oriented, and fully connected.”
All four outer seats offer great lateral support, and the interior is more spacious than the Golf’s thanks to a repositioned firewall and the slightly more vertical body.
VW freely admits that it has refocused the brand, aiming to make each new entry “top of volume,” a sales mission that marks a clear downgrade from the aggressively premium aspirations of the not-so-distant past. This tack is probably necessary, however, if the company is to weather the costs of recalls, penalties, fines, and court judgments stemming from the diesel scandal.
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