BY ANDREW MUZAMHINDO
VW’s latest crossover may not have size on its side, but could it make a case for itself as a fun, well-appointed compact family car?
Few Zimbabweans can distinguish between a crossover and a SUV. It does not help as well that dealerships sell crossovers as SUVs.
A crossover is built using a unibody platform (the type used by most passenger cars), while an SUV is built using a body-on-frame platform (the type used by off-road vehicles and pickup trucks).
We Zimbabweans tend to equate SUVs with size and bombastic road presence, and naturally, price is a direct correlation – the more expensive a SUV is, the bigger it needs to be. Even among the crossovers, the popular vote still goes to the tall, chunky, squared-jawed type, so much so that even hatchbacks have started to ape the look. And then there’s the continued preference for diesel power with vehicles like this.
Will VW be able to find takers for its T Roc? To put that size into perspective, while a Creta is 4,300m long, the T-Roc clocks in at 4,234m long. Moreover, its height of 1,573m makes it lower than even most sub-four-metre SUVs and puts it almost into premium hatchback territory. But then, its 1,819mm width and 2,590m wheelbase do at least give it a nice, relatively wide stance on the road. It casts a silhouette that’s more akin to a hatchback too, with a bonnet that’s not too tall and front and rear windscreens that are pretty steeply raked.
What it lacks in outright size and blocky shape, it attempts to make up for with panache in the details. The LED headlamps and chrome-lined grille merge into one continuous form, there’s a neat LED running lamp signature where you’d expect the fog lamps (the fog lamps sit lower, and the DRLs double up as indicators) and there’s even a brushed silver skid plate sitting below the big honeycomb air dam. There’s a good amount of the requisite black cladding around the base of the T-Roc and some prominent character lines on the bonnet and sides, especially over the pronounced wheel arches.
At the rear, you’ll find faux exhaust surrounds and cladding that cuts into the bumper to house the number plate, plus more strong lines, and the words ‘T-Roc’ written bold under the VW logo.
But perhaps the least SUV-like thing about it — the raked roof — is its most distinguishing feature. All colours of the T-Roc come with a gloss black roof treatment that extends down to the A-pillars. The C-pillar, meanwhile, is thick and body-coloured with a silver accent. And just for that last reminder that this is no hatchback, there are roof rails. Since the car is so small, the 17-inch alloy wheels fill the arches nicely, and while you could have your T-Roc in black, white or grey, you should have it in orange, blue or this rather striking Kurkuma Yellow.
The interiors are very Volkswagen – which is to say dark in colour, full of straight lines, but also very well built. That said, we wish there were some soft-touch plastics in here; you won’t find any on the dashboard or the door cards, but the quality of the textured hard plastics is superb and they’re perfectly screwed together. It’s nice that they’ve done a bit to liven things up with things like dull gold and piano black trim, a centre console that’s slightly canted towards the driver and tri-tone Vienna leather upholstery.
Good forward visibility, excellent build quality, but wish things were a little brighter.
Speaking of the seats, the ones up front are sculpted and snug, offering a good amount of adjustment, including lumbar for the driver. They are heated, but unfortunately, not powered or ventilated. Sitting up front, you don’t really feel like you’re in as compact a car as the T-Roc is, because forward visibility is great and the dashboard spreads out wide in front of you.
Move over to the back seat, however, and you’ll find where the space compromise has been made. This is not one for the chauffeur driven, with very average knee room, and headroom that will be tight for six-footers, even though the roof has been scooped out.
Moreover, it’s not a very high-set seat, and the fact the front seats are so close to you does make you feel a bit hemmed in. Helping to alleviate that feeling is the panoramic sunroof which, though not as large as most, does let a lot of light in. The bench itself is best for two though, but they will be comfortable, thanks to more of that snug bolster sculpting, a large centre armrest and good thigh support.
So, the T-Roc does not set any benchmarks for interior space, but VW has made sure to load it up with equipment to make its price tag a little more palatable. Some of the highlights are dual-zone climate control, a crisp and customizable 10.25-inch digital instrument display, an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electronic parking brake with auto hold, 6 airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, fuel-saving engine stop-start, heated mirrors, the panoramic sunroof, rear disc brakes, front + rear parking sensors and much more.
Power is courtesy the VW Group’s 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine via a 7-speed DSG, and is sent to only the front wheels. It oozes 112kW power and 250Nm torque giving you a sprint of 0-100kph in 9.89sec, and thanks to the quick-shifting DSG, kickdown acceleration is quick too – 20-80kph in 5.51sec and 40-100kph in 6.36sec. This new-gen direct-injection turbo-petrol engine is interesting in the way that it enjoys a strong mid-range, as do most of its ilk, but is also incredibly free revving. In fact, in sport and
So just where does the T-Roc fit in the Zimbabwean marketplace? To answer that, you need to abandon the idea that it is an SUV; it’s not. What it is, is a crossover that leans heavily into its on-road ability at the cost of the traditional SUV space, practicality and road presence. It’s good for a small family, or an individual who occasionally travels with friends, it has its own distinct style and it delivers big on driving dynamics and feel-good factor.
To put it another way, we have’ve always wondered if VW would ever bite the bullet and bring in its full-size hatchback, the Golf, to Zimbabwe. But it has not, and will not, because the idea of a hatchback so big and expensive just will not fly here. The T-Roc is the Golf they can bring here, thanks to the added crossover appeal and practicality, and there’s nothing else quite like it on the market.