London: Better late than never but it’s a mystery why it has it taken VW so long to move into the competitive but profitable crossover car market.
When the Nissan Qashqai broke the mould in 2006 with a higher riding medium family car, rivals were not slow to jump on the bandwagon.
To name just a few there is already the Vauxhall Mokka X; Renault Kadjar, Toyota CH-R, BMW X2 and the MINI Countryman.
Even among its own firm the new VW T-Roc has rivals with the Audi Q2, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq.
Volkswagen loves to begin the names of its larger cars with a ‘T’ – Touareg, Touran and Tiguan – but the T-Roc is the smallest of the gang.
Only for the time being though as a smaller SUV, the T-Cross is on the way.
Also the T-Roc range is going to expand in the next few years. First with a rumoured 300bhp R version, and a convertible in 2020.
The T-Roc is 4234mm long making it 252mm shorter than its closest sibling the Tiguan.
Think of the five seater hatchback as a Golf on stilts then you will get a good idea of its size.
But as the Golf is the third biggest selling car in history and elevated motors are all the rage – that is no bad thing.
VW expects the small SUV market to grow from 6.4 million to 10.6 million in the next decade and that eighty percent of the T-Rocs they shift will be petrol.
There are five engines available, two 4-cylinder petrols a 1.5L and 2.0L plus a 1.6L and 2.0L diesel.
The big petrol engine with the auto box will sprint to 62mph from rest in 7.2 seconds..
This week we have the baby of the bunch the 3-cylinder 1.0L Design to test this week.
It may seem to be a bit underpowered for an mini Hulk.
But it is up to 225 kg lighter than the models with the bigger engines and more kit, which is a boon for the handling.
Obviously it is cheaper to run too – with a claimed 55.4 mpg on a combined cycle and tax will be low as it puts out just 117 g/km of CO2.
This little turbocharged unit is fine for those who don’t want to drive everywhere at ten tenths.
It has enough poke for a city car doing the school or shopping run. The elevated driving position makes it feel more special than a traditional hatchback. On a practical level it makes loading kids or cargo and easier too.
A £320 powered hatch option that flips up the tailgate off the key is an extra worth having.
Taking a leaf out of the MINI sales playbook ‘personalisation’ is another buzz word for the T-Roc.
It is available in 25 colours and with a contrasting black roof and pillars. Go all out and you can follow this up with a rainbow of hues for the interior dash and centre console too.
Externally the design seems quite daring for a VW with a roof spoiler, bullet-shaped LED running lights and aggressively raked C-pillar.
It is sharper than a standard Golf and helps give this compact cross-over some personality.
Think SUV wannabe and acres of passenger room spring to mind but the T-Roc is a bit like a Tardis in reverse, with the jacked up profile suggesting more than it can deliver.
Very tall drivers may find themselves wanting to push the seat back further while those in the back won’t thank them for it. But for short journeys and pre-teen kids will be fine.
For boot space it comes near top for the class though with 445 litres, which almost trebles with the seats down.
There are five trim levels – S, SE, Design, SEL and R-Line.
Safety features include auto brakes so it stops itself for cars in front and pedestrians if it thinks a collision is imminent.
Other standard safety features include the active lane keeping system and Lane Assist; plus Design models are also equipped with the Driver Alert System and Light Assist main-beam control system.
Standard-fit items across the range include 2Zone electronic climate control; Composition Media infotainment system with eight-inch colour touch-screen, Bluetooth telephone and audio connection, DAB radio reception, USB connectivity and charging, and 6 x 20W speakers and minimum 16-inch alloy wheels.
Pick a Design model and you get chrome-effect trapezoid exhaust tailpipe surrounds left and right, a contrasting roof, A-pillar and door mirror housing colours; rear tinted glass.
Our Design model with a six-speed manual gearbox has Adaptive cruise control as standard but it does have limited usefulness when the car is not a manual.
VW are no doubt expecting big things from this little(ish) car which is bound to win fans even in such a crowded market.
T-Roc Design 1.0TSI 6 speed manual
Engine: 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol turbocharged
Gearbox: 6 speed manual
Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 55.4mpg (combined)
CO2: 117 g/km