It’s amazing how dramatically concept cars can change when they enter series production. Those who can cast their minds back to the 2014 Geneva Motor Show may remember the VW T-Roc – a small, open-top SUV with an electric blue paint job and its sights set firmly on the lifestyle market.
Now, the best part of four years on, the T-Roc has finally become a production reality, but it’s grown a roof and its alloy wheels have shrunk in the wash. Sure, the electric blue paint and questionable nameplate have made it into the finished product, but otherwise it’s distinctly underwhelming.
It isn’t ugly – far from it – but that hexagonal grille and the hatchback proportions just make it look… dull.
It’s dull inside, too, with swathes of black plastic that doesn’t feel quite as expensive as you’d like and an ergonomic but uninspiring layout.
To be fair to Volkswagen, the German designers have tried to liven the cabin up with body-coloured trim and a big touchscreen (high-spec cars get an LCD screen for an instrument display, too), but it doesn’t really work. Unless you go for a mundane paint job, the colourful trim feels a bit overpowering and the screens don’t add any character to the car.
As a practical proposition, though, it gets full marks. On the outside, it’s a smidgen shorter than a Golf and only a mite wider, but it has a far bigger boot and there’s just as much room in the cabin.
Scouring the equipment list reveals more good news, too. Even basic ‘S’ variants, which start at just under £19,000, get two-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen and alloy wheels, as well as automatic dusk-sensing headlights.
Under the bonnet, customers can choose from a frugal mixture of three petrols and three diesels, with power ranging from 113bhp to a meaty 188bhp.
The best balance of power and economy can be found in the 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp. That power is enough for brisk acceleration, and it’ll return more than 55mpg. It’s also offered with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox – neither of which will dramatically increase fuel consumption.
If you’re expecting a ‘but’ here, then I’m afraid you’re mistaken, because the T-Roc performs just as admirably on the road.
Its supple suspension and natural-feeling driving position make it a comfortable car to drive over long distances, while the car feels safe and secure on the road – particularly in four-wheel-drive guise.
Keen drivers won’t find much to pique their interest, even in the more powerful variants – the steering feels too blunt and lifeless for that – but the car is stable and doesn’t lean too much through corners, while the 188bhp petrol and diesel engines will provide plenty of get-up-and-go.
So this isn’t the exciting car VW might have you believe, but if you ignore the attempts to be wacky, this is just a small, practical, well-built family SUV. It does everything you expect in exactly the way you expect it to, and there’s a lot to be said for that.