2023 Volkswagen T-Roc CityLife new car review

Volkswagen’s T-Roc has become one of its most popular models.

Roughly one in five VW customers pick the Golf-sized compact SUV, thanks in part to a lack of supply of other models.

In response, Volkswagen has created a new entry point to the T-Roc range.

Priced from $36,990 drive-away, the new T-Roc CityLife undercuts the Golf to become one of the brand’s most affordable models.

Only the compact Polo hatch and its high-riding T-Cross spin-off are cheaper.

Powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine that uses 6.3L/100km of premium fuel to make 110kW and 250Nm, the T-Roc drives the front wheels through a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission.

Safety gear includes front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control and lane keeping assistance, but disappointingly there’s no blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alerts.

Likewise, the 8-inch central touchscreen has cable-based smartphone mirroring (but not sat nav or wireless Apple CarPlay) and the digital dashboard has limited functionality compared with premium variants. The basics are spot on, though.

The leather sports wheel with paddle shifters offers a broad range of movement and mechanically adjustable seats with lumbar support are more comfortable than many rivals.

The T-Roc is something of a throwback in that it has physical buttons and a proper gear lever instead of the fiddly touchscreens and tiny gear switch found in the latest Golf, though there are modern touches including smart keys and four USB-C ports placed throughout the cabin.

The only option is metallic paint – yours for $700. Value is a strong point but set aside some change, as the servicing isn’t cheap at an average $618 per visit.

Customers who want more can plump for the T-Roc Style, which adds an 8-inch screen with wireless phone mirroring and sat nav, a wide-screen digital dash and handy additions such as sports seats for $41,990 drive-away.

Folks with another $10,000 to spend can snap up a T-Roc R-Line for $51,990 drive-away, upgrading to a 2.0-litre turbo engine with 140kW and 320Nm, along with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive and sophisticated multi-link rear suspension that replaces the basic set-up of cheaper models.

The R-Line also benefits from heated leather seats, plus driver assistance tech such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts – standard features that used to be a $3950 option.

Enthusiasts can plump for the all-wheel-drive T-Roc R that ups the ante with 221kW/400Nm punch capable of returning a 4.9 second sprint to 100km/h for $64,990 drive-away.

VW focused on the cheapest model for the car’s 2023 launch, reminding everybody that you don’t have to spend a heap of money to get hold of a great car.

The T-Roc’s driving appeal starts under the bonnet.

While 110KW isn’t a lot to crow about, the turbocharged motor delivers its best very early in the rev range, well before rival machines.

Peak torque arrives from 1500rpm, a full 3000rpm earlier than the Kia Seltos or Hyundai Kona. You don’t have to work the VW hard to extract its best and the low-revving engine’s exhaust is muffled by a turbocharger that helps make for quiet progress.

VW’s decision to drop the seven-speed dual-clutch in favour of a regular eight-speed auto reaps rewards in town, making for smoother progress at low speed.

Better in stop-start traffic or at intersections, the conventional auto lacks the crispness of VW’s dual-clutch transmission on the open road.

The regular auto’s slightly fluffy shifts suit the T-Roc CityLife, which wears 17-inch alloys with chunky tyres that help cushion the blow of bumps on the road.

Comfortable enough on rough surfaces, the T-Roc’s precise steering and brake responses return a satisfying experience for those who appreciate driving.

VERDICT 3.5/5

Decent value and polished driving manners work in the T-Roc’s favour, making it a viable alternative to emerging brands.

VW T-ROC CITYLIFE

PRICE: $36,990 drive-away

ENGINE: 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW and 250Nm

WARRANTY/SERVICE: 5-year/unlimited km, $3091 over 5 years

SAFETY: Six airbags, front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keep assistance

THIRST: 6.3L/100km

CARGO: 445 litres

SPARE: Space saver

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