- Available for £23,000
- 2.0-litre petrol turbo inline-four, all-wheel drive
- 300hp, 295lb ft, very effective launch control, so it’s fast
- Unimpressive quality especially on pre-’22 facelifts
- Some unusual water ingress issues
- Sits higher than a Golf but not really any more practical
If you liked the idea of the Golf R but just wished there was a touch more practicality to go with the performance, well, 2019 was a good year for you because that was when Volkswagen released the T-Roc R – essentially a Golf R with a jacked-up but still sporty SUV chassis. The ordinary T-Roc made its debut at the September 2017 Frankfurt show as VW’s first B-segment (Golf, Leon, A3) SUV. Powered by a range of petrol and diesel engines the ‘Roc’ found a ready and large market around the world among buyers who wanted to step up rather than down into their cars.
The R was the most eagerly anticipated T-Roc derivative among PH readers, of course. They had to eagerly await it for a fair while. The R press releases went out in February 2019, seventeen months after the regular T-Roc’s Frankfurt appearance and a month ahead of the R’s public launch at the Geneva show, but the UK order books weren’t opened until September 2019 and customer cars didn’t appear until just before the end of the year, when prices started at £38,450.
Serious money, but for that you got a particulate-filtered EA888 2.0 turbo four generating 300hp and 295lb ft, a 7-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission (there was no manual alternative), part-time Haldex-based 4MOTION all-wheel drive system, launch control, race mode, disengageable traction control, adaptive cruise, ‘progressive’ (variable ratio) steering, 18-inch Jerez or Spielberg wheels that were routinely upgraded to 19-inch Estorils or Pretorias, and a 20mm lower ride height to de-SUV it a bit. Suspension was passive by default but for £695 you could add VW’s electronically controlled DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control) adaptive dampers.
VW knew what it was doing with the T-Roc R. By the time it launched they had already sold 200,000 regular T-Rocs. On top of that they were selling 20,000 Golf Rs every year, so they knew there was an appetite for 300hp cars. As part of maintaining the usual distance between Volkswagen Group products the T-Roc R took 0.3 seconds less to go from 0 to 62mph than the competing-but-not Cupra Ateca. As a range-topping car, the R wasn’t short of equipment, but you could option it with a full titanium exhaust system by Akrapovic for the not inconsiderable sum of £3,050.
A T-Roc range facelift for 2022 was carried through to the 2022 R. On paper the changes were not earth-shattering, confined on the outside to a new grille with revised mesh and an LED bar, a reshaped lower grille and new LED matrix lights. More significantly there was a lift in interior quality, which was a good thing. More on that later on. Inside the facelifter you had a new soft(er)-touch dash, new seats, new steering wheel controls, bigger gearshift paddles and the Golf’s larger infotainment setup. By this point (summer ’22) the price of the R had risen to £41,750. By way of comparison, the ’22 Golf R hatch was £42,190 and the Golf R estate £44,535.
By the end of 2023, the T-Roc R’s recommended retail price was up to £44,915. This should all be telling you that the T-Roc R was never a cheap vehicle new. As of late 2023, you could buy a used T-Roc for under £9,000, but that would be a high-miles 1.6 TDI and not an R of any mileage. The R was altogether different. It was powerful and sporty, more expensive of course, and relatively rare on the UK used market, accounting for around one in every twenty used Rocs. It’s all relative, though. The large number of T-Rocs sold – about 250,000 a year now – means that at any given moment you’ll still be able to choose from around a hundred used T-Roc Rs on the main UK selling sites, at prices starting from £23,000.
SPECIFICATION | VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC R (2019-on)
Engine: 1,984cc inline-four turbocharged 16v
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,000-5,200rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.9
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,720
MPG (official combined): 37.7
CO2 (g/km): 171
Wheels (in): 18 or 19
Tyres: 235/40 (on 19s)
On sale: 2019 - now
Price new: £38,450 (2019)
Price now: from £23,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The EA888 2.0 TSI engine under the bonnet of the T-Roc R and the Golf R has had its share of issues in its life but it was pretty well sorted by the time the first T-Roc R came out. Even leaving the question of power aside, this was arguably the best engine in the T-Roc range because the early 1.5 petrols gained a bad reputation for ‘kangarooing’. On the EA888 you just need to keep it loaded up with decent, clean oil and also keep an eye on the thermostat and its housing as these could generate a four-figure bill if they went wrong. Which they sometimes do.
All being well, you will not be disappointed by the T-Roc R’s performance or by its traction. VW claimed 4.8 seconds for the 0-60mph, but independent testing has resulted in noticeably better times than that, sometimes more than half a second quicker in fact. This is either a big tick for the efficiency of the launch control or another reason for the conspiracy theorists to tap their noses and declare that all test vehicles are souped up.
The standard quad tailpipe exhaust system was referred to by VW as ‘sports’ but it was hard to detect much sportiness in the sound. The Akrapovic alternative was undoubtedly expensive but it did sound great. At very low speeds the DSG gearbox could be less than smooth but to compensate for that it did have a useful coasting feature in Economy and Normal drive modes. In at least one enthusiastic driver’s experience this gizmo helped to lift long-trip economy over the 40mpg mark and deliver a 15-month average of 37mpg, which was more or less the same as the official combined figure.
In ownership surveys the T-Roc generically (i.e. all models) has fared quite poorly, but that was relative to other small SUVs, a segment that overall has an excellent reliability record. You’re still looking at a near-90 per cent customer satisfaction rating for the R.
Servicing costs were on the low side of the median. Fixed-price packages are available at dealerships for 2.0 litre or smaller out-of-warranty VWs that are between three and fifteen years of age. An ‘all-in’ two-year plan for a 2019 T-Roc R including one oil and inspection service, one oil and inspection ‘extended scope’ service, two MOTs, a set of spark plugs, one complete set of non-oil filters (pollen, fuel, air), two years’ roadside assistance and two years’ extended warranty will cost you £35 a month.
There’s no mention of the Haldex all-wheel drive unit in any of VW’s servicing bumf, presumably because it’s on a three-year schedule and hence does not fall within the two-year package. Ignore it at your peril though. Keeping the Haldex clear of blockages is essential if you want to retain 4MOTIONery or avoid a very expensive rebuild or replacement.
Stiffer springs and dampers, a 20mm lower stance and a new aluminium front subframe all helped the R to feel light and nimble on the road but some T-Rocs have exhibited knocking in the front suspension top mounts. VW only fixed them when they considered them to be bad enough for repair, a bit like you waiting yonks for that knee replacement or cataract op.
Steering was quite well judged and fast at two turns from lock to lock. Braking was strong too thanks to the big 17-inch discs and 2kg lighter Golf R Performance calipers, although groaning pads could be a thing. VW offered to replace them under warranty but not everybody could be bothered to book in for it. The 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system put all the power through the front wheels most of the time but it could route up to half of it through the rears. It actually carried out that process more quickly than the 4MOTION system did in the Golf R. In place of a ‘proper’ limited-slip diff the R electronically mimicked one, albeit by slowing a wheel that was losing traction rather than adding extra power to a wheel that could take it.
The £695 option of DCC adaptive dampers was good value and well worth having. It allowed the R driver to set the chassis characteristics manually or just let the DCC kit get on with the job of automatically adjusting the car’s attitude based on road conditions, wheel positions and body tilt. It worked brilliantly in terms of precision and tautness, even though there was a small price to pay on ride comfort compared to the R on passive springs. You could get some of that back on a 19-inch-wheeled car by going down to 18-inch rims. Overall the handling with or without the adaptive kit was very nice, a good compromise of comfort, driver satisfaction and family-friendliness.
The automatic handbrake didn’t always release as it was supposed to when the DSG’s clutch was biting. A software flash was put out for this. You need to see some paperwork confirming that’s been done. Hankook tyres that were standard fitment on at least some Rs could be quite noisy at certain speeds.
All R paint colours apart from white were cost extras. The range was snazzy, including lairy hues like Turmeric Yellow and Energetic Orange or less shouty ones like the R-exclusive and very classy Lapiz Blue. The R had model-specific body-coloured bumpers and underbody guards, along with a full-width band of polished anodised aluminium below the grille. For £425 you could pull off the neat optical illusion of ‘lowering’ the car by having the roof painted black.
The R came with front and rear parking sensors but T-Roc reversing cameras are known to fail. On any car you’re buying used the camera should have been fixed under warranty, but as a non-critical item this job wasn’t exactly prioritised by Volkswagen dealers. Some owners got fed up waiting and didn’t bother taking their cars in for the work so again you’ll want to check the history for evidence of it having been done. The roof spoilers often came loose, and again there was no urgency on VW’s part to fix these under warranty so you’re faced with the same need to check that.
Water ingress was quite a thing on T-Rocs. It could get into the tailgate. Actually inside it, resulting in a sloshing noise as you lifted the gate up and down. It could also get in behind the fuel filler cover. That might not seem like a massive problem as the cover seemed to operate on the common push-and-click basis, but in fact there was an actuator in it. If water attack was left unchecked this actuator would eventually conk out and then the flap would either refuse to close or refuse to open.
Water could also find its way into the headlining and look for an exit through the rearview mirror. What we seem to be saying here is that T-Roc R owners in Scotland, Wales or Manchester might like to consider the idea of a garage, or a carport at least. A Cabriolet version of the T-Roc was launched in 2022 but there has been no R derivative of this so far, which is probably not a bad thing.
Any T-Roc of any trim level was well equipped, with touchscreen entertainment, dual-zone climate control. Bluetooth, digital radio, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance all being standard. The R also had interior LED ambient lighting, but only in white, although you could vary the brightness of it to alter the ambience of the otherwise fairly humdrum cabin.
£205 bought body-coloured trim inserts, but not everyone thought they were an improvement. The same sum of cash bought a Driver’s Assistance Pack Plus. This added traffic jam assistance, which let the car work its own steering, acceleration and braking in slow-moving traffic.
The pre-’22 facelift R’s 8.0in infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mirroring all fitted was a couple of inches smaller than that of the contemporaneous Golf (the T-Roc got that bigger screen in the facelift), but quite a few owners said they preferred the old little ‘un because of its more straightforward menus and handy knob for list-scrolling instead of the new system’s annoying touch-sensitive slider controls. You could summon up three dials on the screen that would give you a variety of information, much of which you’d probably look at once and then never again.
The part-cloth, part-Alcantara seats were upgradeable to nappa leather. Some T-Rocs manufactured on one day in February 2021 had faulty seatbelt retractors on the front right seat. We’re not sure if this is connected but T-Roc seatbelt warning bong have been knowm to bong when they didn’t ought to be bonging, which was boring/maddening.
The rear seat space was better than the Golf’s but two passengers would be more comfortable in there than three. The boot wasn’t massive at 392 litres, the space being restricted by the underfloor presence of all-wheel drive hardware. The rearview camera was a wise option and the intelligent cruise control system worked very well, but if you wanted a start button and keyless go, well, that was a £400 extra.
There have been reports of rattles from the passenger side of the dash. This was not altogether surprising given the firmness of the suspension and the cheapness of the cabin materials, which were noticeably inferior to the Golf R’s and even further behind those in Audi’s SQ2. It was a pity that VW chose to spoil the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar.
The T-Roc R was one of the first SUVs to offer serious performance in a manageably compact package. It’s a smart used purchase with few known problems. The delay between the 2017 launch of the T-Roc and the 2019 launch of the R worked well for the used R buyer as just about all of the generic teething troubles experienced by early non-R T-Rocs had been ironed out by 2019.
Some said that the T-Roc R was less comfortable and practical than the Cupra Ateca but nobody has ever accused it of having sloppy handling. What the T-Roc has been accused of, and not entirely without justification, is that you’re not getting much of what was once the norm in anything with a Volkswagen badge on it, namely perceived quality. Parts of the cabin in particular had a ’built down to a price’ feel about them, which wasn’t that brilliant in a Golf derivative that currently wears a near-£45k price tag. In its defence, the quality of the materials did improve in the ’22 facelift but they shouldn’t have been as poor as they were in the gen-one when it was ‘only’ £38.5k.
Despite all that, theft is something any T-Roc R owner needs to be aware of, mainly because of the R badge that exerts such a magnetic attraction on opportunistic scrotes. To deter them it’s worth investing in a visible deterrent that they can understand, like a steering wheel lock from Disklok or Stoplock Pro.
The most affordable R on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this 27,000-mile 2019 car at a pound under £27k. For £700 or so on top of that you could go for this Iridium Grey one with more miles but also more Akrapovic exhaust. 2021 cars with manufacturer warranties and under 10,000 miles on the clock are easily found for under £30k so there’s no real need to spend any more than that. The next-generation T-Roc isn’t due until 2026 so the current R will remain relevant for a good while yet.
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