Choosing an overall winner in our comprehensive small-SUV test is no easy feat.
Consider, for example, the different buyers and budgets for a $21,900 Hyundai Venue and a $120,000 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. Will the pair ever be cross shopped? We doubt it.
And yet, after some considered thought, deciding on a winner was actually quite simple for the team.
VW’s second-smallest SUV, the T-Roc, not only won our $45K comparison – our biggest test category with eight contenders, including the largest presence of new-generation models – but it presents a remarkably convincing case across the entirety of its model range. And that’s the key to its success – consistency.
Where other small SUVs have seriously persuasive variants (the new Hyundai Kona Premium and the Toyota Corolla Cross GXL hybrid are standouts) they also have weaker points in their range that make a blanket recommendation problematic.
The T-Roc, however, is excellent no matter which variant you buy. Kicking things off is the sharply priced T-Roc CityLife which, for $35,990, offers strong value, high levels of standard equipment and, thanks to its 17-inch alloys, has arguably the best ride quality of any small SUV currently on sale.
An expertly judged ride is a core T-Roc attribute, with the 110TSI Style ($37,100) matching the CityLife, while the sportier 140TSI R-Line ($45,200) also strikes a good compromise between everyday comfort and control.
Things are decidedly more focused in the flagship R version ($60,300), yet even there the T-Roc remains an impressive daily.
And while the T-Roc R Grid Edition may have lost out to the closely related Cupra Formentor VZx in our Best Small Performance SUV segment, it was a close contest. And in that test the VW was a sizeable $11,490 less expensive than the Cupra which, depending on your priorities, might swing the victory back in the T-Roc’s favour.
As you’d expect for an SUV built on VW’s ubiquitous MQB platform, the T-Roc is remarkably polished and refined. The cabin feels tightly screwed together, the mix of materials is mostly premium (a few scratchy plastics can be found), and the boot and backseat are both commendably roomy.
Fizzy, quiet and economical, all three of the available powertrains are easy to recommend.
It’s how the T-Roc drives, however, that really sets it apart. We’ve already mentioned the excellent ride quality but engaging handling and sharp steering are other key character traits.
And there’s not a dud engine in the line-up. Fizzy, quiet and economical, all three of the available powertrains are easy to recommend.
As for weaknesses? The absence of a hybrid option is something of an Achilles heel, especially considering the popularity of the Corolla Cross hybrid and Australia’s recent upswing in hybrid sales.
But if it’s efficiency you’re chasing, our ‘as tested’ field figure of the 110TSI was 6.58L/100km, putting it only a whisker behind the Corolla Cross at 6.02L.
Servicing costs are on the high side, too, at approximately $2450 over five years (a Corolla Cross is $1250) but in nearly every other discipline the T-Roc is either segment-leading or close to it. That makes it an easy small SUV to recommend, without the caveat of “get this variant”, and a worthy overall winner.
2023 Best Small SUV series
Looking to get into a brand-new small SUV? Our stories below will guide you to the model that best suits your needs!
|VW T-Roc 110 TSI Style|
|Engine||1.4L 4cyl turbo|
|5yr service costs||$2450|