What is it?
A new compact SUV. Does the world need another one? Yes, according to Volkswagen, whose new T-Roc slots in below the full-fat Touareg and the mid-sized Tiguan, because 27% of new cars sold in Europe are now SUVs and, in five years' time, that figure is set to rise to 34%.
Two vital features of a new VW are found in the T-Roc: a very wide, boldly barred front grille and MQB underpinnings from the VW Group's modular platform kit. But for all this underskin standardisation, and the strictures around car engineering in today's crash-regulated world, the T-Roc is a highly individual piece of design. It has a roofline sloping significantly downwards to the rear, polished aluminium hoops to emphasise that line and a shallow glasshouse - all to hint at a coupé look. It manages to look like a crossover without actually appearing tall.
Then there are the strong, straight lines across the nose and the tail and tying together the bulged wheel arches. The sharpness of these lines, including the one crossing the front of the bonnet into the flipped-up ridges that head towards the windscreen pillars, is extraordinary. Precision is everywhere; every line has a reason to exist. There are no gratuitous slashes here, no tension-sapping folds and wacky angles, none of the curious metal-shaping that ends up looking like the aftermath of a fender bender that you see in too many new cars. The T-Roc manages to look smaller than it is, too, helping its owners feel pleased with their VW purchase in the post-Dieselgate world.
You can have it with one of four contrasting roof colours if you go for a T-Roc Sport (24 colour combinations in total), and it's obligatory in the T-Roc Style, which also has coloured dashboard, console panels and door-trim fillets inside. These come in Black Oak Brown, Ravenna Blue, Energetic Orange Metallic or Curcuma Yellow Metallic. I mention all this because it's central to what the T-Roc – it will 'rock' the segment, as well as being able, to a degree, to clamber over rocks – is all about and is what its buyers will want to know.
They will also want to know that the two models mentioned - but not the base model that might not be sold in the UK - have an Audi-like Active Info Display instead of a regular instrument panel. This is configurable to show analogue-look dials, a full-screen sat-nav and various stages in-between, working in tandem with the 8.0in infotainment display in the centre of the facia. The latter houses the usual VW Group menus, configuration options, alternative sat-nav screen and the ability to accept inputs before your finger has actually touched the glass. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are all there, of course. The keys supplied with a new T-Roc can be personalised to set each driver's preferences, too, such as radio station repertoire and dynamics settings.