What's it like?
On Nice’s congested inner-city roads, the T-Roc’s sporting pretensions are reasonably well masked, but still a long way from inconspicuous. With the dampers in their midway setting, vertical body movements are kept tightly in check over lumps, bumps and sleeping policemen, but not to such an extreme extent that compressions force the wind from your lungs. The T-Roc is a little more compliant in Comfort mode, although it seems there’s no escaping the often violently loud thumps from the suspension as the wheels pass over smaller ruts and expansion joints. It’s certainly more liveable with than an SQ2 or a X2 M35i, though.
Breaking out of Nice and the midday traffic, we begin a hard charge up the technical mountain roads that lead to Col de Vence. With everything set to Race mode, the T-Roc R proves brutally effective. The DSG gearbox’s tendency to be caught out is minimised and the EA888 motor is as heavy-hitting as ever. More than anything, though, it’s the levels of lateral grip the T-Roc is capable of generating that impress most.
It corners incredibly neutrally, with its 4Motion four-wheel drive capable of effectively eliminating understeer entirely. Turn the wonderfully weighted, precise steering wheel and the front end bites in towards the apex hard, before the rear end digs in to slingshot you out the other end. Any meaningful hip wriggling is clinically choreographed out of its cornering routine, but the tenacity with which it clings to Tarmac has an appeal all of its own. And although you’re aware of a heightened level of body roll through fast sweeping bends, it’s not so prevalent as to detract from the otherwise highly enjoyable process of driving this car fast on a fantastic road.
That said, the driving environment itself is a bit of a let-down. The hard interior plastics that were acceptable in lower-grade versions of the T-Roc feel drab and out of place in £38,450 performance model. An X2 M35i feels far classier in this regard, as does an SQ2 - albeit to a lesser extent.
Practicality is good, though. There’s enough room for taller passengers to sit in reasonable comfort in the second row, while its 392-litre boot betters the Audi’s (355 litres), if not the BMW’s (470 litres).
Should I buy one?
Based on our brief test drive in France, it seems fair to conclude that, as an overall package, the T-Roc R trumps both the SQ2 and X2 M35i.
A UK drive will provide the acid test, but this VW seems to ride considerably better on its adaptive dampers than its Audi and BMW rivals and it gives nothing away for sheer cross-country pace or engagement. Dare I say it: this might even be the first time where the adage of ‘just buy a Golf R instead’ doesn’t apply.