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Volkswagen T-Roc City Life 2023 review


The City Life special edition of the T-Roc is now on sale, providing a lower-cost option for Australians, but is it the best small SUV?

Good points

  • A fun city runabout
  • Comfortable ride on 17s
  • Smooth eight-speed automatic
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Soft and comfortable seats
  • Competitive price of entry

Needs work

  • Cramped back seat
  • Not that economical
  • Needs premium petrol
  • Expensive to service
  • Small touchscreen
  • Not as much fun in the corners

The small SUV segment in Australia is currently one of the most popular in our local automotive market. In August 2023, small SUVs accounted for 15.9 percent of the entire new car market, falling only behind the likes of 4×4 utes and medium-sized SUVs.

All in all, 56.7 percent of the new car market in August 2023 were SUVs.

It makes complete sense, then, that a brand such as Volkswagen would aim to bring in more affordable, value-packed small SUVs for the masses. And that’s just what the importer of the German marque has done with the new Volkswagen T-Roc City Life in 2023.

Now available nationally at a pretty competitive $36,990 driveway price, the City Life is a special edition that, for now, Volkswagen Australia has positioned as its cheapest ever T-Roc small SUV.

But the reality is that City Life won’t be around for long. Volkswagen told Chasing Cars that the variant is a “volume driver” that may only last on the market between six to nine months. By the end of 2024, we might not see such a car in showrooms.

For reference, the City Life is not intended to be a mainstay offering, unlike its more extensively equipped siblings in the Style, the R-Line and the high-performance R.

Despite this, the T-Roc is now more affordable than ever, and still packs a decent amount of standard equipment for that $36K driveway price. A big bonus is that Volkswagen Australia has confirmed it has a decent supply of the City Life, with “at least 1500 units” ready to be delivered.

But let’s delve a little deeper into Volkswagen’s cheapest T-Roc and see exactly what you get with your hard-earned dollars.

What are the T-Roc City Life’s features and options for the price?

The new City Life special edition now joins the rest of the T-Roc range, including the Style, R-Line and full-blown R in Australian showrooms.

As standard, the City Life is fitted with the following equipment:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail lights 
  • Black front grille 
  • 8.0-inch central touchscreen
  • 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster (digital cockpit)
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Comfort manual cloth seats 
  • Silver matte dashboard inlays
  • 2 x front USB-C ports  

For the most part, the T-Roc City Life provides quite a lot for its upfront cost, however it would have been nice to see additional features such as wireless phone mirroring and a larger digital cockpit as standard. 

How does the T-Roc City Life drive?

Pardon the pun, but small SUVs are largely built for city lives, from commuting to work to doing a shopping run or taking the kids to school.

So I set out to find just how well the City Life was able to do, well, city life things. After all, this role is the be-all-end-all of the small SUV segment.

Almost immediately, I could feel that the City Life had nailed its brief. Around town, through tight Sydney city streets, the T-Roc felt well at home here. The suspension setup seemed to be well tuned to really soaked up the worst bits of undulating and pot-hole-ridden New South Wales roads.

Powering the T-Roc City Life is a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 110kW/250Nm, and sends power to the front wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic, rather than the typical Volkswagen seven-speed dual-clutch.

For the city commute, this is a very good powertrain. It’s quiet, smooth, refined and punchy enough for most instances.

However, while I did find the throttle response to be a little doughy, the transmission was definitely more refined and balanced than dual-clutch units I have experienced recently.

When the speed does pick up and you find yourself on the highway, the T-Roc is comfortable and pairs well with the comfort cloth seats, which I could sit in for most of the day without issue.

Volkswagen’s use of smaller 17-inch alloy wheels for this car does a lot for improving ride quality, with plenty of rubber underneath you to make the ride more supple and supportive.

While most small SUVs aren’t built or specifically tuned for performance style driving, we did take the City Life down some winding country roads to see how it performed.

The City Life handled faster sweeping sections with relative ease, however it’s just simply not built for the really twisty stuff. I found myself almost slipping out of the seat thanks to the lack of lateral bolstering.

All in all, the City Life totally nails its brief as a city car, and I could happily trot around in one day-to-day without any issues. It’s a comfortable, quiet and pretty enjoyable car when tasked as a daily driver.

What is the T-Roc City Life’s interior and tech like?

Sitting inside the T-Roc City Life for the first time, it’s really not the budget car I was initially expecting for that relatively-low $36K cost of entry.

Interior trim and build quality is good and I particularly like the matte silver finishes around the place. There are some scratchy plastics, which is to be expected, but overall this certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap car.

The cloth pews are comfortable, but not overly supportive. The seats are manual-adjust only, too, though this is expected at this price point.

As for the technology side of things, the City Life comes fitted with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that is starting to look a little on the small side of things, and an 8.0-inch digital cockpit instrument cluster.

Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, however it’s somewhat hindered by the small touchscreen format.

USB-C is the way to go for plugging in with the T-Roc City Life – there are no USB-A ports in sight.

Other good news is that practicalities and storage space is excellent, with generous door bins for drink bottles and two decent-sized cup holders.

In the rear seats, accommodation is not so good. With the front driver’s seat in my normal driving position, I struggled to sit comfortably behind the driver. There is very little knee room, some head room and a little bit of toe room, but fully grown adults may struggle in the back seat of the City Life.

If you’ve got a young family, the T-Roc will be more than adequate, but I can’t see myself ever wanting to be in the back seat with five people in the car. If you’re often going on beach trips or driving holidays with your mates, the T-Roc might not be the car for you.

The City Life does somewhat make up for things with a decent-sized boot at 445 litres of capacity, however I did note that there aren’t any good nooks or pockets to put things.

The T-Roc City Life does well to add value in its interior, but with some basic technologies, and poor rear seat space, it could certainly be better in my opinion.

Is the T-Roc City Life a safe car?

The T-Roc was tested by ANCAP back in 2017 where it received a five-star safety rating, however in December 2023, this rating will expire.

In 2017, the T-Roc did score very well, with a 96 percent adult occupant protection rating and an 87 percent child occupant protection rating. It also scored 79 percent for pedestrian protection and 71 percent for safety assist.

The Volkswagen T-Roc City Life is well equipped on the safety front, and includes the following features:

  • Driver, front passenger, side and curtain airbags 
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Driver fatigue detection
  • Emergency assist 
  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Lane assist with lane departure warning 
  • Park assist 
  • Front and rear parking sensors 
  • Rear view camera

The safety inclusions and tuning of these systems seemed to work very well during my time testing the vehicle. The adaptive cruise worked seamlessly and the lane keep assist was unobtrusive.  

What are the T-Roc City Life’s ownership costs?

Where the T-Roc becomes a little unstuck is with its cost of ownership.

To service the T-Roc over five years will cost owners $3091, which is more than double the $1250 it costs to service a Toyota Corolla Cross. Servicing intervals occur every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

In terms of fuel economy, we returned an average of 7.3L/100km, which was more than Volksagen’s 6.3L/100km claim. Unfortunately, the T-Roc City Life also requires pricier premium unleaded fuel to run, rather than regular octane unleaded.

Every T-Roc is covered under Volkswagen’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty here in Australia.

The honest verdict on the T-Roc City Life

Volkswagen has given the small SUV segment a shot of affordability with its new T-Roc City Life, and in some ways it succeeds. The special edition is comfortable, rides well, is fun to drive in the city and is pretty practical, too.

But the City Life does miss the mark in a few key areas. It’s expensive to get serviced, it’s not as fuel efficient as claimed and also has a cramped and frankly uncomfortable back seat.

The Volkswagen small SUV is a good drive, but I don’t think it’s quite as refined and honed as the excellent Skoda Kamiq, which is, to this day, my favourite small SUV.

The Kamiq positions itself just $1000 more expensive than the T-Roc City Life in Style guise, and features another level of practicality not seen in the T-Roc. At the end of the day, the Kamiq would be the European small SUV I’d go for. It’s just such an excellent drive.

But with that being said, Volkswagen has helped make small SUVs more affordable for Australian buyers and can be awarded for that.

The reality is that there are just some better options out there. The Kamiq is where I’d be parking my money.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Below average
Overall rating
Running costs
Below average
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1395 cc
110kW at 5000rpm
250Nm at 1500rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
50 litres
6.3L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
793km (claimed)
Front Wheel Drive
4251 mm
1819 mm
1599 mm
Unoccupied weight
1400 kg

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