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Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022 review

John Law

The latest R model to hit Australian shores is also the most affordable, with T-Roc R slipping nicely into the gap opened up by the sharper and angrier Mk8 Golf R

Good points

  • Punchy turbo-petrol engine
  • Skips the usual ‘SUV tax’
  • Slick transmission
  • Resolved high-speed ride

Needs work

  • Engine can be thirsty
  • Not as involving as Golf R
  • Big wheels harsh around town
  • Servicing dearer than rivals

The Volkswagen Golf R has lived myriad lives. The R badge’s life started on a warbling VR6-equipped Mk 4 R32 in 2002 and has since evolved to sit on the back of all manner of turbo-petrol four-cylinder products including the latest and most focused Mk8 Golf R. The R stable has diversified massively of late, with seven-seat Touareg R PHEV, Tiguan R midsize SUV and now the T-Roc R small SUV all getting the treatment.

The rest of the world has had access to T-Roc R for some time, its late debut in Australia delayed to coincide with the release of an extensive facelift for the entire T-Roc line. The T-Roc R is surprisingly attainable, being $6590 less than the smaller Golf R hatch.

Volkswagen Australia is bringing 300 even more affordable T-Roc R Grid Editions too, priced from $54,300 before on-road costs, that retain three-stage adaptive dampers but do without electric leather seats (manual cloth is substituted) and blind-spot monitoring.

Volkswagen VW T-Roc R 2023 CC pics-2

If you’ve been keeping up with our T-Roc content, you might be aware of the 140TSI R-Line tested last week that, optioned up, wore a $52,700 (before on-road costs) price tag. That makes the T-Roc R look like stellar value, and it only gets better when you start turning wheels.

But does the T-Roc step on Golf R’s toes? T-Roc R is more affordable, yes, but employs a slightly lower state of tune for the same ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine: 235kW in the Golf plays 221kW in the T-Roc. All-wheel drive and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still mean a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.9 seconds, but the T-Roc is less serious than the R hatch.

That’s largely because the new T-Roc R doesn’t get Golf’s transformative twin-clutch pack active rear differential and therefore the same on-power oversteer potential, and that’s OK.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-10

It may sound odd heaping praise on the T-Roc R for being slower and having a less advanced differential. The T-Roc R is actually the perfect replacement for a Mk 7 Golf R, a car that was quick and fun, slick-to-drive but didn’t have the 10-10ths talent of the newest R. The T-Roc R is, essentially, that package on stilts; comfortable, refined and perhaps the perfect brisk SUV for a growing family.

How does the T-Roc R drive?

VW’s R treatment is well-established now, partially due to the brand’s extensive platform-sharing in recent years.

Lapiz blue paintwork, 19-inch ‘Estoril’ alloy wheels and subtle silver branding mark this T-Roc R out on the road. Under the bonnet is the ubiquitous ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, here fitted with a petrol particulate filter and developing 221kW/400Nm.

Volkswagen VW T-Roc R 2023 CC pics-1

Those outputs are plenty for the 1519kg T-Roc, especially with the torque peak available from 2000-5300rpm. The result is a muscular and brisk SUV that’s just quick enough to frighten passengers. Refinement is excellent and when you need to cruise in comfort the difference between 140TSI R-Line and full-fat R is almost imperceptible.

The T-Roc R’s demeanour is more restrained than cousin Cupra’s out-there, matte-painted Formentor or Ateca VZx small SUVs that are similar in price to this Volkswagen.

Even compared to a T-Roc R-Line, the R doesn’t ride a great deal more harshly. Adaptive dampers are standard and Comfort mode insulates occupants from the 19-inch alloy wheels shod in grippy 235/40 R19 Continental Contisport Contact 5 tyres. The occasional concrete expansion joint can be felt in the cabin, but urban ride quality is far better than Kona N.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-15

Switching the dampers into normal mode improves body control noticeably without hugely impacting the T-Roc R’s ride quality at speed. The most aggressive race mode – accessed via the ‘R’ button on the T-Roc’s wheel – is too firm for most Aussie roads. The rebound damping is overly strict on bumps and compressions.

Jumping into Race mode also brings a louder synthesised exhaust note into the cabin, thankfully the T-Roc R doesn’t sound as fake as the larger Tiguan R or Skoda Kodiaq RS. A customisable individual mode exists too, allowing for race mode transmission and engine sound with dampers in normal mode; my ‘Goldilocks’ setting.

With the security of all-wheel drive and slickness of Volkswagen’s seven-speed wet clutch DSG automatic the T-Roc is a perfect companion both cruising to work and in inclement conditions. One of the criticisms levelled at previous Golf Rs was just this, they were great for everyday tasks but lacked involvement when extracting every last inch of the vehicle’s performance.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-12

But honestly, how often does one get to blast out of a corner with all four tyres smoking? Not often, we’d suggest. And that is the beauty of the T-Roc R, it doesn’t pretend to be a Nurburgring Nordschleife-smashing hyper hatch, it instead falls towards the luxurious side of performance SUVs while retaining sharp, precise steering, great body control and steadfast roadholding.

Being compact in size (4236mm long, 1819mm wide) the T-Roc also slips into city life seamlessly. The taller-set seating position than Golf affords a more expansive view through the T-Roc’s windscreen. Rear three-quarter visibility isn’t great though, thanks to the large C-Pillar of the T-Roc.

Every T-Roc from the base Style grade ($37,250) to this flagship T-Roc R is packed with safety features including highway travel assist with adaptive cruise control and lane-trace assist. There’s also front and rear AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, front and rear parking sensors, reverse camera and blind-spot monitoring fitted standard for a 2018 five-star ANCAP score.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-8

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
Ride & refinement

How is the T-Roc R’s interior?

The latest T-Roc’s interior has one major change compared to the pre-facelift version – a soft-touch dashtop that is befitting of the R’s near-60K price tag – though all trims score the upgrade. Apart from that, the T-Roc R is a very familiar place with intuitive button layout, touch capacitive HVAC controls and a feeling of solidity you’d expect of a German SUV.

The interior of our R was lifted by optional Lapiz Blue inlays ($250) to distinguish it from the 140TSI R-Line. Without these, the interior is a little samey without the racey flare of a Hyundai Kona N, but that’s kind of the point of Volkswagen’s R models. Fast, but not boy-racer.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-5

The seats are appointed in high-quality Nappa leather and have three-stage heating, with power adjustment and two-stage memory for the driver. They are also supremely comfortable on long stints. You will shortly be able to get a T-Roc R Grid edition ($54,300) that does without leather upholstery, which would be my personal choice. I’ll happily put up with quality cloth appointments and manual seat adjustment for a $5K price saving.

Volkswagen’s lower-cost T-Roc R Grid will retain all the technology goodies of the regular R, meaning a responsive 9.2-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto set into the dash. There’s also a class-leading 10.25-inch digital driver’s display with the ability to show a full map.

Practical touches in the T-Roc R’s cabin include wireless charging and a pair of USB-C charging ports. The door bins are large enough for a one-litre water bottle and in the centre console are two and a half cup holders. Based on the pre-Evo MQB platform, the T-Roc also retains a satisfyingly large automatic gear shifter, not the apologetic stub of the Golf small car.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-3

Jumping into the back seat of the T-Roc does not disappoint. This is a small SUV that can quite happily fit four adults. At 188cm I had adequate headroom even below the panoramic sunroof ($2000). Leg room behind my driving position was reasonable and toe-room excellent.

Being fitted with a duo of adjustable air vents will help keep back seat riders comfortable. There are another two USB-C charging ports back here too, it’s only the scratchy plastic on the door tops that lets the T-Roc’s cabin down. Fitting the Chasing Cars child seats also proved no bother.

With its more complex four-link rear suspension and rear differential, the T-Roc R loses boot volume to the Style (445L) but at 392L, it’s still more than adequate. Under the boot floor hides a space saver spare tyre that nestles the subwoofer for this example’s optional (and quite good) Beats 300-watt sound system ($750).

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
Cabin technology
Driver comfort
Passenger space

What are the T-Roc R’s running costs?

As they say, when power goes up, efficiency must go down. That’s certainly true here with the EA888’s ADR figure climbing to 8.3L/100km compared to the 140TSI’s 7.3L/100km claim.

In real-world driving we saw 10.2L/100km on the T-Roc R’s trip computer on the excellent roads around the ACT. This is better than a Hyundai Kona N, though not as efficient as similarly-priced Golf GTI.

VW Volkswagen T-Roc R 2022-20

A trip to the dealer is due every 12 months or 15,000kms. Volkswagen sells care plans in either three ($1600) or five ($2800) year intervals. These are dearer than a Hyundai Kona N ($1675) and even related rival Cupra Ateca VZx which includes three years free and a $1200 top-up to five years.

Volkswagen covers its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia and the T-Roc is no different. This is industry standard, however the game is shifting with Skoda recently joining Kia in offering a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Running costs scorecard

The final verdict

Three years ago the T-Roc R wouldn’t have made much sense in Australia. The Mk 7.5 Golf R and GTI hot hatches both offered better value than this SUV in 2019 – but in the wake the Golf’s dramatic price escalation, the game has changed.

With a leather pack and premium sound system on board, a front-drive, 180kW Golf GTI is now dearer than an AWD 221kWT-Roc R. Meanwhile the Golf R is nearly $7K more than this small, spicy SUV leaving plenty of space for the T-Roc R to play in VW’s Aussie lineup. When the more affordable Grid comes along, things will just get better.

The T-Roc R does push into understeer and fails to instil the same high level of driver confidence and involvement as the latest Golf R.

But that’s OK, because T-Roc R has almost all the traits of the old Mk 7 Golf R and offers better value than a loaded up 140TSI R-Line. The T-Roc R is a slick, suave and quick SUV that is well worth considering.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs

Variant tested R

Options fitted
Blue Decor Inserts
Premium Audio System
Powered Panoramic Sunroof - Glass
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1984 cc
221kW at 5300rpm
400Nm at 2000rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
55 litres
8.3L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
662km (claimed)
All Wheel Drive
4236 mm
1819 mm
1575 mm
Unoccupied weight
1519 kg

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