The press launch had to be cancelled due to you-know-what and now, just as the first examples of the T-Roc Cabriolet are turning up at Volkswagen‘s UK dealerships, journalists are at last able to try the car. A two-door, fabric-top SUV with no four-wheel drive capability may sound like a strange thing; in practice, it has a lot of appeal. 

I wrote about the roofless T-Roc not too long ago, so won’t repeat the basics, plus the manufacturing story was also discussed in detail. What I really wanted to know was what this car is like to drive. Is the experience similar to the FWD-only five-door variants, albeit a bit breezier? Well, yes and no.

What’s immediately obvious is just how good a job Volkswagen has done with the proportions. Compared to the T-Roc, the two door model is 30+mm longer and has a similarly lengthier wheelbase. The fabric roof sits comfortably atop the two-door body, the boot hatch is nicely styled and you even get a fairly decently sized glass rear window.

Room, with a view

Amazingly enough, there’s not only very good space for luggage (see pic) but this isn’t a 2+2 either. One or two people in the back seats will be happy there as leg room is good and even shoulder width is more than adequate. Full marks to VW for making this a practical as well as stylish convertible.

The Golf and Beetle Cabriolets were good sellers in the UK and I can’t see any reason why the T-Roc won’t be either, even though demand for convertibles in general has taken a tumble in recent years. That’s due to people moving away from open cars and into SUVs, while much of the media parrot the accusation that our cities have filthy air. Sure, older buses and black taxis can be smelly but having lived in London until a decade ago, the UK capital is not a stinky place compared to how it had been. Thank you €5, €6d temp and soon, €6d. Particulates are still a concern though, plus I also speak as someone who has been lucky never to have suffered from respiratory issues.

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If a vogue for open cars should start to come back, Volkswagen might even be able to create its own little segment here. Some would rightly argue that the former Evoque created the class, Land Rover’s Golf-sized trailblazer having been built between early 2016 and late 2018. As well as there being no replacement, the new T-Roc is noticeably less expensive than that other brief experiment in the same class.

No diesels or 4MOTION

Buyers may choose between turbocharged 85 kW (115 PS) 1.0-litre or 110 kW (150 PS) 1.5-litre three- and four-cylinder units. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and the 1.5 can be optionally ordered with a seven-speed DSG. The press tester had the larger engine and as with the Golf 8, you see what could be thought of as fake tailpipes on either side of the rear end. The real exhaust is hidden below the bumper, again something which the Golf has.

The bad and the good

These things are personal yet perhaps others may agree that removing so many physical controls from cars’ interiors isn’t such a terrific idea. More on that soon, as a Golf has followed the T-Roc, a review of which will be published next week. Let’s just say that I wonder whether or not Volkswagen may come to regret its decision to have the infotainment and HVAC supplier(s) merge these dashboard components. Or how about front and rear demist buttons also positioned amongst all manner of little black glossy switches where you only want to find the headlights dial?

The T-Roc has proper twisty-grippy-clicky-rubbery ventilation controls, real buttons for the seat heaters and a traditional dial for the headlights and fog lamps. The Golf doesn’t. Will potential buyers turn away from the allegedly more advanced interiors of newer VWs? The PR spin would of course never mention that old-fashioned might be pricier for the OEM. Of all the Europe-based mass makers, BMW continues to stand out by insisting on the safety which switches bring rather than removing these and hoping drivers can find what they need in a hurry. Just how long must your eyes be off the road/will a voice command be understood first time?

The new convertible has the safer style of dashboard controls because Volkswagen has retained the same basic interior which the T-Roc SUV came with at launch in late 2017. I find it anything but dated and even though the new Golf’s touchscreen isn’t nearly as inferior as some cars’, the T-Roc is textbook easy to understand and become at one with.

Other nice old-school VW touches would include the gas struts which hold the bonnet up (it’s a metal rod for the new Golf) but what has happened to the felt-lined signature door pockets? At least they’re deep.

Intelligent people (at Webasto, working with VW engineers) have engineered the rood module which is controlled via a switch near the electric parking brake. There’s another one close by which will raise or lower all four panes of glass rather rapidly, while the headliner is made from a good looking fabric and it’s also fairly soundproof. All in all, a first class lifting and lowering or just left in place experience.

No soft plastics, no problem

A contrasting sign of how the Volkswagen Group finds ever more clever ways to rebuild its cash stash after so many tens of billions of euro were lost via the diesel cheating scandal is a lack of soft-touch plastics in the T-Roc Cabrio. In fact you don’t notice this unless there’s a push-with-fingers test. I’ve always loved Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Amarok for many things including its no-nonsense interior, the new convertible SUV makes me think of that model.

Apart from cup-holders that are too narrow in circumference, I have one final moan, alas, which is something we never used to have to tolerate in Volkswagens: it’s not good to be jolted in a very non-premium way by deafening and insistent bonging should you dare to start the car before fully closing the (satisfyingly heavy) driver’s door. It’s a good safety item yes, but must it be quite so loud?

Joyously, the curse of veering-steering which now afflicts so many cars (Golf 8 has it too) can be easily switched off in the T-Roc. I often wonder how many readers find this equally unpleasant, or do people in fact like it? Any car which resets itself to Lane Keeping Assist On the next time you start the engine would not be one that I could recommend to a friend. Trouble is, this is now a requirement to get the best EuroNCAP rating so anyone such as me who prefers LKA to be deactivated must be in the habit of finding the relevant commands on the touchsceen after starting the car. Every. Single Time.

The steering itself is free of kickback, although 250 Nm (185 lb ft) isn’t quite enough to cause any problems with torque-steer. That will likely be one of the reasons for the lack of a diesel option as Volkswagen would likely have to make 4MOTION standard, something that would make the car perhaps too heavy. Having said that, this 1.5-litre example in R-Line trim weighed a stated 1,540 kg which, considering the additional bracing, isn’t especially hefty.

As the statistics below show, the 1,490 cc engine is worth the extra money over the three-cylinder alternative, plus the seven-ratio dual clutch gearbox suits the nature of the car too, as a relaxed and economical cruiser. All Volkswagen need do is make a few tweaks here and there as the T-Roc Cabriolet is already a properly convincing alternative to most SUVs of a similar size.

In a region where the number one such model is the larger Tiguan, and the Qashqai isn’t that far behind it in sales volume, with the T-Roc also crossing the 200,000 mark in 2019, the new convertible will surely tempt 10,000-20,000 people a year to at least consider something different – and not that expensive either – to the usual sensible family-sized SUV.

UK pricing for the new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet starts at GBP 26,795. In as-tested 1.5 EVO DSG form, the cost is GBP 32,520. Fuel consumption ranges from a WLTP worst to best of 31.3-47.3 mpg, the CO2 average is 132 g/km, 0-62 mph takes 9.6 seconds and top speed is 127 mph.