Being told to go outside to reduce our chance of catching Covid-19, but to help this, there are only a few true family four-seater convertibles on the market…
The very modern Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet blends the best of both worlds with its snug-fitting electrically powered multi-layered fabric roof and the ability to open the top in just nine seconds. Who wants to be cooped up in a tin-top on a hot day?
The T-Roc Cabriolet is Volkswagen’s first move into this sub-compact sector of open-air driving since the heydays of the Golf Convertible. It heavily draws on its experience with the Golf and it shows. For example, the roof mechanism is a straight lift because it worked so well.
The familiar concept of the T-Roc SUV was first shown in 2014 and then launched three years later. The T-Roc Cabriolet arrived in 2020, so it’s been a problematic introduction and this year is its first opportunity to win some fans. The range is simply split into two trims / two engines / two transmissions being Design or R-Line with 1.0 or 1.5-litre petrol engines and manual gearboxes or the choice of an automatic on the bigger unit.
Buyers will not be disappointed. Apart from the sophisticated powered roof, it has been created on the standard Volkswagen MQB platform but shares nothing with its stablemate SUV behind the front wheel arches. However, there are not only new panels and the floor has been given a strengthening beam to compensate for the loss of the metal roof.
The result is a rigid body that does not flex or twist to a noticeable extent and admirably copes with the worst surfaces without jarring occupants.
It has a slightly longer wheelbase than the standard SUV, but the fixtures for the roof mechanism mean it has to be a four-seater only with a small boot suitable only for a few bags or small overnight cases beneath the roof compartment.
There is a surprising amount of legroom in the back; however, occupants do not sit too low to see out of the powered side windows. The back seats also individually drop to permit longer items to be carried when there are fewer passengers.
In front, it’s a better story with lots of room for driver and passenger, excellent seat adjustment and excellent support. But, of course, any convertible needs a good heating and ventilation system and the T-Roc Cabriolet provides it, being snug when closed and cooling to the feet on a warm day when topless.
Access was a little fiddly into the rear seats but easy into the front. All seats were well padded and located occupants during brisk cornering.
Not that you’d want to hurry along in the car. It imbues a sense of well-being, of contentment and being on holiday every time you drive it.
That’s down to the easy to live with major and minor controls, which all worked faultlessly, with good instruments’ display and a multitude of controls on the wheel spokes and fascia. A good infotainment screen was another welcome feature.
The smaller petrol engine available, a triple-pot 1.0-litre, is so finely balanced and tuned that it feels like a 1.6 most of the time and perhaps you’d only select the larger 150ps 1.5 petrol unit if you did a lot of miles regularly.
The 1.0-litre’s start and pickup were good, not head-turning but satisfying nevertheless, and its smoothness remained until you headed towards maximum revs. Gearchanges were slick and direct with an easy clutch and it was good to see it averaging about 45mpg, but sometimes touching 50mpg on longer journeys with little traffic.
Brakes were faultless, strong and progressive without grabbing and the electric parking brake securely held it on our regular test slope. We liked the balance and feedback to the steering, its tight turning circle and lack of vibration at any speed.
You could accurately place it through a corner, it neatly turned in town and the road-holding was safe and surefooted, although we did detect a bit of body roll on the sharpest bends.
With the roof erect, the visibility was restricted slightly over the shoulder, but it improved when neatly folded away under the tonneau cover over the boot. However, that was high and meant some parking posts might be out of sight when reversing.
To the front, good sightlines were aided by excellent washers and wipers and on the test car, the high-performance headlights gave an excellent long wide beam.
The open-topped Cabriolet might generate some wind noise, but it was low and we did not need to fit the baffle screen behind the front seats, mechanical noises were low, but the tyres could be heard rumbling along the tarmac or bumping over bad bits of road.
The T-Roc Cabriolet’s performance was respectable but not remarkable, save for the fuel consumption, and yet it could easily keep up with town traffic and was utterly composed at up to 70mph on a motorway.
You had to work the gearbox to get the most out of the little engine, but that was no hardship and we were rarely left wanting for a gear even if it had to be stirred along more vigorously when loaded.
The Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet really is an impressive car and you get a pretty good specification as standard but carefully pick options as they carry a hefty premium.
For: Smooth powertrain, good economy, refined weather-proof Cabriolet, very comfortable, good ride
Against: Small boot, average performance, some body roll, road noises intruded, expensive options.
Robin contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group of Motoring Writers. He specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.
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