Chic and slick
Glamour model: Volkswagen T-Roc
Clever Volkswagen. In the midst of World War C, otherwise known as the coronavirus, the VW logo has been temporarily amended by the company, distancing the V and W within their encompassing circle. It was a smart move of solidarity with its employees and customers, who are having to practise social distancing until the pandemic passes.
Traffic on South East roads is currently much quieter than normal and what used to be the home of the London Motor Show has been turned into a 4,000-bed Covid-19 hospital alongside the Thames. These are bizarre times.
So, as a welcome diversion from the gloom, here are a couple of interesting new cars that appeared on the scene shortly before the lockdown. Volkswagen’s newest model is another SUV to join the mushrooming ranks of tall and competent models that are popular for their lifestyle flexibility. This is the T-Roc, a bigger sibling for VW’s well-received T-Cross.
Chic-looking, with a stylishly executed design inside and out, the T-Roc brings a bit of glamour to the company car park and looks particularly good in this look-at-me red and black colour combination.
It comes in a choice of petrol and diesel engines, of which this 1.6 TDI diesel is likely to be a popular choice, but the range kicks off with a perky one-litre, three-cylinder petrol version that will suit those who want the car for commuting and mostly local area use, rather than constant long-haul motorway trips. Although to be fair, it’s a pretty competent cruiser and arguably the pick of the bunch, with lively acceleration and good economy.
The T-Roc’s boot size is 445 litres, stretching to 1,290 litres with the rear seats folded. Pricing starts from £19,630 for petrol models and from £23,035 for diesels. The 1.6 TDI Design test car comes in at £25,360, has a 111mph top speed and a 0-62 mph acceleration time of just under 11 seconds. Gearbox choices are six-speed manual or seven-speed auto. Some models are four-wheel-drive.
Driving manners are pretty slick and ride quality is among the best of similar medium-size SUVs. There’s a bit more body roll on the bends than some, but the handling is grippy and steering feel is informatively good. Most versions are nicely refined, too, although the 1.6 diesel does make you aware of what’s under the bonnet when you put your foot down. Overall, though, it’s a thoroughly likeable drive.
Chunky and nimble
Business savvy: Peugeot 2008
In France it’s known as the Deux Mille Huit and it originally appeared back in 2013 as a chunky-looking SUV-crossover. Now in its newly launched second generation model, the Peugeot 2008 has grown up a bit and has a chunkier stance with a more muscled-looking bodywork. The original car had a slightly puny look, but its successor has a much stronger kerb appeal.
Across the range, the new 2008 has good economy and pretty reasonable running costs, making it an interesting prospect as a family-orientated company car. It has a decent-sized boot at 410 litres, but the downside is rear seat knee room that is quite tight for tall adults. It’s fine for smaller ones and kids, though. It’s a plus that with the back seats stowed down, the total cargo space is quite generous at 1,400 litres.
Inside, the cabin design is pleasingly driver-focused with some quirky French details. You view the instruments over the top of the steering wheel, rather than through it as in most cars and the dials have a 3D look to them. There is a row of organ-stop switches in the middle of the dash that are easy for a tall driver, but a bit tough if you’re short for seeing the horizontal labels that tell you which is which.
Peugeot favours a smaller steering wheel than most manufacturers, which is useful for letting you see over it, but also clever for making the car feel quite sporty as you drive. Steering feel is pert, nicely light for manoeuvring, but weightier as speed increases. Body lean is slight and the car’s behaviour through the bends is nimble and likeably poised. It’s good to drive.
Prices for the new 2008 start from £17,735 for a 1.2 litre Pure Tech petrol model, and rise to £24,495 for a 1.5 litre Blue HDi. Our test car was a GT Line Blue HDi 100 at £26,480, with a 115 mph top speed and 0-62 in 11.4 seconds.
Photos: Sue Baker