When the Nissan Qashqai first entered production in 2006, no one could have predicted the impact that it would have on the car-buying masses.

Combining the high-riding driving position of an SUV with the exterior dimensions of a more regular-sized hatchback, it marked the birth of what’s widely regarded as the first commercially successful crossover hatchback.

Rivals were quick to launch their own takes on Nissan’s formula for sales success and as consumer appetites for crossovers developed, so have the cars.

Those with more athletic styling and more dynamic, driver-focused handling traits have emerged of late, enlivening what was previously a rather snooze-inducing segment.

Next to Seat’s excellent Ateca, Toyota’s striking C-HR and Audi’s upmarket Q2, Nissan’s reserved – yet still very complete – Qashqai suddenly seems old hat.

The T-Roc is Volkswagen’s belated first crack at such a car, with the new arrival sitting below the larger Tiguan and Touareg in the company line-up and priced from £18,950. And, boy, does it have its work cut out.

The Volkswagen Group already has an Autocar class leader in the shape of the Ateca, as well as the new Skoda Karoq and Q2. In short, there’s no lack of competition, even in-house.

So what does the T-Roc bring to the (rather crowded) table? For starters, there’s the 187bhp and four-wheel drive of the 2.0 TSI turbocharged petrol model we’re placing under the microscope. Both traits promise performance and handling dynamism that you could almost expect to be GTI-like.

It’s plainly a striking thing to behold, too, being more athletic, elegant, purposeful and interesting in its slightly decorated appearance than the crossover norm, although you’d never call it shouty or over the top.

At £31,485, this T-Roc is not exactly cheap, mind. You’ll shell out the best part of £1400 less for a like-for-like Ateca (the reigning class leader, remember) and v.

If it’s to justify that tall asking price, it’s going to have to make a solid case for itself in this road test. 

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Top 5 Crossover hatchbacks

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