Even a cabriolet is a crossover: VW T-Roc soft top readies for Frankfurt debut

In the future, everything will be some kind of crossover. Is this a preview of inexpensive cabriolets of the next decade?

Every once in a while, Volkswagen truly surprises with a new segment entry, one that lands with little foreshadowing via a series of concepts or insider chatter and stands out in a lineup full of buttoned-up sedans, crossovers and SUVs. The T-Roc cabriolet is one such model, and it’s headed in production form to the Frankfurt motor show in September.

That’s right: This isn’t a concept, but a vehicle that Volkswagen has green-lit for production, at least for Europe. And it will be seen in the metal in just a few weeks.

The T-Roc may not be familiar to U.S. audiences, but the four-door crossover (with a metal roof) has been on sale in several markets since 2017. Positioned below the Tiguan, the T-Roc is about the size the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class — something VW could have used in its lineup here for some time — but it does not compete with the Mercedes directly in Europe, being aimed at a lower price point and offering smaller engines.

The T-Roc cabriolet may seem like a contrarian play, but it makes sense from the standpoint of small convertibles in Volkswagen’s lineup: The Beetle just exited production weeks ago, and… that’s it. The Eos was the last new VW hardtop cabriolet offered in the U.S. market, but it exited production back in 2015. The departure of the Beetle this year has left VW without a convertible even home in Germany and other major markets where Wolfsburg has filled many more niches than in North America. The lack of demand for cabriolets in China is one of the major reasons why Volkswagen has not addressed this segment in recent years, but the T-Roc may make sense for those who have been itching for an affordable drop-top.

The T-Roc cabriolet will go on sale in Europe next year.

“Following the tradition of the Beetle and the Golf, the T-Roc Cabriolet likewise has a classic soft top,” Volkswagen said. “Its standard fully automatic roof opens in just nine seconds. It can open and close even while the car is in motion, at speeds of up to 30 kilometers an hour. The soft top unlocks and locks electromechanically.”

VW will offer the T-Roc cabrio solely in soft top form, and it will use a 1.0-liter three-cylinder unit as the base engine in Europe, good for 115 hp. A slightly beefier option will be the 150-hp 1.5-liter four, but there’s no hiding the fact that this will be a model offered mostly in Europe once it goes on sale next year.

North America won’t be getting the cabrio version of the T-Roc anytime soon, nor the T-Roc crossover. What the U.S. is expected to receive in 2021, arguably several years after it needed a player in the subcompact crossover segment, is a model that could be badged as the Tarek and is currently sold in China as the Tharu. Following the end of Beetle production in Puebla, Mexico, VW announced that the subcompact crossover will take its place in about two years. Whether Volkswagen fields a cabriolet in the U.S. in the near future is a different question.

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