IT had been more than a decade since Volkswagen’s performance-oriented R department last applied its tuning talents to an SUV.

Back in 2008 it was the Touareg R50 that burst forth with the kind of explosive credentials usually reserved for sports cars.

Now the company’s compact SUV, the T-Roc, has been given the R treatment, and the results are mightily impressive.

Armed with a 300PS turbocharged two-litre petrol engine it will surge from a standing start to 62mph in under five seconds.

Prior to the arrival of the T-Roc, Volkswagen had relied for many years on the Tiguan and Touareg to attract customers to the SUV sector, but there’s a huge demand for smaller offerings.

The T-Roc is Golf-sized and built on the same platform as the Audi Q2, with an eye on what it sees as key rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-3 for new customers.

And while most customers will be perfectly happy with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol offering, those looking for have-it-all performance and ability will no doubt be tempted by the T-Roc R.

The range-topping 2.0 TSI 4Motion matched to seven-speed DSG transmission not only provides driving thrills but is also capable of tackling snow and off-road surfaces through its drive mode options.

An aluminium subframe has been at the front for lower weight and extra stiffness, springs are 20 per cent stiffer and there’s a 20mm drop in ride height over the regular T-Roc. Select the comfort setting if a more relaxed drive is your desire or press the race option on the touchscreen if your mood and conditions warrant a more dynamic drive.

Key to the T-Roc is the personalisation, with a variety of exterior colours, contrasting roof colours, pretty LED lighting and a whole host of functions such as a digital dashboard, dual zone climate control, parking aids and the driving modes.

The T-Roc R also comes with 19-inch black alloy wheels housing black brake callipers, R badging, a roof spoiler, and twin chrome exhaust tailpipes that mark out the car as one with serious performance credentials.

It feels very much like a hot hatch to drive, with the obvious benefit of a raised height that provides better vision. Yes, you will lose out on agility, but this is compensated by the practicality of the T-Roc R, which remains a full five-seater with one of the largest luggage compartments in its class at 445 litres (392 for 4Motion) with the rear seats up and 1,290 litres (1,237) with the rear bench folded forward.

There are more R logos inside, where the front sports seats set the mood for what’s in store if you press on. Also to be found are stainless steel pedals, a leather-trimmed three spoke steering wheel, lighting strips, and a superb in-car entertainment, navigation and communications set-up on an eight-inch touchscreen.

There’s a host of driver assistance systems to keep you safe too and all the usual VW refinement and quality that endear the brand.

In many ways the T-Roc R it is a bold move by Volkswagen, renowned for its conservatism, and should win it many more fans. But at its heart it is still very much a superbly crafted machine that is easy to drive and a comfortable cruiser as well as being a sporty alternative in the SUV market.

It’s both a welcome and long overdue addition to Volkswagen’s offerings in the SUV sector.

The Lowdown:

Volkswagen T-Roc R 2.0 TSI 4Motion Price: £40,735 Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol producing 300PS Transmission: Seven-speed DSG Performance: 0 to 62mph in 4.8 seconds; top speed 155mph Economy: 32.5mpg combined CO2 emissions: 197g/km

Star ratings:

Performance: **** Economy: *** Ride/Handling: **** Space/Practicality: **** Equipment: ***** Security/Safety: **** Value For Money: **** OVERALL: ****