NOW is the time for car manufacturers to mind the gap in the boom-boom world of the SUV.

A whole host of manufacturers are introducing what are called compact versions that provide the drive experience of a raised hatchback.

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

The German company is answering this demand with the introduction of the T-Roc, the first of a double-edged attack that will also see the arrival of a smaller still SUV called the. T-Cross at the end of next year.

It 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.

But it is the Q2 and Seat Arona from the VW stable that will surely draw the closest comparison.

Even further ahead, the all-electric Crozz will be launched in 2020, but for now VW is concentrating on diesel and petrol in familiar formats.

Volkswagen is on the crest of a wave, the second biggest car seller in the UK after Ford, and it has certainly lagged behind in the SUV wars. But it has got its first entrant into this sector just right.

What comes as something of a surprise is the pick of the bunch. It’s a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol offering, which not only returns an average of about 55mpg but also provides an agile and nippy driving experience. It’s also the cheapest, with a starting price at just short of £19,000.

Apart from a touch of wind noise on the large door mirrors, it happily cruises at 70mph and has the vim to proceed quickly and without fuss through urban environments.

Up against it is a 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol, plus a 2.0-litre diesel, with the bigger engine offerings being available with all-wheel drive.

Disappointingly, there in no automatic gearbox option on the 1.0-litre petrol, but it must the six-speed manual is a super-slick gem.

Key to the T-Roc is the personalisation, with four roof colours available and pretty LED lighting. There’s a whole host of functions on offer, such as a digital dashboard, dual zone climate control, parking aids and driving modes across the S, SE, Design, SEL and R-Line range.

As a starting point, even the SE model gets dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and DAB radio, an eight-inch touchscreen and 16-inch alloy wheels alongside a host of other features that you might normally expect to have to upgrade to receive. It also goes without saying that you get VW quality throughout.

Having viewed the various trim levels, I would opt for the Design version, which not only gets some very pleasing exterior touches but also a coloured dashboard and door panels along with ambient lighting.

The T-Roc feels very much like a hatchback to drive, with the obvious benefit of a raised height that provides better vision.

Volkswagen describes the exterior design as “crisp”, and there’s certainly an element of creasing and chroming to keep the eye interested.

In many ways 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. It’s just that bit more interesting and both a welcome and long overdue addition to the compact SUV sector.