TV Channel Overload

A few weeks ago, I made the rare decision to cast my eyes over a TV listings magazine …

Every time I access the programme guide on my television, there appear to be additional channels, most of which I have never heard of. The same applies to listing magazines that strive to list as many channels as possible in the limited space at their disposal. This usually means that the font size is sometimes barely legible and often only a certain time frame of programmes is listed. Presumably, this is an editorial decision based on an assumption of when their readers are likely to tune into the channels. When I was growing up, there were just three terrestrial channels broadcasting in the United Kingdom. How times change!

One cannot argue that the advent of digital television has improved broadcasting quality considerably. Besides the usual standard definition transmissions, many channels are also available in high definition depending upon location and the means by which one receives the broadcasts. Additionally, especially in the UK, the mainstream broadcasters all provide catch-up services. When these first started, they were simply a means of watching programmes that had been missed and within a specified time frame. However, nowadays, most offer the facility of watching boxed sets of programmes from the broadcasters’ archives and, occasionally, watching a programme before it appears in the schedules. On top of this, countless channels in the UK are also available on time shift, usually one hour behind the original transmission, accessible via smart tv sets or online. With the exception of the BBC, who have actually reduced the number of channels they offer due to financial constraints, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 offer numerous off-shoot channels. Whilst some of these have a ‘theme’, a target audience or a specific genre (eg 5USA) others are little more than a mishmash of programmes with many old series broadcast at random and not in chronological order.

By definition, there are very few or new programmes on these secondary channels and they are a platform for repeats but therein lies the main problem. I’m sure I’m not alone in being angry when mainstream channels show repeats up to a year after first transmission so sometimes it is nice to have the opportunity to catch up with old favourites a few years down the line by watching these off-shoot channels. Sadly, the television controllers appear to have no thought or respect for their viewers as programmes are often grouped together as well as some being shown up to three times each day. The end result is programmes being shown out of order and the same series being shown on a loop over several years. It all seems very short-sighted as there are literally hundreds of excellent drama series from yesteryear that would make excellent viewing rather than the same few series being shown ad infinitum.


Other lesser known channels sometimes offer a day filled with episodes of the same programme, ideal if one is an addict and has nothing better to do with one’s time. Another annoying occurrence is when one finds different channels showing episodes of the same series. The CSI and NCIS franchises are a prime example, appearing on no fewer than seven different channels on the same day. One might expect channels with the word ‘movie’ in their title to show films, but strangely, this is not always the case. I suspect it is a question of desperation as channels try to find programmes to fill their schedules. So many broadcast virtually around the clock, undoubtedly making it difficult finding suitable material at times, bearing in mind what the channel is licensed to show. The scheduling of programmes is often illogical and confusing with no indication of episode or series number so it is impossible to know whether or not one has seen the programme previously.

The listings magazine at my disposal lists 61 English-speaking channels (excluding +1 services) available to me if I were to subscribe to a broadcast provider. In addition, there are fifteen sports channels plus many more which aren’t listed because of limited space such as children”s, so-called music and shopping channels. Firstly, there is enough dross on the free-to-air channels without me considering parting with money to access many of the lesser-known channels. Secondly, who on earth watches all these programmes, as there are insufficient hours in a day to achieve most things? So far, I’ve concentrated on conventional tv broadcasting, but in recent years, the likes of Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime have burst on to the scene, all trying to persuade people to subscribe monthly. Whilst these providers do offer some unique programming, the majority comprises old material, much of which emanates from UK and US mainstream broadcasters. If these new services are factored in, then so-called viewing choice goes through the roof. I use the word ‘choice’ somewhat guardedly as in reality, there is not an awful lot of variety as the listings so ably illustrate.

I also have access to Spanish digital terrestrial tv, of which the least said, the better! The number of channels available in this part of the country appears somewhat limited and is less than half those provided in the UK. Furthermore, so far as terrestrial tv is concerned, they don’t provide time-shift channels but I am unable to comment on satellite tv here in Spain. Most of the programming is dire and even makes some of the schedules on UK digital channels look appealing and that really is saying something.

The advent of digital tv has been a mixed blessing in my opinion. Notwithstanding the much better picture quality and cross device accessibility, the irony is that programming standards have plummeted as a result. This is inevitable with so many channels at the disposal of viewers. To me, it would make sound financial sense to reduce the number of channels, thereby eradicating so much programme duplication and paying far more attention to the broadcast schedules by focusing on the viewer and providing a logical transmission stream. As things stand, I perceive that television as we know it has a limited lifespan as viewing habits continue to change. Broadcast executives need to regenerate the medium before it is too late and viewers switch off in their droves. Even now, with considerable choice at my disposal, I struggle almost daily to find things of interest that I actually want to watch and will withhold my interest.


The Brexit Speech

In the words of The Observer, Brexit is shaping up to be a dreadful deal for Britain …

Be in no doubt. Theresa May’s watershed Brexit speech on Friday was a sobering defeat for the United Kingdom.

It was a defeat for the Leavers’ vision of a sovereign country freed from the constraints imposed by European politicians, laws and regulations … and a defeat for those who voted Remain and hoped against hope that Britain would, at the last moment, draw back from this gross act of national self-harm.

May’s speech, signalling a fundamental parting of the ways, was a defeat for the business people, trade unionists and community leaders who rightly fear for the country’s future prosperity, cohesion and jobs. It was a defeat for young people, British and European, who, more so than older generations, will perforce inhabit an ugly new world of harder borders, work permits, bureaucracy and pervasive state intrusion.

In a wider context, May’s speech marked a moment of British retreat from the shared ideals and principles of collaborative internationalism that have guided the western democracies since 1945. It presaged an historic abdication of leadership that many in Europe and beyond will neither understand nor quickly forgive.

The gaunt post-Brexit future towards which May is stubbornly leading us will make Britain a poorer, meaner, lonelier and shabbier place, hostile to immigrants yet badly in need of their skills, struggling to maintain its trade across the barriers we ourselves erected, and exploited by the world’s big economies whose governments and multinationals, imposing unequal trade treaties, will take what they want and leave the rest.

May’s speech was welcomed by hard Tory Brexiters, who imagine that quitting the EU single market and customs union, whatever the consequences, is a sufficient victory for their blinkered, jingoistic cause. It was seen by Tory Remainers as recognition of the need for compromise.

And this blurry reconciliation of her party’s schismatic factions, albeit probably temporary, was May’s main achievement. It may be a good deal for the Tories, but is a bad deal for Britain. Bad because, in overall terms, the proposed settlement is neither one thing nor the other. Britain will not have its cake and eat it, in Boris Johnson’s preposterous parlance. It will simply have less cake.

May rejected the single market largely because of its freedom-of-movement provisions. Even though employers have been telling her for months that Britain relies on EU workers, the PM remains foolishly frit of Daily Mail spectres of invading foreign hordes. Yet even as she rejected it, May recognised the benefits of the single market, sought continued, frictionless, access to it, and lamely admitted that we will all be the poorer for being outside it. What kind of leadership is this?

Such self-contradictory thinking would give Descartes a headache. The same applies to her Through the Looking Glass “customs partnership” wheeze that, she said, would “mirror EU requirements”. If she means future customs arrangements will be reversed, back to front and inside out, she may well be right.

In prospect now is a nightmare of red tape from those who promised a liberating bonfire on the cliffs of Dover and will create, instead, a giant lorry park.

© The Guardian

• This extract from The Observer’s article is reproduced here courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd under their Open Licence agreement.

• You can read The Observer’s full editorial here:


The Curse of Depression

A few days ago, I read of yet another tragedy when a 21-year-old man fell to his death from the Tamar Bridge linking Devon and Cornwall in the UK …

You may be wondering why this is of any significance to me. Apparently, it is the third similar tragedy from the same bridge to have happened in the last twelve months, when previously, a 38-year-old male and a 22-year-old woman both died in separate incidents. Sadly, there has been a sharp increase in the number of police call-outs to the Tamar Bridge, rising from 36 in 2015 to 59 incidents in 2016, which is an average of more than one per week.


The report of the tragedy attracted my attention as I regularly crossed the bridge by car prior to leaving the United Kingdom just over three years ago. On more than one occasion, I witnessed individuals in a precarious position on the bridge, but to the best of my knowledge, situations were resolved and tragedy was averted. Whilst no official reason for the latest incident has been given, it is widely assumed that the person jumped to his death whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed … in other words, he was suffering from depression. So what exactly is depression?

Depression is a mental illness and according to the World Health Organisation, it is currently the leading cause of ill health and disability. It is estimated that over 300 million people globally are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% in the ten year period from 2005 to 2015. Like other mental illnesses, depression is steeped in stigma, meaning that those who are struggling often find it difficult to reach out and seek help. People are too scared to admit what, to them, are failings for fear of ridicule and discrimination but the simple fact is that talking about their worries and concerns could be life-saving. However, in some form or another, depression affects everyone … either personally or through interaction with family, friends and work colleagues.

To be honest, it can be very difficult to recognise depression as it is more than simply a low mood. It causes mental anguish, impacts on the ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, and can cause poor function in work, education and socially. The worst case scenario is that depression can lead to suicide, this being the second main cause of death amongst 15-29-year-olds. Symptoms of depression develop gradually and affect different people in different ways but here are some of the key causes:

Mood swings・Lack of motivation・Anxiety・Irritability・Feeling helpless・Guilt・ Sadness・Low self-esteem・Intolerance・No hope・No energy・Self harming・Indecisiveness・Avoiding contact with friends and family・Suicidal thoughts・Having work problems・Crying for no apparent reason・Change in sleeping habits・Loss of interest in things usually enjoyed・Change in appetite (over eating or not eating)

Any of the above causes will likely last for several weeks or even months. Most people experience ‘down’ periods at some point in their lives, but these usually pass after a week or so. Unfortunately, far too many people either don’t recognise the onset of depression or see it as a trivial complaint and not a genuine health condition. They could not be more wrong as depression is a real illness with real symptoms. Never think of depression as a sign of weakness that can be overcome with a few mindset changes. Like any other illness, once it establishes itself,  proper medical treatment is required but with that and support from others, most people make a full recovery.

If you think you may be depressed, it’s very important to seek help from your doctor. The earlier the problem is addressed, the easier it will be to resolve. So what exactly causes the onset of depression? Often, it is triggered by life-changing events such as bereavement, job loss or the birth of a child, but more minor things can also cause the illness. There is no age barrier and affects both men and women, and recent studies in the UK suggest that about 4% of children between the ages of 5 to 16 are either anxious or depressed. Treatment for depression will vary depending upon the diagnosed severity of the condition, but will likely involve a combination of medication, lifestyle changes and talking therapies. Medication will not be prescribed automatically in cases of mild depression as lifestyle changes may well be all that’s needed. However, for moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. In cases of severe depression, referral to a specialist mental health team for intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medication may be recommended.

In many cases, changes in lifestyle such as reduced alcohol consumption, healthy diet, stopping smoking and taking more exercise will benefit sufferers of long term depression. The most important first step, however, is to entrust other people and talk openly about your feelings, concerns and anxieties. The words of an old proverb come to mind … a problem shared is a problem halved!

Having read this far, readers may be wondering what prompted this blog. Some twenty-nine years ago, I was diagnosed with severe depression although I failed to recognise the symptoms. It was business associates at the time who made frequent comments that I looked very unwell although I saw nothing to confirm this when looking in the mirror. I was working redundancy notice, having been stabbed in the back by a senior manager despite having bailed him out of operational disasters on more than one occasion. As soon as my unemployment became official, and tiring of all the negative comments being aired about my state of health, I visited my doctor. At first, I was disappointed that my usual GP was unavailable and had to see a locum but this turned out to be for the best as he was very empathetic and concerned. I was prescribed a course of non-addictive antidepressants as well as receiving some specialist talking treatment. My depression was mainly attributable to the situation at work where I was demeaned, belittled and made to feel worthless. Although it took many months before I was fully back to normal, I focused on new things and received tremendous support from my mother and friendly neighbours, without whom things might have been quite different. I’m not ashamed to admit that I experienced suicide tendencies but also recognised the impact that would have on my loved ones. The final boost to my recovery was two-fold … firstly, my friendly neighbours presented me with an air ticket to spend a week with them in Tenerife, and secondly, I received an offer of new employment. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones and emerged from the curse of depression relatively unscathed. There were casualties along the way, however, as I lost several so-called friends; people who could not cope with my symptoms and failed to understand the illness. These people are not missed though as I embarked upon a new chapter in my life.

Depression is certainly not the end and can actually have positive effects. I learnt to not let things get the better of me, no matter how bad they appeared at the time. This wasn’t an easy thing to do by any means but knowing where the depression route could lead, it was by far the preferred option. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people who are feeling depressed, no matter how slight, to seek early help and to start talking things through with people they can trust. If necessary, contact the Samaritans who will listen without prejudice and provide guidance and advice where necessary. If you recognise any of the aforementioned symptoms in people you love or simply know, be that first person to lend an ear as this could easily avert a tragedy and loss of a precious life.

The Farce Of Brexit

It’s now twenty months since the advisory UK referendum advocating Brexit …

Since that disastrous day in June 2016 when only about 34% of the total electorate voted in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, little forward progress appears to have been made. Whilst a small majority of those who cast a vote were in favour of leaving, nothing has been done to address the issue of thousands of people living abroad who were denied a vote for one reason or another. Many of these people actually reside within the EU bloc of countries and are the most likely to be affected by the ultimate terms of the UK withdrawal. In many respects, proposals and decisions made to date are largely regressive and emphasis has been placed on trivial matters such as the colour of passports . The UK has declared its intention to revert to blue passports despite the fact that prior to EU membership, they were black! Furthermore, there is no EU legislation stating that member states should each have a burgundy passport, although this colour has been voluntarily adopted by most countries. So far, political discussions reveal that the UK wants to cherry-pick aspects of the EU, something that is rightly being denied by Brussels. Should the UK leave the single market and customs union, which are major benefits of membership, the country is seeking an exception with regard to the Republic of Ireland as they do not wish to re-instate a hard border with that country. If this is allowed, then one rule will apply to a single part of the United Kingdom, namely Northern Ireland, with the rest of the country adopting different practices. Seeing as both Northern Ireland and Scotland were heavily in favour of remaining in the EU, it could be argued that Scotland should be awarded similar privileges. All in all, the whole débâcle is little more than a farce to date.

Irrespective of the arguments being put forward to leave the EU, the ratification of Brexit will undoubtedly isolate the country and turn back the clock decades. If one looks at the percentage vote by age, there was a majority of people under the age of 50 who wished to remain in the Union. Primarily, it’s voters over 60 who voted to leave, and ironically, few will live long enough to experience the full effects. Through their selfishness, prejudice and ignorance, these voters have deprived a future generation of greater opportunities and options.

There is another major issue … namely the dogmatic and arrogant approach being taken by Prime Minister Theresa May. Whilst she is the elected leader of her party, first and foremost she is a constituency Member of Parliament, and as such, should be representing the views of her constituents who voted for her in the last General Election. Seeing as over 90% of her constituents voted in favour of remaining in the EU, the PM is ignoring their wishes and merely sailing along on an ego trip. Even she is on record as stating that the country is better off within the EU so her stance to leave is nothing but hypocritical and illustrates perfectly that she, and the majority of politicians, cannot be trusted. The current UK government is quick to highlight and criticise corrupt administrations elsewhere in the world but fails to admit that it is equally corrupt and, undoubtedly, one of the worst governments in decades.

For anyone reading this who supports Brexit, I would suggest you consider everything that the EU has done to improve standards and conditions for everyone over the last forty years or so.

Above all else, the EU has been the mainstay of peace across much of the continent of Europe following centuries of conflict. Rather than instigate new political warfare, the UK should remember the sacrifices made by people from many countries to achieve peace and live together in harmony. It is ironic that a Conservative government is removing us from the EU when it was their predecessors who, long ago, advocated membership of what started out as the Common Market. Many continue to argue that membership costs the country far too much money but statistics from HM Revenue & Customs puts this matter neatly into perspective.

It’s too early to predict the final outcome of Brexit or even if the present government will survive to deliver the result. I remain a staunch European and am very thankful that I’m able to live freely in another member state. With so much antipathy towards Brexit now emerging, I believe that a further referendum should be offered to the British electorate, devoid of blatant lies and deception. I am sure that the earlier result would be overturned and would save the country billions of pounds that Brexit negotiations and procedural changes will ultimately cost. Theresa May is adamant that no second referendum will take place, no doubt because she fears losing face and being toppled from her extremely precarious seat of power. However, it would be very rewarding to witness a little honesty on the part of a leading politician that could, ironically, work in her favour.

We shall just have to wait and see!

Caring For The Environment

Nowadays, most of the world is falling victim to the effects of modern-day living …

One aspect of consumerism today is the abundance of plastic packaging. Almost everything that one purchases is wrapped in some type of plastic and many foodstuffs are often in plastic trays with a plastic-derived wrapping. After decades of free supply, supermarkets are now charging for plastic carrier bags in the hope that they will be used more than once. This initiative has often been implemented by governments but to be honest, it is too little too late. Many countries encourage recycling of various products including certain plastics but this facility can be very confusing to the consumer as there is currently no universal directive. The recycling option depends entirely upon the facilities available in any given area which means that far too much refuse continues to end up in landfill sites.

The younger generation no doubt view recycling as innovative and a step forward, but in truth, the practice was a well-instilled discipline several decades ago. To illustrate this point about ‘going green’, just read the following that has been doing the rounds on social media.

An elderly customer was at the store checkout. The young cashier suggested to her that she should bring her own bags because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologised to the young girl and explained “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded in typical blame-culture fashion “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The customer agreed with her saying that “our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in our day! Grocery stores bagged groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household rubbish bags was to use brown paper bags as book covers for our school textbooks. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalise our books on the brown paper covers. But, too bad we didn’t do the ‘green thing’ back then”.

The elderly customer continued. “We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator or lift in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a gas-guzzling machine every time we had to pop around the corner. But you are right … we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in our day. Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the disposable kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-consuming machine indoors. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Children often got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, and not the over-priced designer stuff of today. But you, young lady, are right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in our day”.

The old lady went on. “Back then we had one television or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of  a football pitch. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send via the post, we used old newspapers to cushion it, not foam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t start an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to visit health clubs to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But you’re right; we didn’t have the ‘green thing’back then. We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade was blunt. But we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then!

“Back then, people took the tram or bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s €35.000 SUV which cost what a whole house did before the ‘green thing’. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23.000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fast food outlet. Isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back then?”

Too many youngsters today are of the smart ass brigade and only too willing to preach to their far more experienced elders. Whilst old age is never going to be easy, we’re thankful still to be around, but it’s easy to be pissed off … especially by a tattooed, multiple-pierced smartass who can’t give change without the cash register indicating how much.

So, basically, there’s nothing new in recycling and today’s generation of industrialists and consumers have much to learn!

Christmas In Spain

A brief look at some of the Christmas customs in Spain …

In Spain, Christmas begins on 22 December, the day of the fat lottery known as ‘el gordo’. It is a day of great hope, because most Spaniards play for a number or share thereof, and then wait with impatience for the outcome of ‘el gordo’ which can yield an enormous cash prize.

On Christmas Eve family members gather around the table to dine on seafood, meat, sweets … the most typical Christmas sweets being nougat, marzipan and shortbreads, which are placed in containers for offering to visitors. After dinner they sing Christmas carols and chat, the latter being something Spaniards are very good at! The most religious families usually attend the ‘Misa del Gallo’ or midnight mass.

Christmas Day on 25 December is celebrated with a special meal, as on Christmas Eve. After the meal, there is a toast with traditional Cava and the rest of the day is spent with family. Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day is not an official holiday in most of Spain. However, 28 December is the day of Innocent Saints, a day of jokes, false news reporting and general fun. Think of April Fools’ Day but with more gusto!

Dinner on New Year’s Eve is a popular event but not as family-orientated as on Christmas Eve, being a time to spend with friends. A superstition followed by many people is the wearing of red underwear, because they believe it will bring them luck throughout the following year. People usually watch television, since at a quarter to midnight, broadcasts connect with the Puerta del Sol in Madrid where a clock strikes the twelve bells announcing the new year. With each stroke, a grape is eaten and when finished, revellers celebrate with Cava.  Afterwards, friends usually hold parties or gatherings that last all night, only ending as the first dawn of the new year breaks, at which point they eat chocolate and churros (a deep-fried choux pastry).

Onc again, New Year’s Day is a time for family gatherings and more food but so many suffer from hangovers from the night before that the occasion is often subdued. On the night of 5 January, the Three Wise Men arrive  It’s the day for children’s parties, who on the preceding days, have written letters saying what gifts they would like to receive. When the children wake up on the morning of 6 January, the Three Kings have already left all their gifts. Breakfast that morning is traditionally Roscón de Reyes, a ring-shaped sweet pastry cake with a small gift inside.

Although the tradition is for children to receive their presents on the feast of the Epiphany, more families are now giving their offspring some gifts at Christmas in line with the more common practice around the world.

The SUV Explosion

It’s hard to realise that the first SUV as we now know it was the Nissan Qashqai, launched way back in 2006 …

Almost certainly, Nissan took something of a gamble when they launched their first SUV on to the market. The model effectively replaced their Primera and Almera models, sitting somewhere in between the two in terms of size. At the time, the car market was primarily still dominated by the traditional hatchback, saloon and estate although the so-called people carrier, more correctly known as a Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV), was making inroads. Eleven years later, and the SUV is now accounting for about 25% of total new car sales throughout most of Europe, with the Qashqai still very much in demand.

In the last two to three years, there has been a plethora of new SUV models launched by mainstream manufacturers. Things have now started to become silly with prestige marques such as Bentley offering an extremely ungainly Bentayga SUV with rumours of a smaller model to follow. Rolls Royce will be launching a competitor to the Bentley and Jaguar has launched two SUV models recently with a range-topper planned before 2020. Believe it or not Lamborghini are also rumoured to be entering the fray! Seeing as the basic purpose of a Sport Utility Vehicle is some off-road capability, it is highly unlikely that owners of such prestige models would ever take them off the main highway for fear of causing damage.

Manufacturers such as Audi and BMW already offer a full SUV model range catering for all segments of the market. Other mainstream manufacturers have more limited ranges but are quickly catching up as they all want a slice of the action. One such new model which will appear on roads in early 2018 is the newly-launched Volkswagen T-Roc and something of a variant from the design normally offered by this company. In appearance, it does have similarities to the Q2 from its sister company Audi, so in keeping with my penchant for models from the VW Group, this blog is going to compare the two vehicles.

For those in the know, Volkswagen already offer two SUVs in their model line-up, namely the Tiguan and the upmarket Touareg. Depending upon which motoring press you read, the Tiguan is described as both a medium and small model when compared with SUVs from other manufacturers. The same can be said of other makes too so the marketplace becomes rather confusing to the buyer of such models. Personally, I think it’s fair to describe the Tiguan as a medium-sized model, especially in light of the new T-Roc but doubts may well arise in the foreseeable future if a rumoured SUV based on the VW Polo sees the light of day. However one chooses to look at things, there is no doubt whatsoever that most vehicle manufacturers now want to cover every segment of the market with SUV derivatives of their model ranges. When I was growing up, most car makers offered four or five different models at most so it was relatively easy to make a choice. Today, selecting the right vehicle at the right price is bamboozling to say the least!

Looking at the T-Roc, it’s obvious that VW are deviating from their generic style. The car is somewhat avant-garde in appearance although nothing like the questionable styling cues of the Nissan Juke or Toyota C-HR, both of which are direct competitors. The T-Roc embraces new design emotion for the brand sporting a more aggressive stance, offering many personalisation options and shares its wheelbase and VW Group modular MQB platform with the Audi Q2. As its appearance suggests, the T-Roc is a fun car to drive with responsive, reactionary steering and precision road holding. It will be offered with a popular range of engines in due course although the precise selection of units will depend upon the country in which the car is sourced. Trim levels will also vary but there should be sufficient options to meet the demands of most buyers. Subject to availability, it is envisaged that the new 1.5 150PS petrol engine will be pick of the bunch especially as diesel engines are fast losing popularity but the proven 1.6 115PS and 2.0 150PS diesels will be offered.

The sporty-looking body will be offered in eleven colours and four contrasting roof colours as part of the personalisation options. Some of the exterior colours can be carried across to the interior dashboard and seat trimmings adding a little pizzazz to proceedings. The infotainment system is dominated by an 8 inch touch sensitive display featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, DAB radio and USB connectivity. Satellite navigation will be included in higher spec models. As is to be expected from VW Group cars, everything is extremely well put together and overall exudes an element of quality. However, a surprising factor is the hard plastic used across the top of the dashboard which also resonates when tapped. This is one negative aspect of the vehicle and it seems strange that VW should try and cut costs in what is hardly a budget level model.

The T-Roc is of a similar size to the VW Golf, albeit slightly wider and higher, but offers more interior space. The raised seating position offers excellent all round visibility plus there is increased headroom for driver and up to four passengers. With 445 litres of luggage space, this far exceeds the Golf and the square shape of the boot with its level lip makes loading easy. Rear seats are configured 60:40 for practicality and convenience. Overall, it’s another vehicle that will serve a typical family well but with premium prices above the Golf and other competitors, it remains to be seen whether it will lose to its sister cars or gain from competitors.

Cue the Audi Q2 if you’ll pardon the pun. In my eyes, the Audi, which has been on the market for over a year, is the car on which the T-Roc has been modelled as there are numerous design similarities. This is currently the smallest SUV from the Audi stable but offered at a premium price for its size, and for the same money, one could buy a larger SEAT Ateca, Skoda Karoq or Nissan Qashqai. The Q2 shares the same MQB platform on which the A3, Golf, Leon and Octavia are built. This gives the car good roadholding characteristics although the suspension settings mean the ride is somewhat firmer than the A3 hatchback. Engine wise, expect to find the 1.0 115PS petrol and other engines that feature in the T-Roc, subject to individual country specifications.

The dashboard will be familiar to A3 aficionados but that is no bad thing as Audi has a reputation for first class build quality giving an air of opulence. Colour customisation strips to the dashboard are also available. Infotainment is by means of a smaller 7 inch display with Bluetooth, USB, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Higher spec models also come equipped with sat nav. Unlike the T-Roc, the upper dashboard is finished in soft material which adds to the premium feel. Front head and legroom are perfectly adequate but the sloping roofline and rear seat layout mean conditions are cramped for taller passengers. The rear seats have a 60:40 split and the boot is relatively square and lacking a load lip as in the T-Roc. This model is being offered in twelve exterior colours.

Prices for the base Q2 start at around €22250 (£20230) to €33670 (£30610) for the S-line model. Strangely, the T-Roc has a slightly higher starting price of circa €22470 (£20425), no doubt representing better basic spec, rising to €34630 (£31480) for a sport derivative. If a small SUV is your cup of tea, there is now an array of options available, but between these two very similar products, I would opt for the T-Roc as it has the edge on design and looks more SUV-like than the Audi..