Volkswagen’s normally business-like UK head of press and public relations started his presentation on the new T-Roc wearing a Santa hat.

Merry Mike Orford’s gesture neatly summed up the German carmaker’s view of its high-spirited newcomer that is both spearheading a serious offensive on the sports utility vehicle sector and bringing an unexpectedly large dose of fun to its range.

Sitting beneath the established Tiguan SUV, the five-door T-Roc is roughly the size of a Golf, but with much more youthful appeal than its hatchback sibling.

Volkswagen is on something of a sales roll at the moment as the second biggest brand in the UK behind Ford and says it sees the sporty T-Roc as becoming one of its best-selling cars.

Personalisation and style are seen as key elements of the new car’s appeal with a wide range of colour, trim and equipment options on offer.

So if you want a sober and subtle grey look or an eye-catching splash of Turmeric Yellow or Energetic Orange paintwork you can have it.

Short overhangs and large track widths give the car a wide, long look which coupled with a low roofline gives it a sporty stance. Happily the sleek looks have been achieved while leaving ample space for passengers and providing a decently spacious split-level boot.

I drove the sparky 1.0-litre TSI version and although fitted with the least powerful of the petrol engines available, its 115 horsepower delivers both crisp acceleration and comfortable motorway cruising.

Ride and handling are surprisingly and pleasantly Golf-like, with none of the body roll that you might expect from an SUV.

Built in Portugal, Volkswagen says the T-Roc’s competitors range from the Nissan Qashqai, Vauxhall Mokka X and Renault Kadjar, to the Toyota CH-R, Mini Countryman and Audi Q2 

Priced from £18,950 for the entry-level S model, the T-Roc will in time be offered in S, SE, Design, SEL and R-Line trims, with a choice of petrol and diesel engines. It is also available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.

The Design specification offers a choice of contrasting roof, A-pillar and door mirror housing colours, rear tinted glass and sport-styled bumpers with silver-metallic underbody protection.

Inside, Design models provide a choice of coloured dashboard and interior door panels, alongside ambient lighting in the front footwells and door trim light strips.

Technology is a key element in every new car and the T-Roc comes with a hefty package of standard equipment across the range, from twin-zone climate control; eight-inch colour touch-screen, Bluetooth telephone and audio connection, DAB radio reception, USB connectivity and charging, and a six-speaker audio system.

Safety is also a key selling point and here the T-Roc comes with everything from the likes of active lane keeping system lane assist; front assist area monitoring system with pedestrian monitoring; and city emergency braking. All T-Roc Design models are also equipped with a driver alert system to warn of fatigue.

Volkswagen says that other options include no fewer than 11 additional assistance systems, from adaptive cruise control to automatic parking.

High-end options available for the new T-Roc include an electrically-operated tailgate; electrically-operated sliding/tilting panoramic sunroof; leather upholstery; wireless smartphone charging and a thumping great 400-watt audio system by BeatsAudio.

As many as eight out of ten T-Roc models sold in the UK are expected to be petrol-powered, and three-quarters of T-Roc sales are anticipated to be to private buyers.

Volkswagen’s confidence in the growing SUV sector is underlined by the number of new models on the way.

Next year will see the launch of the larger Tiguan Allspace, a three-row version of the Tiguan, and also on the way is a new version of the biggest SUV in the VW range, the Touareg and at the other end of the scale, a Polo-sized SUV, the T-Cross.

Auto facts

Model: Volkswagen T-Roc Design 1.0 TSI 115 PS

Price: £20,310

Insurance group: 11E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 55.4mpg

Top speed: 116mph

Length: 423.4cm/166.7in

Width: 199.2cm/78.4in

Luggage capacity: 15.7 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11 gallons/50 litres

CO2 emissions: 117g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles