VW’s new shot at the pickup segment

Volkswagen wants to start selling a pickup smaller than the Amarok which it plans to call Tarok and which is previewed by this very close to production concept it revealed at 2018 Sao Paulo International Motor Show in Brazil.

The vehicle revealed in Sao Paulo is nearly identical to the production model it previews, and we really expect VW to only operate major changes to the front fascia in its transition from study to series production.

Judging by the fact that its interior is identical to that of the VW Tharu, a China-only SUV related to the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca, it’s pretty clear the project is already in the advanced stages of development - there is nothing even remotely concept car-like about the way it looks inside.

The plan is to reportedly just sell it in Brazil, where it would sit below the Amarok in the company’s pickup hierarchy. On the local market, it’d rival models from Fiat and Renault; no plans have been announced to sell it outside Brazil yet, but it seems unlikely VW won’t try to push it in other markets as well.

Exterior Styling

  • Like the VW Tharu crossover but with a bed
  • More lifestyle than workhorse
  • Not designed for serious off-roading
Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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From the side, the Tarok looks quite long and low for a pickup.

It has some styling elements to hint at its ruggedness, but it’s very far removed from a rock crawler; just look at that ground clearance, combined with its long wheelbase. These two factors will severely hamper its off-road worthiness.

The front end of the Tarok concept definitely won’t make it into production like this. VW will change the headlights, as well as the grille and bumper. Round the back, the rear light clusters complete with horizontal LED light bar definitely won’t make it into production, or if they do, then the illuminated VW badge will have been replaced with a regular one with a chrome finish.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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What may be retained for production is the aluminum-style finish on the C-pillar, as well as the contrasting roof with matching finish around the rear window. The fixed glass roof could be added as an option, but it is most likely just a feature of this particular concept.

Only five-seater, four-door versions will be offered, with a unique hatch that allows items loaded onto the bed to protrude into the cabin. This will be a very useful feature for those rare instances when you’re carrying extra long items, and it is a feature that will make it into production - it will be a unique selling point of the Tarok in a segment where all rivals are talented.

Interior Design

  • Has unique capacity-expanding hatch
  • Gets fully-digital gauge cluster
  • Will have better interior quality than rivals
Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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Taking one glance at the concept’s interior, it’s pretty clear it’s been lifted from the VW Tharu crossover, a model which will be sold in some South American markets, as well as China as a rival for the Jeep Compass and other crossovers in the same size bracket.

Comparing the interior of this Tarok pickup concept to that of the larger Tanoak concept revealed at the New York Auto Show, it’s pretty clear that the latter is much further removed from production than the Tarok.

Sure, VW will probably make the fully digital gauge cluster optional, offer it with smaller infotainment screen in lower spec models and maybe change some of those textured bits of trim below the middle air vents and on the doors, but it looks ready to hit the production line as is.

Browsing through Chinese brochures for the Tharu crossover, it looks like you can have it quite lavishly appointed - there is one interior in the Chinese photos which shows a Tharu with a two-tone leather interior which has leather on the dash and door panels and it actually looks pretty posh.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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The main distinguishing feature for the pickup’s interior is the aforementioned hatch that connects the bed to the inside - you access it by folding all three of the rear seats forward and out of the way. It doesn’t look like you can retain any rear seating when it’s open as the panel that separates outside from inside acts as an extended load bay when down. With it down, you could definitely carry much more than the one surfboard VW chose to put there for promotional purposes, although its choice shows just what kind of buyers the company intends to attract.

In order to achieve its maximum load capacity, it looks like you have to completely take out the rear seats, which you’d have to stow somewhere in your garage. With them out of the way and the tailgate open, the load bay measures nearly 2.8 meters / 9.1 feet in length, a lot more than the 1.2 meters / 3.9 feet it can fit with the seats in place and the tailgate closed.
VW has not made an official claim regarding the Tarok’s maximum load capacity, but it’s apparently going to be “around one ton.”

Drivetrain And Performance

  • Both gasoline and diesels will be offered
  • Base versions will be front-wheel drive
  • No locking diffs
Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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Only one engine was mentioned by VW in the press blurb for the Tarok - a 1.4-liter TSI turbo four-cylinder which is hooked up to a six-speed DSG automatic that sends power to all four wheels via a 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

The engine makes 148 horsepower and is able to run on pure E100 ethanol, as well as various gasoline-ethanol mixes, which is important for South American markets.

However, nothing is stopping VW from offering it with an even more suitable (and more torquey and efficient) 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine. Brazilian law states that a vehicle can have an oil-burner under the hood if its carrying capacity exceeds one ton, which it probably will, even if VW has so far only confirmed that the value is “around one ton”. It will probably just exceed that value in order to qualify for using the diesel, although if they start selling the model elsewhere, this won’t be an issue.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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Unlike the Amarok, the Tarok won’t be a serious off-road machine.

It lacks its bigger brother’s high ground clearance, low range gearbox and optional locking differential, all of which are essential to keep making progress in treacherous conditions. Tarok is definitely a more on-road type of vehicle which will only rarely be taken off-road.

In fact, lower spec versions of the model may even be offered with front-wheel drive only configurations which will be sufficient for the occasional dirt road, sleeping policeman or bigger than the average pothole.

In China, the Tharu crossover is also offered with a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, so that could also find its way under the hood of the production Tarok, as well.

Prices

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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Rivals like the Fiat Toro and Renault Duster Oroch cost from the equivalent of $27,800 and $19,400 respectively, although the latter is a bit smaller in size. So the production Tarok will be available for a price closer to that of the Fiat - in fact it will probably be more expensive, but still under what VW wants for an Amarok in Brazil (the Amarok retails from the equivalent of $50,400).

Competition

Fiat Toro

2017 Fiat Toro
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The Fiat Toro is a compact pickup that rides on the group’s small wide 4x4 platform which also underpins the Jeep Renegade, but it has extra wheelbase over the Jeep, different styling and a bed at the back. It is powered by either a 1.8-liter engine with 138 horsepower or a 2.0-liter diesel engine with 170 horsepower.

It can be had with either two- or four-wheel drive and only the diesel is available with an automatic gearbox - a standard six-speed manual is offered for both engines. In Brazil reviewers seem to recommend the Toro, praising it for its blend of comfort and capability, as well as its head-turning styling - with a front fascia like that, it really looks like nothing else on the road.

The Tarok will probably be more expensive than it but offer a better quality interior and the extra kudos of the VW badge.

Read our full review on the 2017 Fiat Toro.

Renault Duster Oroch

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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South American buyers are lucky to be able to buy the Renault Duster Oroch, essentially a stretched pickup version of the European market Dacia Duster, which is quite a bit cheaper than the Fiat Toro. It is smaller than the Toro too, but since it doesn’t have the one-ton payload capacity, it is only available with gasoline engines: a 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter, both naturally aspirated; the smaller unit is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the larger one gets a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

However, it suffers from pretty much the same gripes as all first-gen Dusters do - its interior is not very pleasant and this is due in part to the materials used and in part to its poor comfort and ergonomics. But then again it’s well assembled and the materials are hard wearing, so you don’t need to worry about scratches or getting the interior dirty - it is very easy to clean too.

Dusters are also renowned for their off-road capability and while the Oroch has a slightly longer wheelbase and rear overhang, it’s still supremely apt at going off-road helped by its low weight and maneuverable character. Like the Tarok, it is more of a lifestyle vehicle than an actual work truck, although if you check out its promo blurbs you may notice it is depicted carrying pipes, boxes and some industrial equipment too; no surfboard in sight.

Final Thoughts

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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It seems like a pretty smart move by Volkswagen to make a pickup like this.

It will probably never be sold in North America, but for South American buyers it will be a better quality alternative to the Fiat Toro and Renault Duster Oroch, as well as other similar size pickups on offer.

The Tarok’s party piece, the expandable cargo area will definitely give it an edge over rivals of the same size which will not be able to carry the same length cargo as it. It also looks pretty snazzy compared to rivals too, with its “Targa-inspired roof bar” and restrained by handsome overall design.

Its interior will also feel significantly more luxurious and upmarket compared to the two aforementioned rivals, with really modern touches like that fully-digital instrument cluster. Buyers will also be given the option to customize the interior with panels of different colors and featuring different textures, especially if they offer special edition models based on it.

Volkswagen Tarok Concept
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Volkswagen will certainly shake up the segment once the production Tarok hits the market, and I’m pretty sure it won’t only be sold in Brazil, although that’s where it will probably go on sale first. It could even make the journey across the Atlantic into Europe, especially since there are talks that the current Renault Duster Oroch’s successor will make this journey and be offered on the Old Continent.

As for its possible sale in the US, the chances are really pretty slim since there aren’t any pickups this small on sale in the States and that’s probably because they wouldn’t sell. It’s much more likely that it will be exported to places like Europe or South Africa.

  • Leave it
    • Won’t be particularly good off-road
    • Could be considerably more expensive than rivals

Further Reading

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Could Preview U.S.-spec Pickup Truck Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept.

2019 Volkswagen Atlas Pickup Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 705495

Read our full review on the 2019 Volkswagen Atlas Pickup.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas High Resolution Exterior
- image 711955

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

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