Both Nissan and Toyota in Ireland have predicted a dramatic shift away from diesel, starting this year. Both companies said their sales forecasts and pre-orders indicated that the demise of diesel was coming fast and, according to Toyota, faster in Ireland that would have been expected.

However, VW's Gerrit Heimberg, the company's brand manager for Ireland, says diesel has a future in Ireland. He says VW has lost less than two per cent of diesel sales in Ireland - compared to petrol last year - and that indicated a "stable demand" for diesel cars. 

He conceded that there had been a realignment in sales of the Golf - the company's most popular car - as people in urban areas moved back to petrol but it had not been a dramatic shift. "Where you have people with lower mileage diesel is not a good option.

However, with all our bigger cars such as the Passat and Tiguan there has been no significant change. In rural Ireland, where people have higher mileage, the demand is strong. I'm not going to make precise predictions for this year - we will let the customer decide - but I don't agree at all with these claims that diesel is dead".

Other Volkswagen sources noted that the three best selling cars in Ireland last year - the Hyundai Tucson, the VW Golf and the Ford Focus - were all most popular with diesel engines, with only a very small percentage featuring petrol engines.

"Diesel may be in the autumn of its life, but it is far from dead. It is only when there is an electric car that will deliver a range of 700 to 800 kilometres that we will see the real shift", said one.

Mr Heimberg was speaking to RTE Motors at the launch of three new cars from VW. First up is the new compact SUV - the T-Roc - which some speculate will take over from the Golf as the company's most popular car as the trend towards SUV design continues.

 VW's new compact SUV - the T-Roc.
 VW's new compact SUV - the T-Roc.

The T-Roc has a choice of three engines, two petrol units with 115 and 150 horse power outputs and a 2.0 litre diesel with 150 horsepower. The entry-level car has the 1.0 litre TSi petrol that the VW Group has used in other cars such as the Golf and the Skoda Octavia.

It is perhaps the most impressive small engine on the market, with excellent economy (better the Ford EcoBoost), flexibility and refinement. The 115 horsepower output is very smoothly delivered and is an ideal city engine.

Its entry price is €24,750 for the 1.0 litre petrol, €28,450 for the 1.5 petrol and €34,795 for the 2.0 litre diesel. A 1.6 diesel will be arriving later in the year.

The T-Roc is a smart-looking car and has the same design profile as the bigger Tiguan, itself the smarter looking option in the current medium SUV line-up. The car has a coupe profile from the side, the headlights are integrated into the grille and the better-equipped and more expensive options have LED headlights.

However, it is a two front seat and two back seat design and the rear will be good for children but not for taller adults, thanks to limited space and a sloped roof design towards the rear. The boot is a generous 445 litres, one of the largest in the class. 

Front Assist with emergency braking and Lane Assist are standard across the range on T-Roc. Glass encased infotainment systems are optional but the dashboard is a very smart layout anyway.

There is a good raised driving position - key to the compact SUV appeal - and the front glass area is generous. We'll have more on the T-Roc after the upcoming test drive.