Make Tracks For The Tiguan

by : A Candy

Ahhh. Isn't he just like his big brother? The Touareg? Yes, the Tiguan is certainly a chip off the old block. But the baby 4x4 from Volkswagen has to grow up fast and compete head-on with some of the toughest names in the compact SUV (Sports Utility vehicle) market - like the iconic Toyota RAV4, Land Rover Freelander and Honda CRV.

VW may be late to the market with their first ever compact SUV, but boy what an impact they promise to make. And after road testing this little toughie both on and off road under some pretty demanding conditions, I can tell you that it has all the attributes, style and quality to take on the best and quickly carve out its own niche in the market. It's that good.

If the face looks familiar, it's because Tiguan takes visual styling cues from its big brother off-roader, the Touareg.

And while most Tiguans are squarely aimed at excelling as a road-going 4x4 with big safety pluses and plenty of versatility, there is also an elite Escape version. This can achieve some impressive field work for those who require more of the vehicle than just tackling the school run and a heavy load of supermarket shopping.

All Tiguans come with standard 4MOTION four-wheel drive. Here, 90 per cent of the power is directed to the front wheels and just 10 per cent to the rear. But it can decide for itself what level of pulling power is needed at the back axle, so that in extreme cases, nearly 100 per cent can be transferred to the rear wheels.

Cast an eye over the Tiguans on offer and you'll see that all of them have that muscular, chunky image. But look more closely at the off-road Escape model and you'll see the front end has a higher cutaway area (known as the angle of approach) which means it can tackle heavier work without chewing up that bullet nose in the mud. There's also built-in under body protection to both look the part and act it.

Both models are five-door hatchbacks and first engines on offer are a 2.0 litre TDI 140 PS diesel, destined to be the best-seller, and a 1.4-litre TSI 150 PS petrol unit - later this year comes a 170PS TSI engine and a further pair of TSI petrols.

Both six-speed manual and tiptronic automatic transmissions are offered - unusually VW say a high 35 per cent of drivers are likely to opt for the auto.

The 2.0TDI I tested on road is very car-like to drive, with outstanding steering feel and response, a fast-action, smooth gearbox, easy clutch and excellent ride quality.

And the Escape model, likely to account for only about five per cent of sales, proved that it takes to grass and mud with just as much aplomb as its stablemate does to tarmac.

Any twinge of guilt I felt about ploughing furrows in the wet fields of the new Luton Hoo hotel were quickly forgotten as the stubborn streak of the Tiguan Escape revealed itself and the fun began.

After pressing a button to activate the off-road mode, I was quickly able to negotiate muddy tracks, climb a steep, damp grassy hill and come down in even greater style, thanks to hill descent assistant - here it's foot off the brake and let technology do the rest for you.

The off-road mode also provides finer engine torque control and optimal engine braking on the auto model. Even when it the Tiguan appeared to be chugging to a halt, it just had that extra grit to trickle on and keep going, which is a real confidence booster.

All Tiguans have an electronic parking brake with standard auto-hold function - this saves valuable centre cabin space and sorts itself automatically, on and off.

Bodily, the chunky VW's most impressive feature is the wraparound doors, which curve under the vehicle to keep the inside sills clean.

And Tiguan has an amazing party-piece as an optional extra - the astonishing Park Assist system. This takes over steering from the driver, automatically calculates a space to reverse into and simply parallel parks it for you. The driver just provides the power while the vehicle self-parks.

This is the future, folks, and Tiguan is blazing a new trail for others to follow.

With build quality and fit and finish at an all-time high, Tiguan is a highly desirable compact SUV. It's here and nothing's going to stop it, on or off road.


* Volkswagen Tiguan on sale now - the company's first foray into the compact 4x4 market.

* Split into four trim levels - S, SE and Sport, with Escape model for off-road use.

* Initially offered with two engines - a 2.0-litre TDI 140PS diesel or 1.4-litre TSI 150 PS petrol unit.

* Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions available (1.4 manual only).

* 4MOTION four-wheel drive as standard.

* Tiguan has class-leading trailer weight rating of 2,500 kg.

* Off-road biased Escape model also equipped with protective element over front radiator grille, sump guard, hill descent control and compass.

* VW's advanced Park Assist system and new RNS 510 touchscreen sat-nav system available as options.

* Safety features include ABS, Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP), a curtain airbag system, side airbags and drive and front passenger airbags all standard.