Volkswagen Tiguan

Why technology-packed Tiguan is aiming to knock Toy­ota RAV4 off the top

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The VW Tiguan is a late arrival to the off-road scene, but it will give the established SUV crowd something to worry about. It’s an accomplished performer on road and capable on rougher terrain, too. Better still, its new 2.0-litre diesel is a stellar performer – both supremely smooth and incredibly torquey. The Tiguan won’t be cheap when it hits UK showrooms, but its high-quality cabin and premium badge help to set it apart from rivals.

If you’re arriving late to a party, you’d better bring something special. And that’s exactly what VW believes it’s doing with the Tiguan. The latest model to try and knock the top-rated Toy­ota RAV4 off its top spot, the Tiguan comes packed with technology.

On sale next February, it features VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system, beefy suspension and an advanced traction control aimed at giving a decent mix of on and off-road ability.

Factor in the kudos of the VW badge and a price tag of £19,000, and it’s got plenty of appeal. But with stiff competition from forthcoming models such as the Ford Kuga and Seat’s Tribu, plus existing rivals including the RAV4, Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander, has the Tiguan got what it takes to cut it in one of the toughest sectors of the market?

With the growing promotion of anti-4x4 hype, one thing’s for sure about SUV styling: aggression is out. And the Tiguan’s lines are unlikely to cause offence. Sitting quite low for an off-roader, it mixes the bold VW grille with Eos-style headlights and neat twin circular tail-lights.

The uncluttered side panels feature simple but subtle lower protective body mouldings, and with wheel­arch bumpers and a sleek, sporty shape, the Tiguan looks clean and modern. It’s every inch a mini version of the bigger Touareg 4x4, in fact. Inside, the dashboard layout will be familiar to Golf and Touran owners, with a high-mounted central console and simple, clear dials.

Enhancing the cabin’s appeal are new larger air vents on the facia, backed by classy silver trim. Customers can specify contrasting leather for the seats and door panels, and with good build quality throughout, it really feels like an upmarket product. Interior space is similar to the Touran’s, too.

Under the bonnet, power will initially come from VW’s new common-rail 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine, or a 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged and supercharged petrol, with both units available with VW’s six-speed manual or DSG twin-clutch semi-automatic transmission. Later in 2008, the line-up will be supplemented by a powerful 168bhp TDI, plus two 2.0-litre petrol turbo engines, developing 170bhp and 200bhp.

Added to this are driving aids such as hill-climb assist and automatic differential locking for when things get slippery. Later next year, the Tiguan will be available with a revised front end that will provide a steeper 28-degree approach angle.

Most buyers will be happy with the standard car, though. It has more than enough off-road ability, and while it won’t trouble Land Rover’s Freelander in the rough stuff, the Tiguan copes well with rutted tracks. Only a lack of ground clearance holds it back. On the road, it really shines, and its lofty seating position, good visibility and well weighted controls mean it’s easy to drive. It’s pleasingly car-like, too, and with excellent body control, plus the security of the 4MOTION system, the Tiguan is a very safe and capable motor.

The real star is the engine, though. Our test car was fitted with VW’s new 2.0-litre TDI unit, which now features common-rail injection. Where the old Pümpe Duse engine was unrefined and noisy, the new TDI is super-smooth with a gutsy 320Nm of torque. Perhaps the one problem with the Tiguan is its price. Although VW hasn’t yet confirmed how much it will cost, the entry-level S (SE and Sport versions are available, too) is set to start at £19,000, and with a few options such as a rear view parking camera and sat-nav fitted, the price could rise to nearly £25,000. Still, the Tiguan is here at last, and it’s special enough to not get lost in the SUV crowd.

Rival: Land Rover Freelander The British firm’s entry-level off-roader is a mature SUV. A spacious cabin, smart styling and distinctive badge all help to justify its price. On-road manners are impressive and it’s seriously capable off-road, too. However, it lacks the broad engine line-up of its new VW rival.

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