The system used is a second-generation Haldex transmission, which is mounted on the rear axle to split drive between the front and rear wheels.
Under normal driving conditions, 90% of the engine’s power is delivered to the front wheels, with the remaining 10% going to the rears. This is to give drivers familiar two-wheel-drive handling and improved fuel efficiency compared with a permanent four-wheel drive.
Only when the system senses loss of traction does the Haldex transmission transfer power to the wheels with the most grip; as much as 100% can be put through the rear wheels if conditions dictate.
Volkswagen sees buyers for the new model attracted to the benefits of 4x4 transmission, but not the greater height and bulk of an SUV. The company cites those who tow or regularly need light off-road capabilities as target consumers.
Only dealers who specifically request the 4Motion are receiving stock, with the geography of their location expected to be the overriding factor in demand. But whoever decides to make the purchase will be buying a comfortable, capable, well-equipped car, with user-friendly handling and a wealth of practicality.
The technology is unobtrusive and flatters driving rather than interferes with it.
In a back-to-back test with the GTI, the 4Motion felt noticeably more sure-footed and tractable; whether entering twisty sections of road, or leaving junctions in a hurry, inspiring confidence in the car’s abilities within minutes of getting behind the wheel.
Of the two engine derivatives, the TDI is expected to sell around 800 units to the FSI’s 400 and, having driven both, AM agrees that the oil-burner is the more attractive proposition; giving 236lb ft of torque at just 1,750rpm and a wallet-friendly 46.3mpg.
With no direct rivals, the 4Motion could steal share from anything from Subaru to small SUVs.
Strengths: Build quality, practicality, performance, specification
Weakness: FSI not as convincing as TDI
Opportunity: Those who want 4WD but not an SUV
Threat: 2WD alternatives
USP: Rarity will give cachet
Engines: 2.0-litre TDI; 2.0-litre FSI
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Performance: TDI: 0-62mph: 9.5sec; 126mph; 138bhp; 236lb ft. FSI: 0-62mph: 9.2sec; 129mph; 148bhp; 148lb ft
Efficiency: TDI: 46.3mpg (comb); 165g/km CO2; FSI: 32.8 mpg (comb); 206g/km CO2
CAP RV: £9,475 (54%)
Rivals: Entry level Forester and Legacy; smaller 4x4s from Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia