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First Drive: Volkswagen Tiguan



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Volkswagen believes there are 10,500 additional sales to be had in the small SUV sector, rising to 11,300 in 2009 with the Tiguan’s full line-up of engines.

The Tiguan will be competing against well-established models in the sector like the Toyota Rav4, Land Rover Freelander and Honda CRV.

The order books have been open since October 2007 and UK customers have already snapped up 3,200 units.

Customers can choose from a 2.0-litre TDI 138bhp common rail diesel or a 1.4-litre TSI 148bhp petrol unit. Later in 2008 a 168bhp TDI engine and a further pair of TSI petrol engines will be added to the line-up.

Standard equipment levels are as to be expected for this segment, with alloy wheels, air conditioning, MP3 compatible CD player, ESP and curtain, front and side airbags.

The Tiguan is spacious and has good rear legroom for a car of its size. There’s up to 1,510 litres of space with the rear seats folded flat. The rear seats split, slide and recline.

The range will be split into four trim levels: S, SE and Sport and an off-road specific Escape trim level. All models come with VW’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system as standard, but in recognition that few Tiguans will go deep into the wild, only Escape variants get hill descent control, underbody protection, sump guard and a different front end with a shorter overhang.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# VW expects 86% of Tiguan sales to be diesel and is looking for 60% of sales to come from the retail sector. The best-selling combination will be the 2.0-litre diesel unit in SE trim, which is expected to take 30% of sales.

Customers willing to wait a bit longer can also expect an R-line body kit and VW has said if there was enough demand, it would introduce a V6 and 200bhp diesel to the engine line-up.

While all Tiguans can cope off road, VW believes that just 5% of buyers will choose the Escape trim. So urban users have been considered carefully in planning its options list.

It includes a hands-off park assist option for £450, including parking sensors. The system first appeared on the Touran in 2007 and, on selection, uses ultrasonic sensors to scan for a parking space before automatically moving the steering wheel to guide the car safely into a parallel park space. The feature is an impressive, yet unnerving, sight to behold.

Dealers have already been trained on how to demonstrate the system, which will surely be a major attraction for customers.

Behind the wheel

The Tiguan looks good on the road, particularly in black. It takes some design cues from its Touareg big brother and has a lot of similarities with the Golf, with which it shares its base platform.

AM tested the most popular seller, the 2.0-litre diesel SE, which also featured the sumptuous optional leather seats. Interior quality is good and, as expected with VW, everything is screwed down tightly.

The Tiguan was comfortable to drive on urban roads and the motorway. The automatic release electronic handbrake was a handy feature for stop-start traffic jams.

The optional RNS 510 satellite-navigation system rear view camera was also useful and easy to use when reverse bay parking. The system uses a red, yellow and green grid system to guide the car neatly into tight spaces.

Prices: £19,370-£23,750
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel: 138bhp; 1.4TSI petrol: 148bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 9.3-10.5s; top speed 115-119mph
Transmission: 6sp man, 6sp tip auto
Efficiency: 39.2mpg, 189g/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k): 51-56%
Rivals: Land Rover Freelander, Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4
Strengths: Fairly priced, Euro V diesels
Weaknesses: Late to join the crowd

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