I find myself scouting round the Volkswagen Tiguan looking for small features that invoke a little mental yelp.
Ooh! It’s got geometric surrounds to the air vents.Blimey!
Look at the way the tow bar swings out from underneath the bumper. Cripes!
Those rubber skirts stop mud getting under the door sills and making your trousers dirty.
Ho hum. No wacky grille or dashboard sweep inspired by a bend in the River Nile.
Where are the extra seats that swing out of the roof, fit only for Dobby the House Elf?
Surprise is not what the Tiguan does, because surprise is not the Volkswagen way.
No, this small SUV has been created exactly, meticulously, slavishly, from a text book entitled “How to build a small Volkswagen SUV exactly the way Volkswagen would”.
And that’s no bad thing, because the Tiguan is a very smart car: chunky, handsome, well built and nice to drive.
Just as you might expect of a Volkswagen.
It’s Volkswagen’s entry into every car manufacturer’s favourite new market and, while the splash made by some of the recently-launched vehicles in this sector has been akin to a small pebble on a large lake, the Tiguan is assured of something much more conspicuous.
The reasons are actually quite simple.
The bigger Touraeg has been fairly successful despite being at a price point that pitches it against premium brands that Volkswagen has its hand full with.
The Tiguan, likely to start at £19,500 for the petrol and £20,500 for the diesel, goes head to head with brands like Honda, Toyota and Nissan that in many other sectors, with the likes of Passat and Golf, Volkswagen has given a sound beating.
It will also compete against the Land Rover Freelander, though, and that could be a tougher nut to crack.
The Tiguan also looks right.
Again, it’s exactly as you would expect a small Volkswagen SUV to look and perhaps the rear is a little too Golf-on-steroids, but it is striking overall.
And in the land of small SUVs, looking the part has always been a prime consideration.
It comes with 4Motion four-wheel drive as standard, although later next year there is likely to be a two-wheel drive version.
Engines at launch (on sale in November with deliveries in February) will be one diesel and one petrol: a 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 140bhp that is already Euro V-compliant and a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with 150bhp.
The familiar 170bhp diesel will be added later. All petrol engines in the Tiguan, when 170bhp and 200bhp versions appear next year, will be the twincharger TSI versions.
Volkswagen is convinced that the small capacity and super/turbocharged combination is the future for low emissions and improved fuel economy, and there won’t be many engines appearing in any models without it over the next few years.
In this car, though, emissions of 199g/km for the petrol and 189g/km for the diesel are competitive with a car like the Honda CR-V, but not ground-breaking.
Volkswagen UK expects to sell 9,000 in 2008 and 11,000 in 2009, which is almost half the number of CR-Vs Honda shifts.
It’s a conservative estimate, it says, and should demand prove greater, then more can be shipped.
Of those, around 35-40% will be fleet business, and most will be sourced through leasing.
Which means to do really well it needs strong residual values and in a market sector that retains value like no other it should fare very well indeed.
Model designations will be the well-known S, SE and Sport titles, with the diesel SE version likely to be the most popular. Like other Volkswagens. Again.
But then, from out of the blue, something amazing happens. What’s this? Another version, aimed at serious off-roaders, with a different, duck-billed nose that allows you to get up and down steep slopes and comes with a raft of electronic off-road aids?
It’s called the Escape and will cost around £250 more than SE versions. But sales are expected to take up only 5% of volume and to be honest, if it gets to that, it will have done well.
As an exercise in proving that the Tiguan could be a proper off-road effort, it might convince some, but it looks a bit weird and if you really need to get filthy, there are plenty of other more workmanlike offerings out there.
Behind the wheel
The interior is nicely styled, comfortable and well built.
In fact, the strategy of sneaking cheaper materials into less obvious places, for which the Passat and Golf have been criticised, seems to have been dropped for all-round quality.
The seating position is excellent and there’s loads of rear passenger space with the rear seats slid right back, while the boot space is good too. All in all, the Tiguan cabin is excellent.
Not quite so excellent is the petrol engine, which sounds and feels as if it’s having to work its socks off to extract any performance. The diesel is easily the better option.
A six-speed manual gearbox ensures there is always enough grunt, but the Tiguan really impresses in the way it feels very much like a Golf to drive.
Although steering feel is the usual detached affair, it is accurate and responsive, while the chassis is obviously set up for road driving. There’s almost no body roll in corners or dive under braking.
Well, there was something that resembled off-road to test the duck-billed version but as a test it was more GCSE woodwork than a doctorate in quantum mechanics. And it managed it perfectly easily, although I think a Golf would have got round most of it, too.
As if you need telling, the Tiguan is going to be a very popular addition to the Volkswagen line-up.
Expect strong residual values, competitive driver tax bills and plenty of company car drivers eyeing one up.
|Model:||2.0 TDI||1.4 TSI|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||140/4,200||150/5,800|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||236/1,750||177/1,750|
|Max speed (mph):||115||123|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||39.2||33.6|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||189||199|
|Prices (est):||From £19,500|