It’s been nearly 15 years since the Toyota RAV4 made its debut, so what on earth has VW been doing all this time? Quick to the party with the Touareg, the Germans have made heavy weather of its smaller brother. But the wait is over – the Tiguan has arrived.
And it looks good, pretty even, with a simplicity and honesty to it. This is no jacked-up Golf 4Motion – its underpinnings, suspension and axle design are all its own, and those squared-off wheel arches ensure it looks like an off-roader.
Which indeed it is, at least for the 10 per cent of Tiguanites who opt for the ‘Track & Field’ spec, featuring redesigned bumpers, sump guard and hill-descent control.
For the school-run pack however, the two equipment levels are ‘Trend & Fun’ (yuck!) and ‘Sport & Style’, featuring pronounced spoilers and cosmetic air intakes. With neat, stylish lines like these, you probably won’t opt for the pop-out tow hook, despite the Tiguan’s touted 2.5-tonne towing ability, and that’s just as well, as the 150bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine might struggle to pull a hen off a nest. Its clever turbocharger AND supercharger combo has power, economy and emissions advantages, but surely diesel is the way to go, even if the 2.0-litre direct injection turbodiesel (TDI) is even slower than the TSI.
All Tiguans come with the latest generation of 4Motion – permanent four-wheel drive, with manual or optional automatic six-speed transmission – which sends 90 per cent of the power to the front wheels in most conditions. Around town it’s a joy to drive and is actually quite nippy, and the firm ride suits me fine. But out on the open road, the lack of performance makes me want to cry from sheer hopelessness, even if it does feel surprisingly grippy and agile. The petrol version feels so slow, I almost lose the will to live. I don’t care if the weedy little blown engine is so economical that Red Ken wants to marry it – it’s BORING.
But calm down, dear, it’s only a soft-roader. The cabin is mint – really well-designed and finished – and there’s loads of space in the back for either people or kit (1,510 litres, with the seats down). You can have ‘Park Steering Assistant’, which basically parallel parks by itself, so you barely have to be awake when manoeuvring. Distracted mums will love it. And it has a VW badge, so will be popular and will run forever (as it jolly well should, for not much change from £21k).
The Tiguan will sell, no question, but, boy, is it late to the party.