VW Tiguan Escape

 

Two-litre turbo diesel 4MOTION with
six-speed manual transmission

Top speed: 115 mph
0-62 mph: 10.5 seconds
Max power: 140 ps @ 4200 rpm
Max torque: 320 Nm @ 2,500 rpm
Combined: 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 189g/km (F)
 

Price: 22,050 on the road

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VOLKSWAGEN'S latest model, the Tiguan compact SUV, plants a direct hit in the middle of the Sports Utility Vehicle market, dominated by the likes of the RAV4, X3 and Freelander.

These stylish soft-roaders are as much about curb appeal as they are practicality and, while they all boast off-road credentials, many never so much as meet a gravel track, preferring to spend a useful life on urban streets for the safe transportation of family and friends.

New Tiguan, which has been awarded five stars for adult occupant protection by Euro NCAP, boasts curb appeal, practicality and some off-road abilities, but adds its own touch of VW class and performance to the mix and is definitely more at home in an urban environment.

VW is marketing the Tiguan as a city-friendly vehicle with a high seating position, butch-yet-curvaceous styling and the ability to go off the beaten track, should one want to escape to the country.

When I first saw the Tiguan my instant reaction was that it's quite plain. But on closer inspection, I can't help but be sucked in by its subtle styling. It IS a good-looking car, easy on the eye, smooth and glossy - particularly in this Biscay Blue Pearl finish. It hints at hardy VW engineering without the bells and whistles.

Every model in the range is driven by VW's 4MOTION four-wheel-drive technology. At present there's one petrol and one diesel engine and I am driving the 2-litre turbodiesel Escape version. This aptly named model features a 28-degree angled front end and belly plates to protect the engine, should you fancy a bit of rough, and the torqey diesel engine is capable of pulling 2.5 tonnes with its 320Nms of torque - Pretty impressive given its size.

Inside the cabin I'm faced with soft-touch materials and everything is neat and tidy. It's not all plasticy and dull. I can smell the quality and feel it too as I hold the steering wheel.

The Escape is well equipped with the usual goodies, in fact, more than I can mention, even the entry-level S version comes with four electric windows, a multitude of airbags, alloy wheels and a superb sound system.

However, in typical VW style, if you want the leather and sat nav, you have to pay extra. Leather seats, with electrical driver's adjustments, do give it that luxury edge, and the sat nav package and 'park assist' with reversing camera go a long way to making life in the cabin even easier. But you can soon rack up quite an expensive options list if you're not careful.

Interior space is compact but VW has made good use of the space for storage. It's easy enough to get in and out of, although the sill is quite high. Two adults or three children will be adequately comfortable in the back and the boot is not a bad size either. I'm sure you could get a couple of labradors in there.

DRIVING
Pulling away and accelerating through short shifts and it's obvious this car's going to give a really well-rounded drive. There's lots of torque throughout the six gears and if you're not careful you can break the speed limit without noticing because the ride is genuinely smooth and quiet at speed. The limit is reached in about ten seconds and can potentially take you up to 115mph. Unlike many cars with a high centre of gravity, this Tiguan behaves much more like a 'normal' car. It's powerful, quick and effortless to drive.

As with big brother Touareg, the Tiguan has the electronic handbrake. Not everyone's cup of tea but the auto-hold feature certainly makes it more manageable. I can see this feature becoming the norm, and replacing the decades-old cable system.

I rarely see the economy figures quoted in the brochure of a car. Even this model is not quite realising its potential, but it's on a par with the Freelander diesel spewing out around 189km of CO2, putting it in tax band F - at a cost of 205 per year.

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