Think of this as a Golf GTI in hik­ing boots

Top-of-range 162kW Volk­swa­gen Tiguan is both roomy and racy

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - DE­NIS DROPPA

THE NO­TION of a ‘sporty’ SUV is in prin­ci­ple some­what ab­surd, like try­ing to cross-breed a chee­tah with a hippo.

But to cater for mo­torists’ love af­fair with high-rid­ing turf tamers, com­bined with some mo­torists’ need for speed, the auto in­dus­try’s done a pretty good job of cre­at­ing gravel-crunch­ing SUVs that crank up the adrenalin. At the higher end, look no fur­ther than SUVs from the likes of Porsche, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Maserati and Jaguar for ev­i­dence of this.

In a more mod­estly-priced sec­tor of the mar­ket, Volk­swa­gen’s Tiguan TSI is a new­comer to this league. With its gutsy Golf GTI en­gine it rises from the pro­saic ranks of a prac­ti­cal shop­ping/fam­ily car, yet still of­fers an SUV’s ground clear­ance and prac­ti­cal­ity.

Avail­able in a sin­gle de­riv­a­tive - a top-spec High­line model with 4Mo­tion all-wheel drive and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch auto trans­mis­sion - this top-of-the-range Tiguan sells for R542 200 which in­cludes a 3 year/120 000km war­ranty and 5 year/90 000km ser­vice plan.

The 2-litre petrol turbo en­gine driv­ing all four wheels is the same unit that gives pace to the Golf GTI and gen­er­ates 162kW of power. The Golf was just re­cently bumped up to 169kW but both cars have the same 350Nm of torque.

The Tiguan TSI goes toe-to-toe with hot hatches in straight line ac­cel­er­a­tion. VW quotes a 6.5 sec­ond 0-100km/h sea-level fig­ure and we achieved 6.8 secs in our per­for­mance test at Gaut­eng al­ti­tude - just 0.2 secs slower than we man­aged at the same al­ti­tude in the 162kW Golf GTI.

That’s quick, and the Tiguan’s punchy power is de­liv­ered in a smooth and lin­ear way with­out any low-rev lag, de­liv­ered through one of the slick­est auto gear­boxes in the busi­ness. It makes for pleas­antly ac­ces­si­ble per­for­mance in the cut and thrust of busy ur­ban driv­ing, and is car­ried over onto the open road with swift over­tak­ing abil­ity and easy high speed cruis­ing, top­ping out at 220km/h. It’s not a par­tic­u­lar fuel guz­zler, with our test car av­er­ag­ing 10.1 litres per 100km (against VW’s claimed 7.8 litres).

This Tiguan goes about its busi­ness in the typ­i­cally re­fined, fuss-free way of mod­ern VWs. It isn’t a car that grabs you by the lapels and shouts its sporti­ness in your face with an overly-sen­si­tive throt­tle or steer­ing, nor a rau­cous ex­haust note. It’s all quiet and civilised but the pace is there when you need it, and it’s de­liv­ered with neat han­dling and a com­pli­ant ride.

The Tiguan changes di­rec­tion cleanly, with­out feel­ing overly wal­lowy, even though it doesn’t cor­ner with the hun­kered-down slick­ness of its GTI hatch­back cousin. There’s trac­tion aplenty whether the car’s be­ing driven on slip­pery dirt or be­ing raced over twisty roads, thanks to the 4Mo­tion sys­tem which uses a Haldex cou­pling cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial to share power be­tween the front and rear axles. It works in con­junc­tion with the car’s elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and ABS brakes to re­act to the slight­est wheel slip, de­liv­er­ing ex­tra trac­tion where it’s needed.

The op­tional 20” wheels fit­ted to the test car (18s are stan­dard) sharp­ened up the looks and han­dling with­out hav­ing a too-neg­a­tive ef­fect on the tar-road ride qual­ity, but those 255/40 R20 low-pro­file tyres aren’t par­tic­u­larly suited to gravel.

This sportier ver­sion of the Tiguan is un­likely to be used for of­froad­ing, but just in case it is, there are dif­fer­ent driv­ing modes for road, of­froad and slip­pery con­di­tions which the driver can select on-the-fly by turn­ing a dial next to the gear­lever.

The ground clear­ance of all Tiguan 4Mo­tion ver­sions is 10mm higher than two-wheel drive derivatives (201 mm ver­sus 191 mm). The ve­hi­cle also comes stan­dard with hill-de­scent con­trol and a park­ing brake with auto-hold. An op­tion­ally avail­able Off-road pack­age comes with a spe­cial front end that pro­vides an im­proved ap­proach an­gle.

The Tiguan is more mas­cu­line look­ing than its rather blandly-styled pre­de­ces­sor, and our test car also wore an op­tional R-Line body kit that lends it a racier, more pur­pose­ful look. We could even see it ap­peal­ing to some boy-racer types who wouldn’t have pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered an SUV.

In­side, the cabin is all about up­mar­ket ap­peal and classy fin­ishes, al­though the in­te­rior styling’s more busi­nesslike than sporty.

In its top-of-the-range High­line trim the Tiguan comes fairly com­pre­hen­sively stocked with items like a 16.5cm touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with Blue­tooth and USB in­ter­faces, cruise con­trol, three-zone cli­mate con­trol, park dis­tance con­trol, a rain sen­sor and au­to­matic head­lamps, along with safety pro­vided by six airbags.

But the op­tions list is very deep if you have match­ingly deep pock­ets, in­clud­ing a larger touch­screen with nav­i­ga­tion, head-up dis­play, panoramic sun­roof, elec­tri­cally re­leased tow­bar, auto ac­tu­ated bootlid, ac­tive cruise con­trol, Vi­enna leather seats, and LED head­lights among oth­ers.

The test car also had the Ac­tive Info Dis­play, a dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel that of­fers six dif­fer­ent driver-se­lectable views and adds a nice touch of high-tech ap­peal.

The Tiguan’s fam­ily-sized in­te­rior is very spa­cious, and along with plenty of leg and head­room, rear pas­sen­gers are able to ad­just their back­rest an­gles for com­fort and also slide their seats for­wards to in­crease space in the al­ready large 520-litre boot. With the rear seats tipped down the cargo space grows to a cav­ernous 1 655 litres. VER­DICT This love child of an SUV and a hot hatch suc­ceeds fairly ad­mirably on both sides of the util­ity-sporty di­vide, even though it’s com­pro­mised on ei­ther end. Think of it as a Golf GTI in hik­ing boots and you’re get­ting the pic­ture. Roomy and racy, the VW Tiguan TSI brings some ath­letic spirit into an ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle.

Hot hatch-like per­for­mance from this com­pact SUV.

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