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The name of a new species of Volkswagen has its origins in the tiger and the iguana. With a pairing that would have intrigued Charles Darwin, the Tiguan is a crossbreed that combines the DNA signatures of an estate car, a hatchback and an off roadcapable compact SUV.

Designed to bear a clear resemblance to its much bigger brother, the mighty Touareg, the 4MOTION all wheel-drive Tiguan comes late to a sector in which the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are firmly established. But VW regards that as no bad thing because the Tiguan offers a special off-road version called the Escape.

The very first thing I noticed was the drive height (5ft 6in) offering very good visibility as I drove to various photographic points in the island. The second thing I noticed were the looks from other motorists on the road, obviously picking up on the new model from VW, the eye catching chrome trimmed radiator grille, distinctive headlights and sporty 18 inch Sierra alloys wheels, standard on the sport.

From launch, two engines are available ? a smooth 1.4 litre 150 PS petrol engine that has a supercharger and turbocharger designed to provide the performance of a 1.8 litre, but with relatively modest economy and CO2 emissions and a 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS diesel . Four trim levels are on offer, S, SE, Sport and Escape, and all have standard 4MOTION four-wheel drive ensuring maximum traction from rest whatever the weather. Once on the move it transfers 90% of the power to the front wheels if conditions are clement, this being the more economical arrangement. After all, how many mothers need thirsty four wheel drives for the school run? Escape models differentiate themselves from the rest of the range thanks to a front end treatment which is biased towards off-road applications, as well as a number of other features suited to venturing off the beaten track.

About 85 per cent of Tiguans will be bought with a diesel engine. The introductory unit is a 2.0litre with 138bhp and a useful 320Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. Maximum Tiguan trailer weight is up to 2,500kg (2 1/2 tonnes – that?s more than any other car in its class!) ? a typical Rice trailer with a couple of 16-hands high horses on board. A 168bhp version and 198bhp will be available next year. Hill starting couldn?t be simpler, even if you are towing a heavy load, thanks to the electronic parking brake with auto hold function. Fitted as standard this useful feature holds the Tiguan in position at the touch of a button and is released only when you apply the accelerator.

Standard equipment levels are high across the range, with all models featuring alloy wheels, air conditioning, MP3 compatible stereo and CD player, ABS and ESP, plus twin front and side airbags and a curtain airbag system designed to protect all occupants from a side impact.

It has a massive dashboard, finished with the highest quality materials, efficiently shaped seats and a number of innovative options offered on the Tiguan, including Volkswagen?s new RNS 510 full colour touch screen satellite navigation and audio system which incorporates a 30GB hard drive to record not only the owner?s favourite audio and video files and navigation mapping, but also waypoints and routes off-road where digital mapping does not exist! This option also includes a rear view camera which allows you to judge and view obstacles obscured from view behind your vehicle.

For the limited parking available in Jersey it might be worth considering the optional £380 ?Park assist?, an automatic sensor controlled steering aid parallel parking system. When considering a parking space, simply drive past the space at up to 19mph, press the park assist button whilst indicating, this will allow the system to detect if the space is sufficient to park in as you drive past, if so, it notifies you via the multifunctional display. The driver just operates the pedals, not the steering, as the car reverses into a space after selecting reverse gear. Parallel parking has never been so easy!

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Once free of the town, the Tiguan?s capability could be better appreciated. The ride is firm, but comfortable, the car went very quickly and with thorough competence on winding roads, and its 4MOTION system ensured lots of grip through tight corners. In fact, handling is almost Golflike in the vehicle?s quick responses and predictability. The Tiguan is based on a mix of Golf and Passat chassis technology.
There is plenty of room for five adults in the Tiguan and Volkswagen describes the interior as having the variability of a van. The rear seat, slightly higher than those in front, is divided 60:40 with a centre section that can also be folded down. The seat can be adjusted longitudinally more than six inches. The seat back is tilt adjustable. Load area with the seat in place is 470 litres, 1,510 litres folded.

Safety includes extensive chassis electronics, plenty of airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP rating. An attractive £676 opening panorama roof is on the options list which was fitted to the model I drove and I have to say a really nice extra on a sunny St Ouen?s day and even when the weather doesn?t allow it creates a very spacious airy light feel.

The new Tiguan may be more pussycat than tiger and ? with its off-road agility ? more gecko than iguana, but a VW Cateko or Geckat? Not even on Darwin?s list of possibilities!

The Tiguan offers buyers high levels of interior space, comfort and specification, as well as value for money, and is set to become a very popular compact 4×4 choice in my opinion with prices starting at £15,859 for the S 1.4-litre TSI manual. It?s sure to give the Honda CRV, Toyota Rav and Freelander a run for their money.

For further details, a brochure or to book a test drive you should call Vinnie Gallacher at Jacksons on 01534 497777.