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New Volkswagen Tiguan takes a shot at the top

Volkswagen is used to being a winner - cars like the Golf, Polo, up! and Passat are all class leaders or, at the very least, serious contenders.

But there has been one area where VW's performance has been less than stellar - the compact SUV class.

The firm's traditional offering, the Tiguan, was solid and well-engineered, but it lacked style and inspiration.

Things had started to improve in recent years, but were transformed towards the end of last year with the launch of the second-generation model.

This was more like it: a Tiguan that looked great, was bang up to date in terms of safety and technology and had a very comfortable cabin. A real rival to the Nissan Qashqai and other compact SUVs.

Earlier this year, VW fixed a hole in the Tiguan's offering with the addition of a longer-wheelbase Allspace model capable of accommodating seven passengers.

The second-generation model has been received much better than its predecessor, which first hit our roads in 2008 and was facelifted in 2011.

It's based on the MQB platform that provides the underpinnings for the Golf and Passat, as well as several Skodas and Seats.

Inspiration and technology has also been brought in from another VW Group titan, Audi.

You'll notice the change in looks first. Where the old Tiguan was rather staid and ungainly looking, the new car is sleek, muscular and in tune with the company's design language, especially on the larger Touareg 4x4.

It has much better road presence than the 2011 facelift, which helped lift the first-generation car, assisted by short front and rear overhangs.

It's more upmarket as well. The new cabin is well-built, with better-quality materials and a new, driver-focused instrument binnacle. Redesigned seats and soft-touch plastic add to the air of good old VW quality.

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Volkswagen Tiguan

A slightly longer wheelbase than the first-generation car means you get improved space, including better legroom.

That longer wheelbase has also given the car better driving dynamics on UK and Irish roads. Add in some weight loss and light, Tarmac-orientated steering and you've got a competent family package.

Not, however, that the new Tiguan is afraid of venturing off manicured roads. Whilst no Land Rover, it can hold its own in moderate off-road terrain, thanks in part to good ground clearance (assuming you avoid the tempting optional aluminium sidesteps).

There are six trim levels, starting with S, then SE, SE Navigation, SEL, R-Line and Allroad. There is the usual trade-up to better kit and chrome, as with other manufacturers, with the R-Line being the sportiest so far and the Allroad taking terrain ability more seriously and squeezing in two small extra seats at the rear.

Two petrol and two diesels engines dominate the range, and all are standard VW TSI and TDi fare.

The Mk 2 car has more storage than before, too. There are large bins and cubbyholes scattered throughout the cabin, and the boot can accommodate up to 600-litres of stuff.

There's an easy-to-use system for folding and configuring the rear seats flat, increasing the load space to 1,655-litres.

As you'd expect, the new Tiguan comes loaded with lots of tech and driver assists.

Displays are mostly digital and there are gizmos aplenty, including Google Maps with satellite images and a heads-up display.

Standard safety kit includes Front Assist, City Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Monitoring, Active Info Display, Area View and Trailer Assist.

With competent rivals like the new Seat Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq (both also based on the MQB platform), the Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Renault Kadjar and Peugeot 3008, the new Tiguan needs to earn its reputation.

Pricing is in the £22k to £35k range, and if you're in the market for this type of vehicle, it's worth checking the Tiguan out.

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