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New Zealand is a very sparsely populated country. Its overall land area is just slightly less than Great Britain and just a little more than Japan but its population is just over 4 million inhabitants. That’s the same population size of Singapore and 15 times less people than in the similarly sized Great Britain. Another interesting fact is that up to a quarter of the New Zealand population resides in the city of Auckland.
We’ve come to New Zealand to drive the diesel Volkswagen Tiguan as well as to soak in a tad of Kiwi culture. The drive will take place on the North Island and take us from Tauranga situated on the Bay of Plenty to Sail City, the name given to Auckland because of its high yacht population.
Tauranga is the country’s ninth largest city and is situated in a bay area that faces the Pacific. The drive will take us to Rotorua, just south of Tauranga after which, we will head north towards Auckland.
Above: View out of the Sebel Tauranga
We started the 300km drive from the urban streets of Tauranga and aclimatised ourselves to the oil burning Tiguan and the unfamiliar roads. Thankfully though, just like Singapore, you drive on the left in NZ.The Tiguan’s driving position was excellent and you have a good view out of intersections and blind spots.
Once we’re onto the country roads though, the Tiguan came alive despite having little sporting pretensions. The handling that is so revered in the rest of the Volkswagen range is also apparent in this SUV model. The steering feels accurate and has a nice feel to it. The suspension also displays good composure. The engine makes enough power for you to exploit the chassis dynamics and the gearbox is a wonderful tool. For open, twisty roads like this. It’s more fun to put the box in Sport or even Manual mode. The only downside is the lack of optional paddle shifters on the steering wheel on this car.
The Tiguan TDI offers a blend of on and off rod performance as we discovered later at an off road course on the outskirts of Rotorua. Even on standard road tyres, the Tiguan could handle the obstacles easily. A Haldex clutch all-wheel drive system, off-road mode, hill descent control, ESP and a departure angle of 28 degrees on the Track & Field model are wonderful allies for off tarmac trekking.
The town of Rotorua is famed for its geothermal activities. There are a number of geysers in the city, many of which are located within the Maori village of Whakarewarewa. The historic thermal village is littered with mud pools and geysers and the villagers make use of the natural heat for heating and cooking. The village also gives visitors a chance to experience the culture and lifestyle of the native Maoris. Rotorua is also known as Sulphur City because of the pungent smell of the air in the area.