PERHAPS I’m just spoilt but it seems ages since I grasped a steering wheel covered in... plastic. Nicely moulded and quite grippy, but plastic nonetheless.
Even rather modest cars regard a skimming of cowhide as essential to give the cockpit at least a glimmer of glamour these days.
But no, here in front of me – and in a new model of Volkswagen, no less – was a wheel unashamed to flaunt its plasticity. Now there’s a thing.
And do you know what? After a decent drive in this smart new Tiguan, I couldn’t have cared less if the wheel had been covered in fluffy pink fake fur. Well not much, anyway.
For this particular car was one of the least expensive of the new-look Tiguan range, a series that in its original form made them the fourth biggest seller for VW in the UK (behind Golf, Polo and Passat); one of the Tiguan Essentials, so to speak.
At £21,730 it’s the cheapest diesel Tiguan on sale and only a little dearer than the real range lead-in, the £21,085 1.4 litre petrol model which is much quicker but quite a lot thirstier too.
The range tops out with the £28,020 TSI Sport 4MOTION, with powerful petrol engine. VW believes most buyers will take a mid-range diesel.
The test car’s Bluemotion Technology tag means VW has given a gentle nod to extended economy, with an engine that stops and starts itself at the traffic lights and indicates on the dash when you should change gear for maximum economy.
A more certain way of saving fuel in the cheaper Tiguans is the fact they don’t have all-wheel drive. That’s bad for proper off-roading (which you can bet most owners wouldn’t contemplate anyway) but good because it saves weight, and that means improved fuel economy with less car to lug around.
Around one in five Tiguan buyers are expected to take the front-drive only option, still happy in the knowledge their car looks like a proper potential off road hero.
The engine in the test car is new to the Tiguan and has found a comfortable home; it pulls lustily, never makes too much noise and ought to make visits to the pumps a little less of a pain.
The lack of a bulky drive system might also help explain why the car feels so light on its feet. That’s a welcome trait and a little unexpected in a car that might be only mid-size for an SUV but still occupies a significant area of Tarmac.
But back to the poverty-spec steering wheel. It’s joined on this car’s no-can-have list by cruise control and audio buttons on the steering wheel, both nice to have but far from deal breakers if the rest of the car lives up to expectations.
So sighs all round when I discover it does. And, it’s actually pretty well equipped, even if that steering wheel feel threatened to get proceedings off on the wrong foot (or hand).
Dig deeper and the list of standard kit starts to look enticing; with air con, alloy wheels, DAB radio and an eight speaker sound system, electronic parking brake with auto-hold (which comes on when you halt the car and releases as you move away)... even electric windows all round and a trip computer.
Many buyers may decide they need no more. Not even a leather covering to hang on to.