Volkswagen is looking to secure a sizeable slice of Europe’s growing small off-roader market with a practical new five-door hatchback, tipped to be called Beduin. Wolfsburg’s junior mudslinger, shown here in our computer-generated image, aims to build on the success of the larger and more luxurious Touareg, providing Volkswagen with its first genuine rival to the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander. High-end versions will be out to attack the BMW X3 and new entry-level off-roaders that are under development at Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Prices are expected to start at around £17,000 when UK sales begin in 2007. Range-topping Beduins may get a powerful 280bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine and an electronically controlled four-wheel drive system from Swedish transmission specialist Haldex.
The Beduin – a name registered for world-wide use by Volkswagen back in January – is a key component in a new model offensive overseen by the company’s straight talking chairman, Bernd-Pischetsrieder. He claims Volkswagen must lessen its financial dependence on traditional volume models like the Polo, Golf and Passat and significantly increase its niche models if it is to keep pace with the competition. A production version of the Concept C coupé-cabriolet, which gets an airing at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, will join the new off-roader in an expanded range due to hit showrooms by the end of the decade. And there could be a four-door model that’s said to follow the example of Mercedes-Benz’s well-received CLS by combining the practicality of a typical saloon with the head-turning style of a coupé.
All three cars will be based on the same platform – a new structure using mechanical elements from the Golf’s PQ35 and Passat’s PQ46 underpinnings. It is said to combine the 2580mm wheelbase of the Golf with the 1540mm (front) and 1520mm (rear) track widths of the six-generation Passat, while retaining a MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension. It’s too early to tell if the Beduin will follow the RAV4 in offering the choice between front- and four-wheel-drive models, although it is widely expected that the production versions of the Concept C and four-door coupé (which could be called Rivo and Levanto respectively) will get the option of both, depending on which engine is fitted.