Volkswagen’s best-selling SUV, the chunky-looking Tiguan, not only forms the backbone of most of VW’s own off-roaders – the Tiguan All-space and the T-roc share the same platform, only with different wheelbases to the Tiguan – but the car’s underpinnings are used throughout the VW Group, too. The familiar MQB architecture that makes up the Tiguan is mildly tweaked for the SEAT Ateca as well as the Skoda Karoq and Kodiaq.
Understanding where the Tiguan fits into this family tree isn’t immediately obvious, though. SEAT’s Ateca is the sportier sibling, with its firmer chassis and more agile nature. The pair of Skodas aim to be more utilitarian and practical, and thanks to impressive space inside the Kodiaq and neat and helpful elements throughout both, they certainly achieve that.
The Tiguan, with its base price of £23,255, along with more exterior chrome and more detailed styling, suggests that it might be the luxury alternative. However, its interior is no more plush and it doesn’t ride with significantly more dignity than the SEAT or Skodas. The more aggressively styled R-line Tiguan, which you’d guess would challenge the Ateca for sporting rights, simply isn’t as lively as the Spanish car. Without a niche of its own to occupy then, the Tiguan struggles to find its own identity.
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But the Tiguan certainly isn’t a bad car. Its chassis feels as though it’s been subject to thorough VW-style development, its steering is crisp and direct and there’s plenty to enjoy from the driver’s seat.Volkswagen Tiguan in detail
Performance and 0-60 time – Don’t be fooled by the SUV body – the Tiguan is capable of some impressive acceleration with the right engine
Engine and gearbox – As you’d expect, the Tiguan has a range of four-cylinder turbocharged engines – one diesel and two petrol motors
Ride and handling – It’s clear that the Tiguan has been engineered with care, but as enjoyable as it is, it does lack its own character
MPG and running costs – Officially, over 60mpg is achievable in a Tiguan if you choose the right one
Interior and tech – Functional and pleasant, but the upgraded infotainment can be frustrating to use
Design – VW’s restrained style is apparent in its popular SUV, but it can be easily undone with hi-spec options and trimPrices, specs and rivals
There’s almost a £20,000 gap between the base-model Tiguan S and the top-of-the-pack R-Line specification. Spending £23,255 gets you a grey Tiguan S on 17-inch wheels with a 1.4-litre petrol engine and front-wheel drive. Go for an R-Line Tiguan with all-wheel drive, a 237bhp diesel engine, DSG gearbox, pearl white paint and heated leather seats and you can breach the £42,000 mark.
As well as the Ateca, Kodiaq and Karoq mentioned above, the Tiguan also competes with cars it shares showroom space with, sometimes even a name. The Tiguan Allspace – a bigger, seven-seat SUV – takes many of the regular Tiguan’s styling cues and stretches it to give it more interior space. It’s not as appealing to look at as the normal Tiguan, though; it doesn’t have the same short overhangs and tough exterior.
There’s also the Passat Estate Alltrack from VW, an all-wheel drive, jacked-up version of the Passat. It isn’t quite as tall as the Tiguan and as a result it’s more conventional and more fun to drive. As it’s a Passat, it’s very practical, too. However, it’s simply not as ‘lifestyle’ as the SUV.
It isn’t just cars from within the VW Group that rival the Tiguan, there’s a huge selection of SUVs on the market, including Ford’s Kuga, Nissan’s Qashqai, Mazda’s CX-5, Renault’s Kadjar and Toyota’s C-HR.
No one’s going to buy a Tiguan based on its 0-60mph dash, so an over seven second time is unlikely to put anyone off. Still, no one wants a car that’s too slow now, do they?
The Tiguan, in its fastest set-up – with four-wheel drive, a 237bhp diesel engine and a DSG transmission – is certainly not slow. It will get from 0 to 62mph in 6.5sec, the exact same time as a Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport – our current supermini of the year.
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However, such pace rapidly diminishes as you take away power, all-wheel-drive traction and swift automatic gear changes. A front-wheel-drive, manual Tiguan with a 113bhp diesel engine takes a lazy 10.9sec to get to 62mph.
It’s the same two set-ups that span the Tiguan’s top speed range, too. The least powerful diesel is able to reach 115mph, while the all-wheel-drive 237bhp car can reach 142mph – just 1mph shy of that champion Peugeot hot hatch. Eerie.
The mainstay of the Tiguan’s engine line-up is the four-cylinder turbocharged 2-litre diesel. It can be had with a range of outputs: 113bhp, 148bhp, 187bhp and 237bhp. The 148bhp version gives you the most amount of drivetrain options, that version being coupled with either front- or four-wheel drive, and either a manual or DSG dual-clutch auto. The two more powerful diesel alternatives are four-wheel drive and DSG only, while the 113bhp engine is two-wheel drive and manual only.
As well as the 2-litre diesel, there’s the choice of two petrol engines, both four-cylinder turbocharged units; a 1.4-litre with either 123bhp or 147bhp, and a 2-litre 178bhp unit. Like the range of diesels, the power dictates what sort of drivetrain each is available with – the 123bhp 1.4 comes with front-wheel drive and a manual transmission, while the 147bhp petrol is available with whatever drivetrain you fancy. The 2-litre is only combined with the four-wheel drive and DSG.
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Despite diesel being a dirty word currently, especially when discussing VWs, an oil-burner engine is still the most popular, and for some, most fitting in an SUV. This might explain why VW’s 2-litre petrol engine motor feels so much like a diesel when powering the Tiguan. It might have a 6000rpm red line, but it can’t be encouraged to spin any faster than 5500rpm as the gearbox automatically shifts up at that point. It also has the same torque-rich mid-range that you’d find in a diesel engine, encouraging you to change up and keep the revs around 3000rpm to relish in a wave of grunt. That is the only really satisfying thing about it, though, as the noise it makes is disappointingly similar to a four-cylinder diesel.
In much the same way you wouldn’t expect the Tiguan to be fast in a straight line, you wouldn’t expect it to be particularly lively in the corners. SUVs, with their lofty ride-heights and hefty kerb weights, don’t often materialise as real drivers’ cars.
The Tiguan doesn’t buck that trend quite as unequivocally as it does its expected acceleration figures, but rather than feeling like a dumpy off-roader there’s a sophistication to the way it drives that certainly has its appeal.
The suspension feels long-legged, more so even than its close relatives, and it rides over bigger bumps with composure, each wheel staying clearly independent from the others. Harsh road surfaces do make themselves known within the cabin when riding on 20-inch wheels, however – we suspect that the smaller wheels paired with bigger tyres would help the situation.
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The Tiguan has a surprisingly slow steering ratio when compared to many modern electronic power-steering systems, that often feel hyperactive and overly darty. But even though it isn’t fast there’s no slack whatsoever, and each movement of the wheel is followed by a clear reaction from the car. These slower steering responses do allow you to make considered inputs, so you can be very accurate when pointing the Tiguan through a corner.
On typical British B-roads, the Tiguan feels far lighter than its Tonka-toy looks might suggest. This lack of mass allows you to maintain decent momentum through corners, using the lightest dab of the brakes or a lift to trim the tiniest amount of speed. Add this to the raised seating position, that grants you that little extra degree of vision over hedges and tall verges, and you can get into a satisfying flow down almost any road.
This rhythm is helped further by the body not tilting or rolling excessively. Unlike lots of off-roaders, the Tiguan’s mass doesn’t feel as though it has to be reigned-in by heavily reinforced suspension components or bullied into staying upright by complex electromechanical systems. Instead, it feels natural and predictable, far more like a conventional car than an SUV.
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But although the Tiguan is an accomplished SUV, its character falls somewhere between the Ateca and Kodiaq, spanning the bridge between sporty and utilitarian, averaging out each car’s attributes. It’s possible it’s trying to be more luxurious, but as it doesn’t isolate the cabin from rough roads all that well, it doesn’t quite achieve this goal. Without a distinct character of its own, the Tiguan is less memorable than its relatives, making it harder to feel any passion for, no matter how good it is.
The official combined mpg figure of only two versions of the Tiguan drop below 40mpg, and only just. The 1.4 petrol, with DSG and four-wheel drive, achieves 39.8mpg, while the 2-litre petrol with the same drivetrain gets 38.2miles from each gallon.
Most of the other cars are well into the 40s and 50s with their mpg, however the winning engine and drivetrain combo is the 2-litre diesel with either 113bhp or 147bhp when combined with a two-wheel-drive manual. On a combined cycle this recipe means the Tiguan can officially achieve 60.1mpg.
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Sharing a platform with VW’s staple hatchback, the Golf, means that the Tiguan doesn’t have many overly complicated components and certainly nothing that’s untested. That means it should prove to be reliable, durable and cost-effective to run.
The flashier R-Line Tiguans come with big, 20-inch wheels that require expensive tyres. A full set of 235/45 R20s from a decent tyre brand will cost between £700 and £770, whereas four 215/65 R17 tyres – to fit the Tiguan’s smallest wheels – are between £400 and £520.
Despite a weightier price tag and more premium badge, the Tiguan isn’t dissimilar inside to its cheaper relatives. There’s the same fuss-free dash, flat utilitarian seats, soft but durable plastics and only a few hints of leather. It does feel brighter and airier than an Ateca and Kodiaq, but only marginally. So, although there’s nothing wrong with the Tiguan’s interior, there’s little that defines it as anything special. Except, that is, some fancy cup holders in the centre console that can be twisted to retract them and open up the space for bigger items rather than cups or bottles. However, this sort of helpful ingenuity is what we’ve become used to from Skoda, so it somehow feels wrong for it to be in the Tiguan.
You might be tempted to upgrade the satnav to VW’s Discover Navigation Pro system that replaced the standard central 8-inch screen with a 9.2-inch one. It looks sleeker and the bigger display presents more information without looking too complicated. But the two rotary dials of the standard unit are replaced by either pixels or a touch panel for volume adjustment. Without a physical knob to alter the scale of the map or change the volume of the radio, the upgraded infotainment is actually more of a pain to use and more of a distraction while driving.
Arguably, it’s the base Tiguans that are the better looking of the range. The neat, sharp and clean lines that are typical of current VW styling aren’t corrupted by flashier grilles, glitzier badges and brighter trim of the higher level cars.
The top-of-the-range R-Line, with its body-coloured lower half rather than durable-looking black plastic, contradicts VW’s general air of subtly and class. The extra sills and bumpers look stuck-on, like they’ve been added by an aftermarket tuner. With 20-inch wheels, too, it’s looks as though it’s trying very hard to be cool.4 Jun 2018