What is it?
The Volkswagen Tiguan – bastion of the family SUV market, school-run spectacular and all-round sales success in what is a crucial big-selling heartland for the brand. This is our first drive in the ground-up new model on UK soil and also our first go in the four-wheel-drive model, which will account for a whopping 70% of sales.
Everything from the smaller Nissan Qashqai and its ilk, up through the Honda CR-V and on to the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC is in the ring with the Tiguan, which ranges in price from less than £23k for a 1.4 TSI model up to and slightly beyond £35k.
What’s it like?
The Tiguan feels just as suave and sure-footed as it needs to be. From the moment you slide into the hip-height seats and fire up the venerable 2.0 TDI engine, to the time you slide back out again at journey’s end, everything feels precise, meticulous, polished.
With the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox, step-off is smooth and the engine builds pace and revs predictably and without fluster. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to be quite as refined as it is in some other installations, with a gritty dirge filtering into the cabin if the gearbox allows the revs to go anywhere beyond the torquey middle ground, but certainly it delivers a satisfying pace that few will find fault with. The gearbox is smooth-shifting and adept at picking the right gear – unless you stick it in Sport mode, in which it seems determined to hang you out to dry in the wheezy top-end of the power band.
Predictably, the steering has about as much feel as an unplugged joystick, but it is weighted just so to deliver plenty of confidence in any sort of driving. We actually prefer the lighter Normal mode (the variable drive modes come as standard with 4Motion models regardless of trim), since it feels a bit more natural.
Ride comfort on our test car, which was a high-spec SEL complete with 19in alloys and standard passive dampers, is also well sorted but not perfect. Eroded asphalt has it shimmying subtly and sharp-edged ruts or potholes send a hefty thump and shiver up its spine, but most of the time it’s settled. Body control is also well tied down, so even long-wave undulations don’t have it wallowing or pitching: this is a car that feels gainly and composed pretty much whatever you throw at it.
Having said all that, we also had a spin in the front-wheel-drive manual 2.0 TDI 150 Tiguan, and it was substantially more light-footed and keen on turn-in. It also rode noticeably better on the 18in wheels and kicked up a bit less tyre noise at higher speeds. Certainly, we’d save a hefty wedge of money and go for the front-driver with its light-shifting manual gearbox unless you really, absolutely need the mud-wallowing ability or 2.0-tonne towing limit of the 4Motion (two-wheel-drive models pull a maximum of 1800kg).
The cabin is airy and brimming with that intangible VW sense of exactness, from the tightly abutted panel gaps to the soft-touch plastics and broad, comfortable driving position. An 8.0in colour touchscreen is fitted across the range, and is one of the best systems out there for usability and equipment. Visibility is very good – on a par with the best rivals in this respect – and you get front and rear parking sensors from SE trim and up.
There’s loads of space in the back for two tall adults to lounge about in comfort even with similarly leggy occupants up front, and you can slide the rear seats to prioritise luggage or passenger space if you want. The boot’s big enough that you aren’t likely to need to slide them forwards for anything but the exceptional Ikea trip, but it’s a neat extra function.
Safety kit is very impressive, too, with automatic emergency braking, lane assist and a driver’s knee airbag standard across the board.
Should I buy one?
It’s a bit pricey next to some of the competition, particularly the more enthusiastic-feeling Mazda CX-5. But you should still buy one given the comprehensive spec even on lower-end trims, the unflappable and relaxing (if somewhat less than exciting) dynamics, resale values that are likely to be some of the best in class and an interior that feels more than a notch above even some supposedly more premium rivals.
It doesn’t make your pulse race but it does everything else you could possibly want it to do, and in an impressively classy fashion.
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 150 4Motion DSG SEL
Location: Gloucester; On sale: Now; Price £32,810; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, diesel; Power 148bhp at 3500-4500rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1673kg; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 125mph; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 149g/km, 29%
What is it?