What is the VW Tiguan?
The compact SUV market is a crowded one but Volkswagen’s contribution is a very strong contender with a conservative but appealing design, great build quality throughout and a wide variety of engines and trim levels to choose from.
In terms of pricing, the Tiguan is in the same league as rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Honda CRV, Ford Kuga and Toyota Rav4, all of which have been recently relaunched. The Mazda is the pick of the bunch for fuel efficiency but all are well put together. However, the Tiguan is a more desirable package overall.
Its exterior shape is now closer to the larger Touareg model but there’s also a resemblance to the Golf hatchback, which means the Tiguan sits very happily between the two in the VW family.
VW offers the standard Tiguan with both two- and four-wheel drive but there’s also a version specifically designed for mud-plugging duties. The Tiguan Escape adds underbody protection, hill descent control and a redesigned front end to handle more extreme angles of approach.
Aside from the Escape, three tiers of trim are available: S, SE and top-spec R-Line, with the entry-level S models (£21,250-£25,710) getting air conditioning, 16in alloys and an eight-speaker DAB radio. The SE model (£23,695-£29,190) is the most appealing as it adds parking sensors, climate control, Bluetooth and a multi-function leather steering wheel. Go for the R-Line (£28,790-£31,320) and you get all the above plus a premium styling kit along with 18in alloys, sports suspension and tinted glass.
Under the bonnet there’s no shortage of engine options, with three petrol and three diesel units.
VW has managed to engineer a crossover SUV that offers a great, commanding driving position while at the same time offering car-like handling. Some testers have found the ride on the hard side but we found it very well judged. Through corners body roll is well contained, making the Tiguan a good all-rounder for everyday use. It’s not quite a go-anywhere car, even if you opt for the Escape off-roader, but in most situations it inspires confidence and offers a fun driving experience.
The most popular engine is the 2.0 TDi with 137bhp. The more powerful 174bhp diesel option is quite a chunk more expensive and sacrifices economy, while the entry-level 108bhp unit will save you around £600 at the dealership but won’t save you a penny at the pumps. Both it and the 137bhp diesel in 2WD form have an identical combined fuel economy of 53.3mpg.
On the petrol front, the twin-turbocharged 1.4 TSI has 157bhp but with less torque than the diesels is slightly underpowered. The 2.0 TSI with 177bhp is a better bet if you’re not a diesel person, while 207bhp is also available in R-Line trim but at a price.
And be aware that going for models with 4Motion (4WD) and the DSG semi-automatic gearbox will mean that you add weight and sacrifice fuel economy.
Our Tiguan Escape test car was similar in trim to the SE models and proved comfortable for the front passengers. Rear legroom is similar to the Golf, which is acceptable but perhaps less than you might expect. There is more headroom all round than the Golf, however, and for the driver the forward visibility is very good. Looking back is a different matter as the large C- and D-pillars obstruct the view. Those less comfortable with reversing into tight spaces will appreciate park assist and parking sensors (available on SE and R-Line models). A reversing camera is a cost option.
While the dashboard design won’t win any awards for flare, it is well crafted and reassuringly solid, while controls are straightforward and easy to navigate.
What to look out for
The Tiguan has so far proved to be generally reliable, but glitches can crop up. The air con can fail, but it’s usually down to the switchgear failing rather than the compressor, which reduces repair costs. The electronic parking brake can also play up, especially on diesels, while some metallic paint finishes can get damaged all too readily if bird droppings aren’t cleaned off swiftly.
There’s been just the one Tiguan recall so far; it affected only the first diesel models built, as it was issued in July 2008. Those cars could suffer from a short circuit, and potentially a fire as a result.
The one to buy
VW Tiguan SE 2.0 TDI Bluemotion
- £24,890 (correct at first publication)
- 1968cc, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
- 137bhp @ 4200rpm
- 236 lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 10.2sec
- Top speed:
- 53.3mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 4426mm, W 1541mm, H 1703mm
VW Tiguan used car rivals for similar money