What is it?
This is VW’s first compact 4x4, its first proper rival for the Toyota RAV4. Interestingly, the Volkswagen Tiguan is not the first Golf-based off-roader; that distinction goes to the short-lived VW Golf Country, produced at Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria during the early 1990s.
The Tiguan is, however, Volkswagen’s most determined attempt at muscling in on the rapidly expanding mid-size four-wheel drive market, following on from the success of the larger and more luxurious Touareg – a car VW is keen for the new Tiguan to be associated with, despite the two boasting wildly differing mechanical layouts and price tags.
Styled under the company’s former design boss Murat Gunak, the Tiguan is unmistakably a Volkswagen, flaunting a look that combines various styling elements from the Golf and Passat in a practical if rather undistinguished five door steel body that is claimed to boast class-leading levels of rigidity.
At 4427mm in length, 1809mm in width and 1683mm in height, the Tiguan enters a market dominated by the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson. In a move Volkswagen hopes will see its four-wheel drive newcomer garner wider sales appeal, it offers the choice between two different front end styling treatments that aim to cater to differing buyers, depending on their driving habits.
In standard trim, the Tiguan sports a deep front bumper that provides a limited 18-degree approach angle clearly biased towards on-road driving. There’s also a so-called Escape trim that adds a higher front bumper offering a generous-by-class-standards 28-degree approach angle, along with a kick plate to safeguard the sump, hill descent control and a compass, to boost its off-road prowess.
When it arrives here in February, there will be a choice of two engines: a 150bhp version of Volkswagen’s supercharged and turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder direct injection petrol unit, and a brand new 138bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel - the latter set to replace the German car maker’s old pumpe duse engine right across the Volkswagen line-up.
UK prices have yet to be confirmed, but we'd expect this model to weigh in at a price level just above that of its Japanese competition, which would make for a starting price of around £21,000.
What’s it like?
It’s the diesel that we’re testing here; the new engine’s 236lb ft of torque combines well with the Tiguan’s standard six-speed manual gearbox. There’s a six-speed auto ‘box as an option, but oddly, no twin clutch DSG system until later in the model’s life, and only then with the larger-engined variants.
Performance is nothing to write home about, but it’s nevertheless up to class standards, Volkswagen claiming 0-62mph in 10.5sec and a top speed of 115mph. The class leading Honda CR-V 2.2 CTDI, by comparison, hits the same mark in 10.3sec and tops out at 116mph. Fuel consumption is put at 39.2mpg, providing a range of over 500 miles on the 64-litre tank.
But the Tiguan’s greatest asset is its handling. In fact, there’s very little separating it from a Golf in terms of overall dynamic competence. The electro-mechanical steering, a new in-house developed system geared at 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, offers a light but direct feel. Well chosen damping results in a comfortable ride in a wide range of terrain and excellent body control on winding roads given its moderately tall build.