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Volkswagen’s compact SUV bulks up for a bigger slice of segment sales, but faces strong competition from the Volvo XC40 and Mazda CX-5

Only two of Volkswagen ’s current models are sold in greater numbers to the UK car-buying public than the Volkswagen Tiguan compact SUV: the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Volkswagen Polo.

VW currently sells 11 different cars in this country (more if you count estates and cabriolets as separate lines), so for the Tiguan to outsell so many of them – considering that it’s only now entering a second model generation – tells you that it has become quite popular in a short space of time.

The AWD Tiguan models get 200mm ground clearance and the Outdoor pack gives 25deg clearance angles at each end

The other thing that’s interesting about the Tiguan’s brisk success story is that it is just a compact SUV: not really a premium SUV, nor a trendy crossover-bodied one, nor a notably quirky or sporty-looking one.

Like so many Volkswagens, the Tiguan does it by the book, which is how a good chunk of British buyers like it.

Eight years ago, the first-generation version arrived in the UK just as the original 2014 Nissan Qashqai’s sales were taking off.

Compared with the Nissan equivalents, the Tiguan’s soft suspension rates and resolutely unsporting handling made for a readily intelligible SUV driving experience.

But this time, Wolfsburg’s answer to the Honda CR-V may bring something a smidgen more risqué.

This is the first in a series of new VW SUVs and crossovers, all due before the decade’s end, that share a new common design language and which will populate every market niche in 4x4-dom with a Volkswagen model.

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As it often does with its cars, Volkswagen is offering a wide range of engines in the Tiguan – three petrol and four diesel – as well as a choice of manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, front or four-wheel drive and regular, lowered sports or jacked-up ‘Outdoor’ suspension set-ups.

Our test car is a 148bhp 2.0 TDI in SE Navigation trim, a combination of powertrain and trim that is predicted to be the most popular in the UK.

Volkswagen Tiguan: at a glance

The basic Tiguan S trim is your starting point, boasting air-con, alloy wheels and an 8.0in touchscreen. SE and SE Nav, which morphed into Vokswagen Tiguan Match in 2018, add larger alloys, more driver aids, privacy glass and mirror linking for your phone. SE L spoons on climate control, a panoramic sunroof and a 12.3in TFT display, while top-spec VW Tiguan R-Line adds a bodykit. You’d need to want all this stuff, though, because they’re considerably more expensive than SE versions. 

These higher trims introduce more powerful but less economical engines in the shape of the 187bhp 2.0 TDI and 237bhp twin-turbocharged VW Tiguan 2.0 BiTDI, both with 4Motion four-wheel drive. The lesser-powered unit gets our vote.

The most powerful petrol-engined versions at this level are the 2.0 TSI 190 and 230 4Motion DSG. The 190 can do 0-62mph in 7.7sec but don’t expect much more than 35mpg. Neither is numerous on the used market and prices are stiff.

Lower down the power chain are the 123bhp and punchier 148bhp 1.4 TSI petrols. They’re reasonably plentiful, with the 148bhp model being a good choice if you live near a city threatening a diesel ban. In 2019, these petrol models were replaced by slightly more economical 1.5 TSI Evo engines. Later the same year, the low-power and extremely rare 113bhp 2.0 TDI 115 was ditched in favour of a 113bhp 1.6 TDI.

Us? We’d go for a 2016-reg 2.0 TDI 150 or 1.4 TSI 150 in SE Nav trim and enjoy the Golf life with a better view and a bigger boot but about the same fuel economy.

Volkswagen Tiguan FAQs

Is the Volkswagen Tiguan available as a plug-in hybrid or electric?

Volkswagen has been at the forefront of the recent electric revolution, so while there’s no EV version of its Tiguan SUV there is a plug-in hybrid. Badged the eHybrid, it uses a similar petrol-electric set-up that’s available in the Golf and Arteon. Badged eHybrid, it uses a 1.4-litre petrol with an electric motor to deliver a total power output of 242bhp and an all-electric range of 28 miles. With CO2 emissions of just 39g/km, it makes a great company car choice.

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What are the main rivals for the Volkswagen Tiguan?

The compact SUV class is one of the most popular in the UK, so there is no shortage of rivals for the Volkswagen Tiguan. For example, if you want engaging driving dynamics, then the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5 are worth a look, while the closely related Skoda Kodiaq and Seat Tarraco offer more space for similar cash. For style, the Peugeot 3008 takes some beating, while entry-level Land Rover Discovery Sport oozes upmarket appeal and off-road credibility.

How much power does the Volkswagen Tiguan have?

You're spoilt for choice when it comes to engines for the Tiguan, with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options. Least powerful is the 1.5-litre TSI petrol, which is available with either 128bhp or 148bhp depending on the model. The 2.0-litre diesel delivers 148bhp too, plus there’s also a 197bhp version. A 2.0-litre TSI petrol can be ordered in 187bhp and 242bhp outputs, the latter serving up the same power as the 1.4-litre petrol-electric plug-in. Ruling the roost is the scorching hot 316bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the Tiguan R.

What choices of gearbox are there for the Volkswagen Tiguan?

The line-up of gearboxes available in the Volkswagen Tiguan will be familiar to almost any owner of one the brand’s cars. A slick and precise six-speed manual is standard on the entry-level two-wheel drive petrol and diesel models, while all the higher power versions get a seven-speed example of Volkswagen’s twin-clutch DSG gearbox. The plug-in hybrid models use the same type of transmission, but it has only six gears.

Where is the Volkswagen Tiguan built?

As Volkswagen’s most popular car globally, it’s no surprise to find the Tiguan (and its seven-seat Allspace sibling) is built in factories all around the world, either in its entirety or from knock down kits. The main production site is Wolfsburg in Germany, but the cars are also constructed at the brand’s plants in Algeria, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico. The Volkswagen Tiguan was also assembled at the firm’s facility in Kaluga, Russia, but production has been halted as a result of the country’s part in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

How many generations of the Volkswagen Tiguan have there been?

The Volkswagen Tiguan is now in its second generation, with the original model making its debut in 2007. Based on the same PQ46 platform that underpinned the MK5 Golf, the first Tiguan represented Volkswagen’s first entry into the competitive compact SUV sector. It was replaced in 2016 by the current model, which is slightly bigger and uses the brand’s MQB scalable architecture. The Tiguan is one of the company’s most successful models, with over six million examples produced over a decade and a half.

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DESIGN & STYLING

Volkswagen Tiguan rear

This section often opens by describing exactly how much a new model has grown upwards, outwards or between the axles. Mostly we detail fairly small dimensional changes – but not so the Tiguan’s.

Next to the outgoing car, the new model’s roof is 33mm lower, its wheel arches extend 30mm farther outwards and it is 60mm longer overall and 77mm longer in the wheelbase.

The primary controls all have the same weight; the secondary ones are exactly where you expect to find them. You could drive it with your eyes shut — probably

The combined effect is to make the car appear wider, more planted and much less lofty and upright, something to which a higher waistline for the car’s bodysides contribute tellingly.

Bold radiator grille and headlight styling boosts the impression of width and solidity up front, while the sharply cut shoulder lines and bonnet creases and crisp details speak of the kind of technical precision that motivates so many of us to buy German. It’s a convincing redesign.

Here, the VW Group’s MQB platform gets its first outing on an SUV. Its steel construction confers a front transverse engine layout and all-independent suspension via struts at the front and multi-links at the rear – which is predominantly how the first Tiguan was configured

A redesign of the underbody has increased static torsional rigidity at the same time as increasing overall length and enlarging the hatchback opening – and that’s no mean feat.

The technical specification is equally impressive. As well as choosing between front and Haldex-type clutch-based four-wheel drive, you can option up Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive damping and a ‘progressive’ variable-rate steering rack.

There’s an Outdoor suspension set-up, which raises ride height and ground clearance by around 15mm, or passive sports suspension, which lowers it by the same margin.

The engine range includes a 178bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit and a 237bhp twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel, driving through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in both cases.

Want premium-brand levels of power and mechanical variety from your downsized SUV? You got it.

Volkswagen also claims to have taken up to 53kg out of the kerb weight, old model for new. That seems entirely believable when the car weighed 1610kg on our scales – lighter, even, than VW’s claim.

INTERIOR

Volkswagen Tiguan interior

The MQB platform was reportedly developed at a cost of £50 billion – an almost inconceivable outlay.

And, as you settle in behind the Tiguan’s steering wheel, you may question if it was money well spent for one quite obvious reason: the cabin looks quite a lot like that of a Volkswagen Golf.

The rear fold-down tables were robust enough to support a decent-sized picnic, when so many give way the instant you put anything weighty on them

Having said that, we’d argue that the comparison does the Tiguan no harm, because the Golf is a richly, solidly appointed hatchback, and the Tiguan is similarly pleasant.

A bit predictable, yes, and not desperately special, but nonetheless nicely finished and carefully and logically laid out.

And it’s spacious – which is where the clever platform engineering really scores points. Despite having a lower roof than the old Tiguan, this new version seats you 8mm higher in each row, for more convenient entry and exit, and offers improved head room with a driving position that is quite perched but very comfortable.

VW quotes a big gain on second-row occupant space and a 615-litre boot (expandable to 1655 litres) that eclipses what you get in a BMW X1 or a Ford Kuga.

According to our tape measure, the Tiguan beats the X1 by a narrow margin on front-row head room and by a bigger one on second-row leg room (both cars get sliding rear seats).

The VW’s boot is wide and deep, with a false floor making for a flat loading lip when you need one. Standard 40/20/40 split folding back seats complete a practicality showing that will win the Tiguan a lot of fans and place it among the most usable and versatile cars in the class.

Our mid-spec test car didn’t quite dazzle with its instrumentation and guidance systems, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have, given the opportunity.

VW’s Active Info Display allows you to swap conventional instruments for a fully customisable digital binnacle like that which Audi uses, and you can have a head-up display to supplement it if you want. Surround-view cameras are also available to help with manoeuvring and parking.

Avoid entry-level S trim and your Tiguan will come well prepared for our gadget-obsessed lives. With SE trim, you get an 8.0in touchscreen Composition Media infotainment system with VW’s Car-Net and App-Connect smartphone mirroring systems that allow you to synchronise your phone via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink.

Doing that will give you access to app-based navigation and music streaming systems direct from your phone — as well as to a CamConnect app that will stream live video to the infotainment screen from a Bluetooth-enabled GoPro mounted anywhere you choose.

If you want the best possible multimedia set-up, you’ll need the Discover Nav Pro system fitted and Volkswagen’s Media Control option ticked.

The latter allows you to connect a tablet PC via wi-fi and hand over control of the car’s infotainment functions to those in the back seats — should you want to.

The premium audio system is a 400W surround sound set-up from Dynaudio with a 10-channel amp.

Our test car didn’t have it, but the eight-speaker standard audio it did have sounded more than adequate.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

2.0-litre Volkswagen Tiguan diesel engine

Our lower-order diesel test car juggled stout performance, strong refinement, creditable fuel economy and polished ease of use with the accomplished skill we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen.

The 148bhp EA189 2.0-litre engine has plenty to do to keep the 1.6-tonne Tiguan rolling, and predictably enough it doesn’t hit a stellar mark on outright acceleration.

The Tiguan’s brake pedal feels over-assisted and dive is pronounced, making it easy to activate the ABS

While you could easily buy a similar-sized diesel SUV for the Tiguan’s price capable of 0-62mph in around nine and a half seconds, the VW takes 10.4sec, but compared with the BMW X1 sDrive18d we benchmarked alongside it, the VW’s flexibility of performance was more competitive.

Plenty of traction, well-chosen gear ratios, an amenable clutch pedal and a light, albeit slightly notchy manual gearbox make the Tiguan easy to spirit up to a brisk pace.

The engine sounds and feels a long way from special, but in that respect it’s no different from plenty of equivalents.

What matters is the band of accessible torque it provides, from just below 2000rpm to around 3500rpm. It makes short work of the car’s kerb weight and ultimately serves up enough poke to deal with any situation you’re likely to find – either on the road or not very far off it. That torque also feels sufficient to pull a fairly light trailer with ease.

Some injection whine is evident in the engine’s noise under load, along with a tiny bit of high-frequency resonance, but most of the time the Tiguan is more than a match for most diesel SUVs on mechanical refinement.

We noticed some wind rustle produced by the large door mirrors, but otherwise the Tiguan’s cabin is well sealed.

Our test car came fitted with Pirelli’s specialist SUV-intended Scorpion Verde tyres, and in slightly damp conditions – working through a brake pedal that felt discouragingly firm and somewhat over-assisted in initial take-up – it stopped from 70mph in 55 metres exactly.

That’s not the shortest stopping distance you might expect from a modern family car, but neither is it the worst result we’ve seen this year.

RIDE & HANDLING

Volkswagen Tiguan cornering

The availability of key options on steering, damping, spring rate, ride height, wheel size, tyres and, of course, the number of driven axles will inevitably make one new Tiguan behave quite differently from the next.

It’ll be a while before we’ve had a chance to piece together a complete picture on what the best all-round specification for the car may be, but if the answer to that question turns out to be as simple as ‘buy a standard one’, we won’t be at all surprised.

The stability-biased chassis keeps the rear axle in line around the off-camber

Here, on its middle-of-the-road, common or garden passive suspension, standard-issue steering and 18in alloy wheels, the Tiguan strikes an excellent dynamic compromise for a pragmatic family car.

It is softer-riding, more inherently stable and less incisive in its handling than some of its nearest competitors, but this is a car intended to keep your occupants safe, comfy and happy at all times and to make your job of driving them around as easy and as unwearing as it can be.

You won’t have much fun (but then you’re probably not expecting much), but if you’re happy instead to accept a comfortable car that’s easy to place and still feels smaller, lighter and better controlled on the road than the SUV’s prevailing dynamic standard, you’ll like what you find.

The Tiguan’s ride is gentle and quiet at all times – particularly so at motorway speeds – and only gets a little bit jostling over tricky surfaces around town.

It doesn’t seem to depend on overly soft springing to deliver that compliance, either, because body control is decent over vertical undulations and through corners.

When you do turn the Tiguan in to a corner, the chassis responds fairly precisely and progressively.

The car isn’t one to keep masses of lateral grip in reserve, and its medium-fast steering makes it easy enough to find the point at which the tyres begin to run out of grip.

When you do, it’s always the fronts doing the slipping, keeping handling secure at all times. Moreover, the discreetly tuned stability control system keeps that slippage assuredly and instantly reined in.

On standard springs and dampers, the Tiguan doesn’t give you as much encouragement to drive it hard as a BMW X1, a Ford Kuga or a Mazda CX-5 does, although on lowered sports suspension, more road-biased tyres, 19in alloys and quicker steering, that may well be very different.

But even the standard car keeps respectable check of its body movements and stays stable and controllable even when you’ve gone way beyond its bounds of grip.

The Tiguan doesn’t corner as flat or as fast as certain rivals, but its adhesiveness is great enough that you’re unlikely to find its margins in dry conditions on the road; in the wet, you may.

And if you do, you’ll know about it by the gathering roll in the car and the gradual bleeding away of the steering wheel’s authority over the front wheels.

But as understeer builds, so the car’s ESP works away calmly in the background to keep the car on line — so it still feels under control even when control is starting to run out.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Volkswagen Tiguan

VW’s pricing places the Tiguan closer to premium competition such as the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA than it is to volume rivals such as the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5.

As a result, you can’t help but conclude that it’s moderately expensive – but not overpriced.

Residuals are expected to shadow the BMW X1 very closely and outperform Honda CR-V. Creditable on both fronts

The fact that it’s also very practical even by class standards and has residual values forecast to be every bit as good as those of its rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, goes a long way to justifying the expense.

Entry-level S trim brings an 8.0in touchscreen and VW’s Composition Media sound system with DAB radio.

You also get lane assist, ‘front assist’ pedestrian detection and city emergency braking as standard.

There’s a big jump in price between mid-spec SE Navigation and upper-level SEL trim, because the latter gets adaptive LED headlights, 19in wheels, adaptive cruise control and VW’s Active Info Display TFT instruments as standard.

If you are intent on a Tiguan, go for a 2.0 TDI 150 SE Nav in 4Motion form (£29,745) and add Active Info Display (£585), LED headlights (£1350), Discover Nav Pro (£1365) and Dynamic Chassis Control (£790).

The Tiguan proved to be more fuel efficient than expected during testing, returning better than 50mpg when touring – a result as good as any you’re likely to see from a car of this kind.

At 125g/km, CO2 emissions are unexceptional by class standards, though, and it remains to be seen if the DSG-equipped models will be more frugal than their manual transmission counterparts.

VERDICT

4.5 star Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen has an uncanny knack for recognising the notional epicentre of any vehicle class and then consistently dropping its cars on a sixpence right on top of it, in turn forcing every other manufacturer to move around them on the margins.

It’s done that for decades with its hatches and saloons and now it’s claimed the juiciest territory with its much younger SUV.

Practical, comfortable, smart: the Tiguan grows up as well as outwards

The Tiguan feels like everything the stereotypical British family would want from their everyday car.

Big enough to seat four adults in comfort and carry all the trappings of their lives, it also does refinement and driveability better than most rivals.

Whether you want power, off-road ability, dynamism, outstanding safety or multimedia sophistication, the Tiguan can probably provide it.

Probably, because so far we’ve only tested one example, which lacked a shade of engagement. Even so, you could still consider it the complete and definitive compact SUV – and many will.

As a result, we believe the Tiguan betters the Honda CR-V, Range Rover Evoque and the BMW X1, while the Ford Kuga is engaging enough to give it class honours – just.

 

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Volkswagen Tiguan 2016-2024 First drives