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.