"The VW Tiguan has 4x4 looks and some off-road ability, but its main talent is as a practical five-seat family car that's comfortable on the motorway and city streets."
The Volkswagen Tiguan may have the rugged looks of a 4x4, but in reality it has clearly been designed more with urban and motorway driving in mind, despite some decent off-road abilities. If you keep that in mind, then the Tiguan is one of the best compact crossover SUVs you can buy in the UK. It takes the best of bigger 4x4s – a high, commanding driving position, lots of space inside and genuine safety – and combines it with the usability of a standard family car. So it has a comfortable ride, spacious interior and is easy to park. And the easily adjustable driving position helps make the Tiguan fun to drive on any surface – on or off road – that you might encounter. Every model in the range can be selected with either front or four-wheel drive. It's a little bit expensive to buy, but the BlueMotion diesel models especially are well stocked with equipment and accessories, including stop-start and regenerative braking to increase fuel economy. They offer an effective combination of efficiency and powerful performance. It's not as well equipped as some of its cheaper competition (the entry-level model can feel a bit sparse), such as the Kia Sportage, but it makes up for that in quality both inside and out.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
For the best efficiency and fuel economy, we’d recommend going for 2.0-litre TDI diesel BlueMotion Tech model, which produces 109bhp, returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2, so road tax payments will be minimal. It comes equipped with stop-start, regenerative brake energy recovery and longer gear ratios – all intended to make it more efficient. However, if you go for either four-wheel drive, petrol engines or the automatic gearbox, then CO2 emissions go up and mpg goes down, with the 2.0-litre TSI 4MOTION petrol car only returning 33.2mpg and emitting just shy of 200g/km of CO2. But that is the most extreme, with most of the engines striking a decent balance between economy and performance. Sadly, there is no smaller diesel engine, which makes it less flexible than many of its competitors. Overall, rivals such as the Skoda Yeti and Mazda C-5 are more efficient and kinder to the environment, too. VW offers fixed-price servicing, which should help to keep costs down, though.
Interior & comfort
The Tiguan's ride is pretty average across the whole range on all types of road. The R-Line and Sport models are more unsettled and bumpy when driven over rough roads and potholes thanks to stiffer suspension. The interior is airy and light, while the excellent driving position gives great visibility and the Tiguan proves to be quiet, relaxing and enjoyable on any length of journey overall, with engine, road and wind noise all hardly audible thanks to good insulation. All the controls are user-friendly and constructed from solid, quality materials, with the twinned air vents proving to be a particularly nice touch.
Practicality & boot space
For a crossover SUV of such compact dimensions, the Tiguan proves to be surprisingly roomy on the inside, but it still lags behind something like the Skoda Yeti in terms of versatility. Its wide body allows three adults to fit into the back seat for short journeys but be warned – there isn't enough space for three adults to be able to sit in the back comfortably on longer journeys. There is loads of head and legroom all round the car, with the rear bench also sliding back and forth to create more space for passengers or increase the amount of luggage capacity in the boot. Fold the back seats down flat (which you can do with only one hand), and the original 470 litres of boot space expands to a total storage capacity of 1,501 litres, which is competitive with many mid-range family estate cars. It does have a high load lip, which makes loading and unloading heavy, bulky items into the boot a bit awkward, but thankfully its high boot floor does compensate a bit.
Reliability & safety
The Tiguan ranked 27th in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, ahead of the rival Toyota RAV4. All parts and mechanicals are tried and tested, sharing components with the reliable VW Golf, Phaeton and other models from the Volkswagen range. Some diesel models were recalled in 2008 to fix a wiring problem but there have been no major problems reported since. It secured the top five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, getting high marks for both adult and child protection. This was in part due to the Tiguan being equipped with traction control, electronic brake assist and six airbags as standard. In short, it's a safe and reliable purchase.
Engines, drive & performance
Both the four-wheel and front-wheel drive models of the Tiguan prove to be comfortable and enjoyable to drive, managing to keep the body roll that most off-road crossovers suffer from to an unobtrusive minimum. That makes it feel responsive and solid on the road. You get a full range adjustment in both the driver's seat and steering wheel, so drivers of any shape or size will be able to find an ideal driving position. All the controls are well laid out, feel light and are easy to use. If you think you’re going to be doing a fair bit of off-roading, then you should look at the optional 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system, but if you know you’ll only really be driving on the roads, then the system will be an unnecessary drain on your fuel consumption. For those determined to get their tyres muddy should choose the Escape specification because it adds a sturdy, chunkier exterior and hill descent control for making hill driving smoother and more controlled. There are three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from, with the latter offering the best mix of economy and performance.
Price, value for money & options
The Tiguan costs a similar amount as the Ford Kuga, which means it's pricier than other rival mainstream crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008. But, once behind the wheel, it does feel like you get what you pay for with the Tiguan, which comes equipped with electric windows, air-conditioning and alloy wheels as standard across the range. And VW does stock it with lots of safety equipment and accessories, too. The smart, understated looks and efficient diesel engines also mean that the Tiguan will hold it's resale value well in the used car market, and you should get a decent second-hand price when it comes time to make a deal. But, it's worth bearing in mind that the TSI petrol models won’t fare as well as the diesels.