"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."
Don’t be fooled by the Tiguan's 4x4 looks. While it has plenty of off-road capability, it's definitely been designed with town and motorway driving in mind. As long as you know that, then the VW is one of the best crossovers available in the UK. Made to offer the best of a 4x4 in a compact package, you get a high, commanding driving position, spacious interior and a real sense of safety. It's easy to drive and park, has accurate steering and a comfortable ride. Plus, the easily adjustable driving position makes the Tiguan fun on whatever surface you drive on, with two and four-wheel drive available across the range. It's not the cheapest car out there, but the diesel engines – the BlueMotion models in particular, which are equipped with stop-start and regenerative braking to boost economy – do offer a strong 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 bare), such as the Kia Sportage, but it makes up for that in quality both inside and out.
The Tiguan is comfortable, with both the two and four-wheel-drive models proving enjoyable to drive. While many off-roaders are prone to body roll in the corners, Volkswagen has managed to keep it to a minimum in the Tiguan, making it feel grounded and responsive. The steering wheel and driver's seat are fully adjustable to accommodate drivers of all shapes and sizes, while the controls are light and very user-friendly. You can opt for VW's useful 4MOTION four-wheel-driver system if you plan on doing your fair share of off-roading, but if you’re going to mainly stick to the tarmac then it's unnecessary and reduces fuel economy. But if you’re definitely intending to stay off the beaten track, the Escape specification adds a more robust exterior and hill descent control for all-terrain driving. You can choose between three petrol and two diesel engines, with the latter offering the best balance of economy and performance.
The whole Tiguan range offers a comfortable ride across all types of road, with the Sport and R-Line models coming with stiffer suspension that makes them a little bumpier over potholes. The light, airy interior combines with the excellent driving position to make the crossover quiet, relaxing and enjoyable on short or long journeys, with wind, road, engine and tyre noise all kept to an unobtrusive minimum. Inside, the controls are all user-friendly and solidly built from quality materials, with the twinned air vents proving a nice touch.
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.
For a compact SUV, the Tiguan is very roomy inside. Thanks to its wide dimensions, it can fit a third rear passenger in the back for short journeys – although it should only be used as a four-seater for long drives. There's plenty of leg and headroom in the front and back, with the rear bench sliding forward and back to make more room for passengers or to increase the boot space where needed. Once the back seats are folded down flat (which can be done with just one hand), the 470-litre boot expands to a maximum load capacity of 1,510 litres, which competes with many mid-range family estate cars. Getting heavy items in and out of the boot can be a bit tricky because of the high load lip, but the high boot floor does compensate a little.
Value for money
In terms of list price, the Tiguan is in the same bracket as the Ford Kuga, but is pricier than other mainstream crossovers such as the Peugeot 3008 and Nissan Qashqai. You do feel like you get what you pay for, though, with electric windows, air-con and alloy wheels all standard across the range. Plus, you get lots of safety equipment included as well. The smart, understated looks and frugal diesels means the Tiguan will hold it's value well and you should get a decent used price when it comes time to sell. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the TSI petrol models won’t fair so well in that regard.
All models are available as either two or four-wheel drive and can be fitted with the more economical BlueMotion technology, which adds stop-start, regenerative braking and more efficient gear ratios to improve economy and emissions. The two-wheel drive 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel is the most efficient, returning 53.3mpg and emitting 139g/km of CO2, keeping road tax down to £110 a year. Add four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox and these numbers inevitably worsen, with the 210bhp 2.0-litre TSI 4Motion petrol model being the worst offender, returning only 33.2mpg and emitting 199g/km. Overall, rivals like the Skoda Yeti are more efficient and kinder to the environment. VW offers fixed-price servicing, which should help to keep costs down.