Sales of SUV’s are booming, with models on offer from just about every manufacturer. It’s easy to see why, with their lofty height offering a commanding view over the top of lesser motors. Plus, perceptions of improved safety together with the comfort factor of 4-wheel-drive also ensure that SUV’s are big sellers.
In truth, most SUV’s go no further off road than occasionally being daringly parked with two wheels on a grass verge, making 4WD an expensive and fairly unnecessary feature for most of us. That’s why most base-model SUV’s have 2-wheel-drive as standard, offering all the benefits of the higher seating position but keeping the drivetrain simple. Sure, if you are a serious off-roader, only a hard-core purpose-designed vehicle like the late lamented Land Rover Defender is likely to satisfy you. However, should your off-road demands be more modest, then one of the current crop of SUV’s from other manufacturers will almost certainly give you all you need, as well as saving you loads of hard-earned cash.
Standards vary, from the cheap and cheerful to the eye-wateringly expensive such as the Range Rover – a motor which seems to grow steadily more expensive with every update. In between these two extremes, however, there are a number of excellent models to consider, some popular, some more overlooked.
The previous model Volkswagen Tiguan, perhaps unfairly, often fell into into the overlooked category, and, in truth, the outgoing model offered few stand-out features. The new Tiguan, however, is a far different beast. Adoption of the Volkswagen Group’s much vaunted MQB chassis architecture has allowed vastly improved passenger and luggage space, whilst minimising the seemingly inevitable growth in external dimensions of every updated car these days.
Almost all things to all men, the new Tiguan is offered in a wide range of versions and prices, from an effective 1.4 litre petrol starting at a reasonable £23,150 up to a mighty 240ps / 500Nm diesel. But however unfairly, diesel is perhaps not a word best associated with Volkswagen these days, despite that self-same powerful diesel engine having amongst the lowest real-world emissions of any diesel on the market. That’s why we chose to evaluate a petrol model, in this case a 2.0 litre 180PS SEL model.
The Tiguan has a major plus-point over most Range Rover Evoques – it’s petrol-powered!
SEL specification sits towards the upper end of the Tiguan model range, so is, as you would expect, pretty well equipped as standard. Volkswagen’s 4Motion four-wheel-drive system is fitted, along with a raft of goodies such as an 8” touchscreen which includes an excellent navigation system, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, a 12.3” customisable dash display screen, parking sensors front & rear, all topped off with a panoramic and opening sunroof. And all for a starting price of £30,020, a few hundred pounds cheaper than the most basic 2 wheel drive Range Rover Evoque, a model which is seriously lacking in similar goodies. Not only that, the Tiguan has the major plus point over that poverty-level-spec Evoque, of being petrol powered: an important point for many folk given the threatened diesel car bans in London and elsewhere!
Despite the comprehensive spec of the SEL model, there is plenty of scope to dip into the options list on the Tiguan. Indeed “our” car would retail at £40,105, Volkswagen having equipped this press test model with just about every option in the book. Not cheap, but kitting an Evoque to an equivalent level would set you back closer to £55,000!
Towing capacity is an incredible 2,500kg
Nor does off-road ability suffer with the Tiguan in 4Motion form. An electronic diff-lock ensures that the Tiguan’s 4-wheel drive can keep going when it gets slippery, whilst an effective hill descent control provides sure-footed downward travel in such conditions.
One feature sure to appeal to much of Tiguan’s potential market is its incredible 2,500kg towing capacity, only 200kg less than the much bigger and more expensive Volvo XC90 and way better than the 1,800kg of the Evoque.
To cap it all, the piece de resistance of Tiguan’s trailer towing capability is an innovative electronic system which should make reversing a trailer a doddle. This optional feature takes over all the steering wheel twiddling which causes grief to so many drivers when trying to reverse a trailer. Although we weren’t able to test this, the system seems simple to use: using the rotary switch for the exterior mirrors, the driver specifies the angle at which they want to reverse their trailer. Whilst the driver then slowly accelerates, the system makes all the appropriate steering adjustments automatically.
The big digital dash is highly impressive
First impressions of the new Tiguan are of a solid and robust machine, set off by the eye-catching, if expensive at £995, Habanero Orange paint finish on our test car. The driver’s environment is instantly familiar to anyone who has driven a Golf, although the big digital display which takes the place of the traditional instruments in front of the driver looks initially daunting. Closer inspection, though, reveals it to be a highly impressive bit of kit, which can be easily set up to show as much, or as little, as you wish.
That innovative 12.3” display works in conjunction with the 8” Discover Pro centre touchscreen, again very familiar to Golf drivers.
The Head Up Display is incredibly useful
There is also the option of a Head-Up Display, an item which is well worth while the £495 charged by VW. That Head Up Display is an incredibly useful tool, keeping information such as road speed, prevailing speed limit and next turn instruction right in the drivers eye line. Although non-adjustable, on test it easily accommodated drivers differing in height from 5′ to 6′ without problem.
All these screens may sound like overkill, however they are all configurable by the driver and in combination proved to be extremely useful. We quickly found an ideal combination: road speed, traffic sign and next turn information on the Head Up Display, and the sat nav map on the 12.3” screen in front of the driver. That left the 8” centre screen free for multimedia displays. Result: happy driver and happy passenger!
Passenger space is better than class-average, offering ample accommodation for five, easily accessed through the large, wide-opening doors. The split-folding rear seat also slides back for for added versatility.
Boot space is noticeably bigger than the outgoing model, at 615 litres. This is assisted by those individually-sliding (and rake-adjustable) rear seats. The boot floor can be set at either of two levels. However, the boot is fairly shallow, much space being taken up under the floor by a spacesaver spare wheel and, on our car, the subwoofer for the optional Dynaudio sound system, a £555 option. Given the shallow boot, the provision of a rigid parcels shelf rather than the usual retractable roller-blind system was unexpected, particularly when there appears to be no provision to store the shelf under the false floor, Golf-style. To compensate, though, there are numerous cubbyholes around the car for stowage of small and medium-sized items, from pockets in all four doors big enough to take big drinks bottles to useful drawers under the front seats. Indeed, the problem is not so much finding a stowage space for your mobile phone / wallet, sunglasses as remembering which of the many cubbyholes you left it in!
These premium levels of fit and finish are simply not found in lesser competitors.
Trim quality is typically Volkswagen, with premium levels of fit and finish simply not found in lesser competitors. Soft-grip materials abound, yet the cabin retains an easy to clean capability, as we were to discover when dealing with the glutinous Gloucestershire mud left in the car by five passengers following a visit to a horrendously muddy outdoor event!
The test car was fitted with a fully electric tailgate featuring the increasingly common “wave a foot under the bumper for no-hands opening” feature. This however, seemed a bit hit-and-miss in its operation, leading to some strange one-legged dance routines whilst seeking the sensor’s sweet spot.
So, what’s the new Tiguan like on the road? The 180ps engine accelerates well, hauling the cars 1645kg to a creditable 7.7 seconds 0-62mph time. Noise levels are subdued, with the engine note only becoming prominent under hard acceleration, and then not unpleasantly. Gearshifts from the 7-speed DSG transmission are virtually undetectable, and although tactile steering wheel paddles let the driver ring the changes on shifting if the fancy takes them, the box is so smooth that we suspect that most drivers will be more than happy to just leave it in Drive and let the transmission do the work.
For a tall SUV kitted out with 19” low-profile tyres, the ride comfort is remarkable, and puts models such as the Evoque to shame. The test car was fitted with VW’s DCC adjustable suspension, however even in standard setting the ride comfort is so good that this £790 option is probably not essential. Surprisingly, the comfortable ride is not at the expense of cornering capability either: the 1645kg Tiguan can be hustled round corners with verve.
Considering that 1645kg unladen weight, fuel consumption is pretty reasonable: we achieved around 36mpg on a fully laden run.
Euro NCap’s best in class small off-roader
Returning to safety, the reason behind many SUV sales, the new Tiguan offers a plethora of safety aids, either as standard or optional fit. Many of these are well-proven and have evolved steadily on VAG products, such as the very effective Adaptive Cruise Control. Others are new, such as the pop-up bonnet providing pedestrian impact protection. Lane Assist is standard, which nudges the steering gently back into lane if the car is drifting off course. This relies on the car being able to “see” clear white lines on either side of the lane. However, it struggled to do so at times, meaning that the function could not always be relied on. This is probably just as well, as there is otherwise a temptation to let the car self-steer its own course, Tesla Autopilot style! All these safety aids have resulted in the new Tiguan being awarded the accolade of Best in Class Small Off Roader by EuroNCap, together with a justifiably low Group 21 insurance rating.
And the 4×4 capability? Although opportunities to try that were limited, the Tiguan had no problem crossing very muddy fields masquerading as car parks on our Gloucester outing, much to the chagrin of drivers of lesser vehicles who found progress difficult!
In summary, if you are in the market for a premium SUV, don’t place your order for an Evoque or X3 until you’ve tried a Tiguan – you may be pleasantly surprised!
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