Volkswagen's Tiguan looks a strong package, especially in 2.0 TDI 150PS 4MOTION form. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
Ten Second Review
In second generation form, Volkswagen's Tiguan compact SUV is a much more sophisticated thing - as it needs to be to take on a wide array of Crossover and full-SUV-orientated rivals. Sharp looks are matched by sharp dynamics and a more sophisticated 4WD system that makes this car a more credible tool when the going gets rough. There's a classier cabin too and as a result, this car feels just that bit more complete than it ever did before. Here, we try the strong-selling 2.0 TDI 4MOTION version.
No matter how good this second generation Tiguan is - and as we're about to find out, it's very good indeed - it'll need some help in addressing a market segment as sizeable and important as the compact SUV/Crossover segment and Volkswagen has tried to ensure that it will get it. We're told that the wide range of derivatives on offer provides a variant for almost everybody, whether you merely want something that looks like an SUV, or you're the kind of customer who regularly needs to go off road. Here, we're trying the version that typically most customers want, the one with the mid-range 150PS 2.0 TDI diesel engine and 4MOTION 4WD. Is the finished product desirable enough to frighten tough competitors and justify its inevitable price premium over the other similarly-sized and almost identically-engineered family SUVs recently launched by sister Volkswagen Group brands, cars like SEAT's Ateca and Skoda's Kodiaq? It'll be interesting to find out.
The dynamics of this Tiguan have been usefully improved this time round thanks to the installation of a lighter, stiffer hi-tech MQB platform that's allowed the engineers to reduce bodyroll without the need for an unpleasant, over-firm ride. There's no particular fun to be had in throwing this Volkswagen about, but its composure when you do - or perhaps when you have to - is extremely impressive, helped by well-weighted steering and an XDS electronic differential lock system that brakes the inside wheels when cornering to help tighten your line around the bend. Buyers in this country have a preference for ordering this car with 4MOTION 4WD, so Volkswagen has enhanced that system and added in a '4MOTION Active Control' set-up that allows you to tailor the working of the all-wheel drive system to more specifically suit conditions both on and off the beaten track. It's one of the things that makes this car surprisingly good off road. Under the bonnet, the range is primarily based around 2.0-litre TDI engines, with buyers offered a choice of 115, 150, 190 or 240PS outputs. Most customers opt for the 150PS mid-range variant we tried, which gives you the option of either having or doing without the 4MOTION system or the DSG automatic gearbox. Choosing the 4x4 option allows your Tiguan to tow a class-leading 2,500kgs, nearly twice as much as a conventional front-driven version.
Design and Build
Volkswagen's Head of Design Klaus Bischoff describes the look of this second generation Tiguan model as 'highly passionate'. Perhaps it is - in a very German sort of way. It's certainly an intricately fashioned thing, cut like a diamond with super-sharp slashes and creases. And it's bigger than before, 60mm longer and 30mm wider, though the height has been reduced by 33mm to create a lower, leaner stance. More important though of course, is the stuff you can't see, specifically the stiffer, more sophisticated Golf-style MQB platform underpinnings that lie beneath the precise, carefully contoured lines. This hi-tech chassis has been fundamental in the creation of this slightly bigger, significantly lighter and more sophisticated car that, as we'll see, also uses its interior space more efficiently. You certainly appreciate this from behind the wheel, but what's even more evident from the moment you slide into the hip-height seats is that this Tiguan has broken rank with the Qashqai-class models it used to compete with and can now offer properly premium class quality. Take a seat in the back and you're in the area of the car where you most appreciate the benefits of this MK2 model's extra 26mm of interior length - there's 29mm more knee room on offer this time round and the flexibility to further improve things by using a sliding rear bench. Out back, the hatch rises to reveal a spacious 520-litre boot.
Market and Model
The Tiguan range starts from around £23,000, but you'll need to be paying at least in the £25,000 to £30,000 bracket for this 2.0 TDI 150PS model. It's not really surprising that this powerplant is by far the most popular engine in the line-up. Key encouragements to consider this particular unit lie in the fact that it's the powerplant offering the widest choice of key mechanical options; with the base 115PS diesel, you can't have 4WD or automatic transmission; in the top 190 and 240PS diesel vaiants, you have to have both. Go for this 150PS engine and you make the choices - the DSG auto 'box being around £1,500 extra, while 4MOTION 4WD is just over £1,700 more if you want it. As for equipment, well even entry-level 'S' trim gets you 17-inch alloy wheels and the 'Composition Media' system with its 8.0-inch touchscreen. Via this display, you'll access an eight-speaker DAB stereo system with Bluetooth 'phone connectivity, an SD card reader and a USB connection. Volkswagen also throws in roof rails, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, auto headlamps and wipers, a dual-height boot floor, a proper space-saver spare wheel and an impressive rosta of basic safety equipment.
Cost of Ownership
On to the figures. The base 115PS 2.0-litre TDI 2WD diesel variant manages 60.1mpg on the combined cycle and 123g/km of CO2 - in other words, it's as clean and quite a bit more frugal than the feeblest petrol engine Ford Fiesta, so on that basis, the Tiguan range is off to a good start. Despite its extra power, the pokier 150PS 2.0-litre TDI 2WD version of this Volkswagen we're looking at here doesn't do too much worse, returning 57.6mpg and 125g/km of CO2, figures that fall only marginally if you go for the optional 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox. You'll probably be wanting to know about 4MOTION 4WD too, a set-up that the Wolfsburg brand claims can operate a little more efficiently this time round. That may be so, but there's still an inevitable penalty to pay for carrying around this system's extra weight. In the 2.0 TDI 150PS 4MOTION model that many will want, you're looking at 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and 141g/km of CO2. Choose the 190PS 2.0 TDI 4MOTION variant only offered with DSG auto transmission and the figures are 49.6mpg and 149g/km.
It's not hard to see why the Tiguan is such a popular choice in its sector, particularly in this 2.0 TDI 150PS 4MOTION guise. There's the potential to get all the quality of a premium-badged compact SUV, for the price of a budget brand contender. You get the tarmac handling ability of a Qashqai-like Crossover, yet at the same time, get the option of virtually all the off road ability of something more capable. In summary, what ultimately matters is that this product is good enough to meet its wide-ranging and very difficult brief. It says much that there really is something in Volkswagen's claim that, to some extent at least, this model has subtly re-defined what a car of this kind should be. We can't pay it any greater compliment than that.