Volkswagen's facelifted Tiguan doesn't stint on engine choice but, all things considered, the 2.0 TDi diesel, available in three states of tune, is a hard motor to beat, as Steve Walker discovers.
Ten Second Review
A jacked-up Volkswagen Golf? Yes it is and it's sold so well it's maker now talks of this compact 4x4 as the 'fourth pillar' of the VW range. It only uses the Golf's best engines and has 4MOTION 4WD, so offers a lot more off-road prowess than you'd expect in this sector. With updated style and the 2.0 TDI's blend of pace and parsimony, it looks like a winner all the way.
The secret of the Volkswagen Tiguan's arrival was about as well kept as David Bellamy's back garden. Even if thinly disguised pictures of the vehicle hadn't surfaced in the press and journalists hadn't been allowed to drive one through the Namibian wilderness, most commentators could have had a pretty good guess that a VW-badged compact 4x4 was in the offing for the simple reason that virtually every mainstream marque that didn't already have a compact 4x4 was in the process of building one. The information put out by Volkswagen when it did put its hands up to the Tiguan was interesting in the way it differed from the standard compact 4x4 blurb. There was talk of entry and departure angles, hill descent control and electronically locking differentials. Was this a compact 4x4 that could actually do the business off-road? Up to a point, certainly. And it was enough to land VW with a sizeable success story. Indeed, the Tiguan sold so well, it had to release details and step up advance sales of the refreshed model earlier than planned as stocks of the pre-facelift car ran dry.
Save for the application of further BlueMotion tweaks to improve economy and emissions, the turbocharged and turbocharged/supercharged engine line up remains the same. The units are a familiar bunch with the 140PS 2.0 TDI diesel tested here likely to be the best seller. It even comes in 170PS form which makes it significantly swifter (0-60mph in 8.9s and 129mph flat out) without exacting too great a penalty in economy and emissions. If economy is top of the priority list, though, there's a super-frugal 110PS edition, too. Despite our growing affection for 4x4 vehicles as a nation, we don't take them off-road very much and people that do make regular forays into the undergrowth make damn sure they do so a Land Rover Defender or something similarly rugged. That said, off-road ability has become something of a badge of honour for compact 4x4s. Buyers don't need it but they'd like the model they choose to have it all the same. The 4x4 Tiguan uses the basic Haldex all-wheel-drive system from the Golf 4MOTION models but with a wider track and ground clearance increased to 189mm. More importantly, it has a nice line in electronic trickery to help it out of sticky situations.
Design and Build
Predictably, the restyle is fairly mild, concentrated at the front and intended chiefly to bring the car's looks into line with the rest of VW's current range. The headlights look more complex and feature daytime running LEDs, there's a wider and more imposing two-bar grille and a sleeker front bumper, too. LEDs also make an appearance in the taillights. Otherwise the exterior design is much as before. The glasshouse is a good deal narrower than the lower section of the car which fills out at the shoulder line to chunky effect. Inside, the design is lifted directly from the Golf and Golf Plus models but now includes the latest touchscreen infotainment system and multi-function steering wheel plus revised controls for the air conditioning. We know that the Tiguan is based on the Golf but Volkswagen have done a typically thorough job of converting their family hatch favourite into a 4x4. The Golf uses an all-aluminium sub frame but this was deemed not sufficiently strong to handle the buffeting that committed owners might subject their Tiguan too. As a result, the vehicle uses a modular sub-frame that's aluminium at the front and steel at the rear. The Tiguan is also the first vehicle to receive Volkswagen's electric steering system which has been designed to eliminate kickback and enhance accuracy.
Market and Model
The models offered are S, SE, Sport and Escape, most have 4MOTION four-wheel-drive but there are entry-level front-wheel-drive versions. As standard, the 4x4 Tiguan has 18 degree angle of approach, a figure that defines the size of obstruction the vehicle can drive over. Customers requiring additional off-road capability can choose a 28 degree angle of approach front end in the Escape version. This model comes with a radiator protection grille, underbody protection, hill descent control and a compass. If you really aren't interested in the vehicle's off-road ability but care more about the urban jungle, fear not because Volkswagen has developed a parking assist function that will automatically steer you into a parallel parking space.
Cost of Ownership
That most owners will go for the diesel models is hardly a surprise when you consider that the mid-powered 2.0 TDI tested here returns 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 150 g/km. And as so often seems to be the case these days, the more muscular (170PS) variant isn't that far behind, posting 47.1mpg and 158 g/km. But customers wanting to cut running costs to the bone will find it hard to ignore the 53.3mpg and 139 g/km returned by the 110PS version of the 2.0 Tdi - very good going for a compact 4x4 - even a front-wheel-drive one. Though the upfront sticker price isn't cheap, whichever variant you choose, you'll probably be better off choosing this Volkswagen than a cheaper South Korean alternative when you factor in depreciation and whole life costs. Insurance group costs are low too, with a group 9 showing for the entry-level model.
Volkswagen has gone further than most manufacturers in giving its compact 4x4 real pedigree when it comes to off-road driving. With 4x4 mechanicals and a package of electronic driver aids, the Tiguan makes a valiant attempt at throwing off the soft-roader stereotypes and differentiating itself from the growing glut of similar vehicles that ply the market place. Here we have a compact 4x4 with at least some genuine off-road ability for those that want it plus Golf-inspired build quality and driving dynamics for those that don't. Factor in a highly advanced engine range along with Volkswagen badging that's certain to go down a storm in this image-conscious sector and the Tiguan's future would appear to be mapped out.