Volkswagen's Tiguan offers premium quality at affordable prices in the compact SUV sector. Jonathan Crouch reports on the improved 1.4 TSI 160PS petrol version.
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 tweaked engines, it looks like a winner all the way. Especially in entry-level 1.4 TSI 160PS guise.
Volkswagen's Tiguan has established itself as one of its best selling models. It won't be much good in the Namibian wilderness, but it's reasonably capable off road, especially if you go for the 'Escape' version that hardly anyone in the UK chooses. That trim isn't an option on the entry-level version we're testing here, the 1.4 TSI 160PS petrol variant. As with the rest of the Tiguan range, this model has been mildly re-styled, with looks brought 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.
First, you'll want to know how this car will feel on the school and shopping runs where it'll spend most of its time. Pretty good is the answer. Bodyroll is well controlled and the electric power steering's responsive, though even without the optional sports suspension, the ride might be a little firm and springy for some tastes - why is perhaps why some owners apparently christen their cars 'Tigger'. If that's an issue for you, there's the option of specifying an extra-cost ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system via which 'Normal', 'Comfort' and 'Sport' modes enable you to tailor the suspension to suit the mood you're in and the road you're on. It's an easy car to drive in-town thanks to good all-round visibility and reasonably a tight 12m turning circle. And this self-parking system's a real boon in such an urban environment, effortlessly steering you into the tightest spaces. On the open road, as I've already suggested, there's nothing especially memorable about the driving experience, but it is pleasantly refined, with a slick feel to the six-speed manual gearbox, or as an option Volkswagen's silky-smooth DSG twin-clutch 7-speed semi-automatic. Right from the beginning of its life, all the Tiguan's engineware has been turbocharged and nothing's changed on that front in this revised version. This petrol 1.4 TSI model with 160PS offers the option of a full-time 4MOTION four-wheel drive system that most of the time, with fuel saving in mind, diverts only 10% of drive to the rear axle. Should the rear axle-mounted Haldex electro-hydraulic clutch detect wheelslip however, the system is capable of directing as much as 100% of torque rearwards, the proportion adjusted to suit the conditions.
Design and Build
The exterior design of this improved Tiguan 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
Like all Tiguan models, this 1.4 TSI variant in 2WD or 4MOTION guise, comes with alloy wheels, 'Climatic' semi-automatic air conditioning, a trip computer, all-round electric windows, an alarm, power heated door mirrors and an 8-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with DAB digital radio and an AUX-in socket. A useful option is the Park Assist system, able to automatically locate, then steer you into the tightest roadside space. Other popular options include a keyless entry and start system, a vast panoramic glass roof, bi-xenon headlamps and touchscreen sat nav. Tarmac driving aids include the XDS electronic differential lock to improve handling when driving quickly though bends. And the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system able to adjust the suspension to suit the mood you're in and the road you're on. Safety kit includes six airbags (with rear sidebags an option) and an ABS system with emergency brake assist for sudden stops instantly advertised to following motorists by hazard warning lights that automatically flash as you screech to a halt. There are also isofix childseat fastenings, anti-whiplash head restraints and the usual electronic assistance for traction and stability control. Most models also include an innovative fatigue detection system that focuses on your steering and driving behaviour for the first 15 minutes of every journey, then periodically monitors it thereafter. If your reactions seem sluggish and indicative of tiredness, the system will bleep at you until you take a break.
Cost of Ownership
When it comes to running costs for this Volkswagen, it's best not to dismiss the petrol option entirely, especially if, like many Tiguan owners, you're a low mileage motorist. The entry-level 1.4 TSI 2WD petrol model will save you around £1,200 on its 2.0 TDI 140 counterpart, is significantly faster and will still manage 42.2mpg on the combined cycle and 156g/km. What else? Well residual values will be strong and insurance costs are reasonable, ranging between 14-19E on the 1-50 groupings scale. And servicing costs can also be kept to reasonable levels thanks to a choice of servicing regimes - 'Time & Distance' for low mileage cars or a 'LongLife' programme for those regularly covering over 25 miles a day. Go for the latter approach and it can be possible to drive for up to 20,000 miles or 24 months without a major service.
Volkswagen has gone further than most manufacturers in giving its compact 4x4 real pedigree when it comes to off-road driving - and the result is most affordable in this 1.4 TSI 160PS petrol guise. 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.