Refreshing change for VW’s popular Tiguan
Iain Dooley says the Volkswagen Tiguan's all-round ability and appeal makes it hard to beat in the 'soft-roader' sector.
The burgeoning compact sport utility vehicle sector is rapidly becoming the default first stop for many buyers seeking more than just a family hatchback. Being first to market has its advantages, but Volkswagen can be excused. Although launched as recently as 2007, its Tiguan has already found 600,000 homes worldwide.
It's this success, plus the desire to bring the car in line cosmetically with its other new models, that's prompted the German car-maker to roll out a refresh programme for its popular 'soft-roader'.
At first glance it's easy to see the new family resemblance. Visually more closely aligned to the rest of VW's revised line-up, this Tiguan now boasts a more distinctive and clearly defined look – especially from the front.
Riding higher, obviously, than a Golf or anything else of a similar size, the Tiguan is soft-roader only in name. The four-wheel drive variants continue to offer a good level of all-terrain ability, while a more extreme Escape model boasts an increased frontal angle of attack for those extra tricky slopes.
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In keeping with the trend for city-dwellers to adopt such high-rise hatchbacks, there's also a front-wheel drive option. Naturally economy and emissions are a little better thanks to the simplified drive system, and in reality you sacrifice nothing if you never stray from Tarmac or don't tow.
It's the same inside the Tiguan, with VW's trademark dark, high-quality interior ambience. Light upholstery can be selected but don't forget that the dark stuff will better hide the dirt if you plan to make the car work for a living. Crucially, everything is where you'd expect it and there's plenty of room for a growing family. The split rear seat and flat rear load space round off an impressive set-up.
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Equipment for the four trims (S, SE, Sport and Escape) is generous, with 16in alloy wheels, DAB radio, alarm and air-conditioning all standard. SE adds climate control, larger alloys, VW's famed automated park-assist feature plus iPod and MP3 player connectivity. Option-wise the car's been given a boost with an updated sat-nav unit, keyless entry and start and an attractive suite of new safety features – lane departure warning system and intelligent auto high beam headlight function.
Despite the various cosmetic improvements, at the heart of the Tiguan is its powertrains. A brace of new petrol engines include a 160hp 1.4-litre twin-charged unit. All boast more power but are as clean as the units they replace.
With diesels accounting for 90pc of sales, it's no surprise they are the main focus. The mainstay 140 and 170hp units remain, now emitting 150g/km and 158g/km CO2. The former is enough for the engine to drop a VED band. There's also a 110hp unit tailored to a front-drive Tiguan with a lowly 139g/km CO2.
Furthering the green cause, this unit plus the TDI 140 and 1.4-litre petrol engine have been given Bluemotion Technology status, which includes engine stop-start and brake energy regeneration to drive down consumption and emissions.
On the road it's largely business as usual, which is no bad thing as the Tiguan has always been a strong performer. The bias is noticeably towards comfort and refinement, with even the optional switchable damper settings offering subtle differences between comfort, normal and sport.
Brisk in 140 TDI guise and impressively swift in 170 TDI trim, the main diesels deliver ample performance. The default six-speed manual gearbox is slick and precise, while the optional and popular DSG automatic is an impressive labour-saving device and should take the hassle out of towing.
A capable machine in every way, the revised Tiguan presents a refreshed yet familiar face and through its polished powertrains delivers an ownership experience that's hard to beat in this sector.
If you want all-weather ability, above-average versatility and refinement to match a traditional compact executive motor in something to replace a family hatchback, it's hard to beat.
VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN SE 140 TDI 4WD
Price: �25,645 (range �21,085 to �28,020)
Engine: 2.0-litre, 140bhp turbo diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual as standard, driving all four wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 10.2 seconds; top speed 115mph
CO2 Rating: 150g/km