Volkswagen Tiguan all fresh-faced

Matt Kimberley, PA motoring writer, finds a lot of like about Volkswagen's refreshed, framily-friendly Tiguan sport utility vehicle.

The compact sport utility vehicle market is a vital one for car-makers, especially the ones that want to occupy as much of the middle ground as possible. Volkswagen is one of those brands, and after three years in the public domain the Tiguan was due an update to keep it fresh.

VW's fourth best-selling UK model, behind the Golf, Polo and Passat, has been given a new VW 'family' nose, and it looks more than a little like its big brother, the Touareg, which has already had a series of updates.

Oddly, for a car most people would call a 'soft-roader', there are two models, one specially equipped for the rough stuff. The Escape model has off-road technologies and a steeper angle of approach at the front, to avoid grounding. But if you only need to tackle speed bumps on the high street, you can just choose a two-wheel drive version and lower your road tax bill.

There are four trim levels – S, SE, Sport and Escape, and six engines in total. Since VW estimates that 90pc of Tiguan sales will be diesel, it's interesting to note that the engine range is split 50:50, with three petrol and three diesel engines.

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Think of each trio of engines in terms of the base ones being not gutsy enough, the mid-range ones being all you need, and the top-end ones being a bit unnecessary. In particular, the 168bhp range-topping diesel offers nothing that the 138bhp version doesn't already take care of. For anyone who really wanted a Golf GTi but needed something bigger, the GTi's 207bhp petrol engine is one of the options.

As with all cars these days, you wouldn't call the Tiguan cheap. Fortunately, for your money you get a well equipped car – even the entry-level S model is fitted with 16in alloy wheels, Climatic air-conditioning (not quite climate control), a DAB radio and an alarm. The options list is comprehensive too.

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The best seller is likely to be the mid-range model with the mid-range diesel engine, otherwise known as the Tiguan SE 2.0-litre TDI 140PS. It also comes with VW's BlueMotion Technology to lower emissions and raise fuel economy, including an engine stop/start system and battery power regeneration during braking.

Safety is covered with aplomb, thanks to a host of airbags and electronic crash prevention systems, not least of which is the 4Motion four-wheel-drive system, which will help owners out if another fierce winter hits this year.

As long as you like a firm seat, the Tiguan has a very nice perch. The optional leather upholstery seems to soften things a bit, but the standard cloth units are very firm, especially on the backs. The driver can also enjoy a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, but if the optional cruise control is added, the extra ancillary stick is a bit clumsy to use.

The 138bhp engine is a known quantity – smooth, hushed and powerful enough, but never more than satisfactory. It delivers its oomph relatively steadily, which encourages you to use more of the available revs as you build up speed, but it lacks any great surge of torque. Getting to 60mph briskly is light work though.

In traffic the comfortable, high driving position is a boon, and the 'auto-hold' system makes sure the car doesn't roll anywhere once it stops. No more rapid working of the handbrake here. Strangely, though, the 138bhp and 168bhp versions I drove had some vibration through the clutch and brake pedals, which could be annoying at low speed.

It's good to see the Tiguan's tidy handling is unharmed. While it's no lightweight, it rides very well on the standard suspension – better, in fact, than the Sport model on its more expensive system – and it's stable through corners. It's a secure-feeling drive and could inspire confidence in nervous drivers.

One area where owners might be disappointed is boot space. The load lip is high, and there isn't as much depth as you might imagine. Big boot-hunters should look at a Passat estate or a Touareg instead. Otherwise, the new Tiguan makes a very capable all-rounder for families with two or three kids.

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