If you’re buying a hatchback family car, the go-to choice for many people is the Volkswagen Golf. Logically, then, you’d think the same would be true of Volkswagen’s entrant into the family SUV market – the Tiguan.
But strangely, that isn’t the case. Nissan well and truly made its mark on this area of the market by pre-empting the popularity of the SUV with the Qashqai, which now regularly features in the UK’s best-sellers lists. It – as well as rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and Renault Kadjar – have left the big players in the family car market, of which Volkswagen is, running to catch up.
The latest Tiguan is intended to attract more buyers from these competitors, then. But it won’t have an easy job; their all-round competence, value and quality mean the VW has a fight on its hands - not least from the Seat Ateca, which which is shares many of its components.
- Latest deals: Check Volkswagen Tiguan lease prices
Space – 8/10
More than enough room for most
The Tiguan has the largest boot in its class – but there’s a catch. That only holds true for the petrol model; the diesel version, which most buyers will choose, has a larger fuel tank which impinges on boot space, meaning its carrying capacity is actually toward the smaller end of the spectrum.
Otherwise, the Tiguan does well for space. Head, leg and elbow room in the front and the back are more than adequate, and the rear bench features a prominently raised centre section which has the effect of creating slightly more legroom for the middle passenger.
You can slide the rear seat forward in order to increase boot space at the expense of rear passenger space, should you have a particularly large load to carry – a useful extra bit of flexibility.
Access is good through all doors, and there’s a decent amount of storage space for any odds and ends you might wish to carry around with you.
Comfort – 7/10
Avoid the R-Line model
Want a comfortable Tiguan? We’re guessing you probably do – in which case, we’d advise against choosing the R-Line model. This version, with its thin tyres and stiff suspension, isn’t very smooth, crashing and bouncing around with every imperfection the road cares to throw up. Adding the Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive suspension helps, but even then the Tiguan still feels unsettled.
Choose a car with the standard suspension and smaller wheels, though, and the Tiguan becomes a lot more easy-going, even if it still doesn’t quite have the composure of a Nissan Qashqai. What’s more, supportive seats help to make long journeys easy to endure.
However, no matter which model you choose, you have to put up with quite a lot of wind noise. It’s not that noticeable in town, but get on the motorway and you might find yourself having to turn the radio up to drown it out. The diesels are also noisy when cold.
Dashboard Layout – 9/10
Clear, intuitive, and nicely built
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around the dashboard of the Tiguan. All the controls are well-positioned, with a large touchscreen taking pride of place to allow control of entertainment and navigation options, and slick, well-placed controls for ventilation below.
You can specity the Tiguan with Volkswagen’s virtual cockpit, or “Active Information Display”, which converts the physical dials in front of the driver to a screen that can be customised to display whatever vehicle information you like. This is a neat system, but the graphics aren’t quite as clear and appealing to look at as the equivalent Audi versions, and nor is it as intuitive to use.
The dashboard itself is finished in the sort of high-quality materials we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen, though its design might be an acquired taste if you’re not a fan of angular lines and straight edges, which are everywhere.
Easy to drive – 8/10
Good visibility and easy controls
Easy-to-twirl steering and light pedals make the Tiguan easy to drive for most people. That said, the clutch feel is a little woolly, which can make manual versions tricky to pull away for drivers who aren’t entirely confident. Combined with the slightly underwhelming performance of the diesel versions, this can make the Tiguan sluggish to get going.
Fortunately, there’s a decent spread of very smooth automatic versions to choose from; these are probably the versions to choose.
The Tiguan is pretty easy to see out of, with well-positioned door mirrors that don’t obscure traffic at junctions and well-designed window frames that don’t get in the way. And while the ridges in the bonnet help you to judge where the front end’s extremities are, it’s still worth choosing a model with parking sensors, which come as standard on all but the cheapest version.
Fun to drive – 4/10
Stodgy, but safe
It’s unlikely you’ll be buying a Tiguan for its sharp handling, but there are cars like this that allow you to have a little bit of fun when you fancy it. The Tiguan is not one of them.
True, its handling is always safe and entirely predictable, which is what matters with a car like this. But the Tiguan’s responses are slow and deliberate, rather than zippy and invigorating, and you can feel its weight moving around uncomfortably if you try to corner too quickly.
Throw in remote-feeling steering with very little feel, and you have a car which never really comes close to being exciting.
You might think the sporty R-Line model improves matters, but you’d be wrong. In fact, its stiff suspension makes the Tiguan feel so unsettled on a back road that it gives you even less confidence to push on. And while the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine sounds good on paper, in reality the Tiguan's weight blunts its performance.
VW has a good reputation, but others’ warranties are better
Volkswagen finished 6th out of 24 manufacturers in the 2016 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which relies on owner feedback about their cars’ reliability. That’s a very respectable showing, but it’s worth noting that Kia did even better.
In that regard, it’s also beaten by Toyota and Hyundai, who both offer five-years of cover, the former limited to 100,00 miles and the latter unlimited by mileage, and Renault, whose warranty is for four years or 100,000 miles.
Fuel consumption – 5/10
Most rivals are more economical
The Tiguan is one of the heaviest cars in its class, which really doesn’t help it when it comes to fuel consumption.
It’s not particularly awful, to be fair, but most diesel rivals do use less fuel, both on paper and out in the real world. The Mazda CX-5, in particular, will get much closer to its official figures, which also happen to be better than the Tiguan’s.
Petrol versions fare a little better because a few rivals still use thirsty naturally-aspirated engines, but even so, the Tiguan’s stats are average, rather than outstanding, and in reality it's not that easy to meet the claimed figures either.
Interestingly, the Seat Ateca, which features similar engines and the same underpinnings, is also noticeably lighter and better on fuel.
The story is especially bad if you choose a four-wheel-drive version; so-equipped, the Tiguan is one of the worst for fuel economy of all its rivals.
Affordability – 6/10
Works best on lease
The Tiguan starts from what looks like a very reasonable price, but as this is for a low-spec model with an anaemic petrol engine, you should look past this and find out how much you’d pay for a model you actually want to buy.
Do this, and it suddenly starts to look quite expensive. Spec-for-spec, it’s pricier than even the BMW X1; most other rivals, meanwhile, will cost you significantly less to buy, meanwhile. And while the Tiguan will probably hold its value very well, the same can be said for the Mazda CX-5.
The Tiguan looks a lot more reasonable on a lease deal, where it’s actually quite reasonably priced. However, some rivals – including the Seat Ateca, which is very similar under the skin – are even cheaper to lease. And as a company car choice, the Tiguan’s high P11D value and underwhelming CO2 emissions will push its tax cost up.
Safety – 10/10
As good as it gets
The Tiguan’s safety rating is one of the best, if not the best, of any SUV of its size. EuroNCAP, the industry standard crash testing organisation, gave it the full five stars when it crash tested the Tiguan under its latest, most stringent crash test rules.
What’s more, the Tiguan comes with all the safety equipment one could want as standard. Every model gets autonomous emergency braking – a system which senses an impending head-on crash and alerts the driver or applies the brakes to prevent or mitigate it, and reduces the likelihood of a crash by 38%.
Standard spec – 8/10
Plenty of equipment, but still not the best
The entry-level Tiguan S is pretty well equipped, coming with alloy wheels, air conditioning, automatic headlights and wipers, a large colour touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and a digital radio tuner.
However, you have to upgrade to the SE model to get climate control (a good system which has three separately adjustable zones for driver, passenger and rear seats), cruise control and parking sensors – all of which come as standard on the entry-level versions of some rivals.
As its name suggests, the next model up, the SE Navigation, adds satnav – which is again standard on every version of some rivals. Upgrade further to the SEL and you add a virtual cockpit, adaptive cruise control which senses the speed of the car in front and adjusts yours to match, adaptive LED headlamps, and a panoramic roof.
The top of the range is the R-Line, which adds to the SEL’s specification with a sportier bodykit and interior trim, stiffer suspension and big alloy wheels.
All of which means top end models look very well-equipped, but at the cheaper end of the range, you’ll find cars like the Mazda CX-5 and BMW X1 offer you more equipment for the money
Our favourite version
2.0 TDI SE 2WD auto (list price: £28,910)
Options to add: Metallic paint (£560), Active Info Display (£585), Adaptive cruise control (£275)
The verdict – 7/10
The Tiguan is safe, practical and – if you choose the right version – comfortable too. It should prove reliable, and be pretty easy to live with. But its weight counts against it, making it inefficient on fuel and stodgy to drive. It’s also very expensive to buy a version you’d actually want to own.
For all the latest news, advice and reviews from Telegraph Cars, sign up to our weekly newsletter by entering your email here