Volkswagen Tiguan (2011) review
by Mike Grundon (19 September 2011)
It's proven to be a successful formula, so why change it too much? That seems to be the thinking behind the latest version of Volkswagen's small SUV, the Tiguan. It shares a couple of diesel engines with the outgoing model and it's substantially the same car, but there's been a facelift, the addition of improved engines to the range and there's some new techy stuff available as standard or as options.
This year's Tiguan was unveiled at Geneva in March, orders opened in July and it's just starting to appear in showrooms and garages across the nation now. As before you can get it in two- or four-wheel drive, in four trim levels and with a bias towards either on or off-road.
But it's now taken on the new face of Volkswagen so the nose appears lower, wider and meaner. Horizontal bars dominate the grille and the lights are shallower and more focussed-looking than before. Gone are the smiling air intake and more shapely lights.
Despite carrying the prestigious VW roundel on the nose, the Tiguan can be bought in a basic S model with four-wheel drive for under £23,000 which puts it almost on a par with the cheapest 4x4s you can now buy from the likes of Mitsubishi or even Kia. With some models carrying three-year residual values around 45% of the purchase price, it's worth doing some sums.
So what have we got in the range? Well there are six engines to choose from, three petrol and three diesel. The petrol engines are all new to the Tiguan. There's the 1.4-litre TSI with 158bhp on tap, a two-litre TSI that turns out 178bhp and another two-litre putting out 207bhp.
The diesel engines are a new-to-Tiguan two-litre TDI 108bhp unit, and the two two-litre diesels from the last model which still offer 138bhp or 168bhp, albeit with reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
There are four trim levels available including the off-road biased Escape which comes with a slightly different front bumper arrangement that gives the car better off-road performance by increasing the approach angle from the 18 degrees on the standard car to 28 degrees. It means you can nose the car up to steeper hills or drop out of steeper declines with less chance of scraping its chin.
New options available on the car included the keyless entry and start system or "Kessy" for short, the base-level satellite navigation system, Lane Assist which helps stop you straying accidentally out of your lane on the motorway, and Light Assist which will automatically dip your lights when something's coming the other way.
I've driven two versions, the SE BlueMotion Technology model with the stop/start 138bhp diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, and the range-topping Sport with the 168bhp, again with the six-cog box.
Despite the difference in power, and despite the claim that BlueMotion models are more economical and cleaner than the standard range, the difference in power and emissions between the two cars is minimal.
The 138bhp engine is the lesser of the two and it's got the clean and green technology pack so it has an official average fuel consumption of 48.7mpg and turns out 150g/km of carbon dioxide. But fuel consumption on the more powerful and more conventional 168bhp car is only 1.6mpg behind its sister and its emissions are greater by just 8g/km.
That anomaly aside, both cars are roomy and comfortable for up to five passengers and a little less roomy for cargo, although the 60/40 split rear seat helps with flexibility. Visibility out the back when reversing is compromised by the deep and closely grouped C and D pillars, but judicious use of the mirrors should help.
Both engines are smooth and quiet and during normal driving around the roads and lanes of middle England, the lesser engine didn't seem to be struggling unduly in comparison to its greater sister. There's a difference of just 1.3 seconds in the sprint from 0-62mph and just 9mph in the top speed. There's also just a difference of 22lb/ft in torque from the 236 of the BlueMotion to the 258 of the Sport.
Nice touches in the car include the 3D compass dial representation of your heading that you can call up onto the instrument panel. The huge and panoramic sunroof that costs an extra £930 and opens up almost half of the ceiling to the sky is a great addition and makes the place feel very light and airy.
The Adaptive Chassis Control (£750) gives you variable suspension with a three-way choice of normal, soft and comfortable, or firm and sporty. I'm not certain it's necessary but if you're in a rush and pushing on a bit hard, Sport may help you through the corners and if you have granny in the back as you hum along the motorway, Comfort may be the setting of choice. The Normal setting is fine for almost everything though.
Less than lovely is the option of Cornsilk Beige Alcantara upholstery. It's very pale when you take delivery, but it won't be for long if you let the dog in there, or wear a wax-cotton jacket, particularly if you've also chosen the heated front seats.
I'm going to say right now that the Tiguan is a car that makes me smile as soon as I get into it. The four-wheel drive diesel models particularly seem to have everything I want in a car. They're big enough for all I regularly carry, economical enough to make the work journey more affordable, comfortable for the hours I spend at the wheel, and potentially capable enough when the frozen skies of winter turn darkly laden with menace.
After a series of hard, snowy winters where I live, it's comforting to have a car you know will get you through if the road isn't blocked by lesser metals.
The new Tiguan is ready to be put into your garage right now with prices ranging from £21,085 to £28,020 and enough add-on extras to push the price well over £30,000 if you want to. I see no reason why that trend of popularity from China to Australia, from Brazil to Russia, should start trailing off now. It's time for me to start saving.