Despite its slightly odd name, VW’s compact crossover is a well-made, sane and sensible family five-seater.
Naming a car is always a bit of a headache for motor manufacturers. Anything even vaguely interesting has already been registered by someone else, and thus many car names are somewhat contrived. The Volkswagen Tiguan is a good example. It’s a combination, apparently, of the German words tiger and leguan, the latter meaning iguana. Yes, really.
First revealed as a concept car a decade ago, the Tiguan originally went on sale in 2008, since when it has found over 2.6 million customers around the world. So it has been successful, but it was ready for a substantial overhaul.
The new one has just arrived, and it is an all-round improvement, with a different under-structure, sharper looks, a freshened interior, new engines, more space, a bigger boot and improved driveability.
Don’t bother asking what’s under the bonnet, because it’s almost certainly a diesel. Only one in 20 new Tiguans will have a petrol engine. Diesels dominate in this type of pumped-up, practical family SUV-crossover, and that’s even more true of this VW than most.
The popular engine will be the two-litre TDI with a 148 bhp power output, like our test car, and it’s a strong performer with a sub-10 seconds time on the benchmark 0-62 mph sprint away from a standing start. The official combined fuel economy figure is nudging up towards 60 mpg, but as we all know that’s wildly optimistic. Mid-40s should be comfortably attainable, though.
The Tiguan rides agreeably with reasonable suppleness despite quite big wheels, and body control is good. It doesn’t show much evidence of roll on the bends for this type of vehicle, which is quite important if you’re likely to have queasy-prone kids in the back.
One common complaint about the old Tiguan was that it was just a bit pinched for space. So the new car has more, achieved by basing it on the VW Group’s increasingly ubiquitous MQB modular platform. The body is bigger, with more rear legroom and improved headroom.
Not at the expense of boot size, though. That is now 50 litres bigger than previously, at 520 litres. Folding down the rear seatbacks increases that to 1,655 litres when the car is used as a temporary van in two-seat mode. Quick-releasing them to achieve that is easy via levers just inside the rear of the boot.
A handy feature is the ability to vary the angle of the rear seat backs, which can be set fully upright to maximise boot space, or partially reclined to relax a sleepy passenger.
Pricey versus its rivals
Tiguan pricing starts from £22,510 for a modestly equipped, two-wheel-drive petrol model, which hardly anyone will buy. It tops out at over £36,000 for a high-end diesel 4×4. That makes it a bit pricier than some of its most obvious competition, such as a Mazda CX-5, Renault Kadjar or Nissan Qashqai.
At that money, the Tiguan is nudging up towards an Audi Q3 or BMW X1, but without quite the same badge cachet, although it’s arguably more of a looker than either of them. It’s quite a handsome beast, and how many other cars can lay claim to being a cross between a tiger and an iguana? Grrr …
Volkswagen Tiguan Stats Review
Model tested: Volkswagen Tiguan SE Nav 2.0 TDI
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 9.3 secs
Economy: 58.9 mpg
CO2: 125 g/km
Images: Sue Baker