Just when you thought the crossover market couldn’t get any more crowded
You are here
What’s this then? It’s the new Volkswagen Tiguan. It arrives around eight years after the original - that’s a long time in the car industry - and has big shoes to fill. Sales of the Mk1 Tiguan increased across its life; it had its best annual sales figure only last year, and more than 2.6 million of the things have shifted overall. In 67 years, Land Rover hasn’t made that many Defenders. Wow. Yep. In the UK, it’s currently the best-selling VW after the Golf and Polo. No wonder VW intends to have another four new SUVs on sale by the end of the decade, including something Juke-sized and further Tiguan derivatives, one of them an ‘XL’ model for the US and China.
Are you going to talk about emissions? Sorry, no. Suffice to say an awful lot has happened since the Tiguan was triumphantly revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September, and that the same car is now tasked with delivering a good news story for Wolfsburg. And does it? These first impressions - all collected on Swedish snow and ice, so they’re not yet definitive - are strong. It’s an immediately classy car, albeit one with an unashamedly functional streak. The design and layout of the interior both edge sense above style, but that’s not to say it’s not all exceedingly well finished. There’s still room for shiny goodies, such as Apple Carplay (and other smartphone link-ups), a fancy head-up display, and the Virtual Cockpit dials pioneered by the Audi TT. None are revolutionary, we admit, but they’re all executed nicely. It’s a pleasant place to be.
Tell me about the tech. While the least powerful Tiguans come with front-wheel drive, AWD is available on most engines. It’s a system related to the Golf R’s, favouring front-wheel drive, but able to send every bit of power to the rear axle when necessary. It also hikes the Tiguan up by 11mm, for better obstacle clearing. There will be a mix of petrol and diesel engines, ranging from 113 to 237bhp, the latter cranked out by a twin-turbo diesel, which will be the performance high point of the range. And there will be no GTI or R badges appearing on any of ‘em, despite the Tiguan now being so core to VW. It’s the first VW SUV based upon the ‘MQB’ architecture that underpins so many of the group’s cars. There’s a good chance you’re sick to death of those three letters appearing in car reviews, so we’ll cut to chase: MQB-based cars invariably steer sharply and are intuitive and easy to drive. These, you’ll be aware, are all good things. And are they evident in the Tiguan? Yes, as much as it’s possible to tell on wintry Lapland roads. We tried both 148bhp diesel and 178bhp petrol versions, and both were impeccably refined, operating smoothly through a DSG automatic gearbox and making little fuss. Same goes for the chassis as a whole. VW wanted to make the Tiguan sharper without losing the comfort owners love about the outgoing car, and it proved stress-free to drive in slippy conditions, whether its AWD was toggled into its ‘Snow’ mode or just kept in its normal, ‘On-road’ state. Relevant stuff out the way, we also sampled the Tiguan on drift-friendly frozen lakes. This, of course, is not consumer testing at its most laser-focused, but it was a chance to discover turn-in akin to a Golf’s, and an AWD system that can send all of its power to the back, but which does so to get you out of trouble and keep you safe rather than assisting in a homage to Ken Block’s Gymkhana series. Get back to the relevant stuff. It will help you at an actual gymkhana, though: the Tiguan will tow 2,500 kilos, perfect for a jam-packed horsebox, and ruddy impressive for a car this size. VW’s new Trailer Assist system, meanwhile, will help stop your most rearward passengers from getting too giddy. VW says such ability is core, too. In the UK, around three quarters of Tiguans sold have AWD fitted. Not once in the new car’s bumf does the word ‘crossover’ surface. Here is a car that sells with the help of genuine, utilitarian talents. They’ll still end up on the school run. Some will, but then so do many Land Rovers. There may be much talk about the Tiguan’s ‘character lines’ and ‘independent design language’, but VW has made sure there’s some purpose beneath it all. We like that. The Mk2 Tiguan goes on sale in April, and should start at around £23,000. And despite, y’know, the stuff that shan’t be discussed, 90 per cent of them are expected to sell with a diesel engine. A little further down the line, though, we’ll get a GTE plug-in hybrid, which was previewed by this spangly 222bhp concept. If the stark success of Mitsubishi’s plug-in SUV is anything to go by, it could be a big catalyst to VW’s return to normality.