The first generation of the Volkswagen Tiguan was introduced in 2007. Since then, 2.8 million examples have been sold in 170 different countries. So the concept works!
That's because Volkswagen realises that the Tiguan isn't an off-roader, but merely an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). Therefore, with this second generation it's even more about versatility and even less about off-road capabilities. That's why Volkswagen chose tough looks and combines this with sleek, modern lines.
This is even more evident when entering the cabin, which is as immaculate and well built as every other Volkswagen car. The Tiguan differs from other Volkswagens by the high seating position. The driver overlooks a mighty bonnet and has the feeling he / she is controlling a mighty vehicle.
The Tiguan not only feels large, it actually is. Both the head and legroom in the front are huge, although still average for a car of this size. The rear seat is mounted on rails and when moved to the back the legroom in the rear is the largest in the segment by far. By moving the bench to the front, the Tiguan excels in boot space.
The Tiguan is fitted with the same luxury and safety features as every other Volkswagen car. Cameras and other sensors look ahead with the driver and warn about any danger, or even activate the brakes. LED headlights make for a clearer light beam and safe energy.
The optional audio system by Dynaudio is highly recommendable: it has a crisp sound and a very good image (placements of instruments and vocals in the car). Thanks to support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, integration with smartphones is also up to par.
The dials (speedometer and rev counter) have been replaced by a large display. The advantage is that the driver can choose which information is shown in which way. Funny detail: sister brand Audi presents this same functionality as a true revolution in automotive technology, while Volkswagen regards it as a side note in the user manual. Even better than this customisable display is the "head up display", which projects the most relevant information to the driver right in his / her view.
The Tiguan is available with four petrol and four diesel engines. First the 2.0 litre diesel, which develops 150 PS / 340 Nm (front-wheel drive), was tried. This power is average for a car in the segment. Yet, the Tiguan is a bit faster (higher top speed and faster acceleration) thanks to a lower weight.
Also, the Volkswagen diesel develops its power in a different way than usual. Most brands try to keep the power output at the same level, no matter what engine speed. This assures high levels of comfort. However, Volkswagen TDI engines start with low power at low revs, after which the power increases as the engine speed increases. This gives the Volkswagen diesel a stronger character and it makes the car seem faster. One approach isn't better than the other, it's a matter of personal taste.
When opting for the 180 PS / 320 Nm strong petrol engine, the difference with other brands is even bigger. The "2.0 TSI" is connected to a dual clutch automatic gearbox ("DSG") which tries to keep the engine speed as low as possible. In city traffic the engine speed is so low (around 1,500 rpm) that the engine sounds a bit like a diesel!
Once at cruising speed, the TSI engine always has some extra punch available to accelerate still further. Even with the petrol engine, the power is comparable to that of its rivals but yet again the actual performance is better.
While developing an SUV, carmakers always face the same problem: do we emphasise on off-road capabilities or do we focus on handling on paved roads? Volkswagen made a remarkable decision: the underpinning is made for use on paved roads, but still the car can be fitted with off-road technology.
This seems to be conflicting, because when a car isn't meant to be used off-road such technology is superfluous. However, while Volkswagen doesn't regard the Tiguan as an off-roader, it does regard it as an ideal vehicle for winter sports or for reaching remote areas. That is why Volkswagen doesn't offer serious ground clearance (180 mm) or special tyres, but it does offer four-wheel drive and clever electronics. The latter replace costly diff-locks and differentials.
Because everything is operated electronically, it suffices to turn a knob to on-road or off-road mode. In off-road mode the throttle responds indirectly (to prevent wheelspin), the brakes are operated automatically while descending and four-wheel drive is activated.
On several trials the Tiguan managed very well on steep hills (the front and rear overhang is very short to prevent the bumpers from hitting the ground) and the computer made off-roading very easy indeed.
Yet, the Tiguan feels most at home on the open road. Despite the high centre of gravity, the Tiguan handles as well as traditional Volkswagen cars. That's remarkable, because many SUVs require a slightly different driving style because of poor handling or a longer braking distance.
And yet its handling is both the Tiguan's strongest and weakest point. At first it seems like a disappointment that this mighty looking SUV isn't more exciting to drive than a regular car. But that is exactly what made the Tiguan so successful: it combines an adventurous appearance and extra functionality with all the familiar characteristics of a regular Volkswagen.
Volkswagen knows it all too well: with SUVs it's all about emotion. The customer asks for a mighty off-roader, but is in fact only looking for a good looking spacious car.
With the first generation this mid-sized SUV offered exactly that. With this second generation Volkswagen improved on those strong points with more space, more safety, more comfort, complete integration with smartphones and remarkably good handling. And if required, everyone can drive off-road with the Tiguan thanks to smart electronics. Mission accomplished.
- Excellent handling
- Spacious and functional
- Relatively economical 2.0 TDI engine
- Lacks personality
- Poor fuel economy 2.0 TSI engine
"Divide and conquer"