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Volkswagen Tiguan 2012 road test report


The Volkswagen Tiguan has found favour with plenty of buyers who love the idea of a VW Golf but with the added attractions of an SUV. While many of the Tiguan’s rivals have taken crossover route, the VW’s approach has its appeal for a car with plenty of ground clearance and some off-road ability to cope with the UK’s fiendishly variable weather and road conditions.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Volkswagen Tiguan

Image number 2 of the Volkswagen TiguanImage number 3 of the Volkswagen TiguanImage number 4 of the Volkswagen Tiguan

Performance Performance - 4 stars

Tiguan buyers have a choice of three petrol and three diesel engines, all taken from the usual catalogue of Volkswagen parts. The petrols kick off with the 158bhp 1.4 TSI that comes with a turbo- and supercharger to punch well above its size. Out of all the petrol engines on offer in the Tiguan, this is the one that best suits the car and offers a certain zingy something to the driving experience even if it’s not the outright quickest. If you don’t cover a huge mileage and absolute fuel economy is not your main concern, the 1.4 TSI engine is a very good bet. The 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol motor comes in 187- and 208bhp forms, the latter only available with the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox that is an option for most other engines in the Tiguan line-up. While the 2.0-litre petrol engines offer strong performance, with the 208bhp unit delivering 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, it’s the diesels that are more likely to catch the attention of SUV buyers. The entry level 109bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel may be frugal, but it’s no more economical than the 138bhp version and it offers less potent acceleration of 0-62mph 11.9 seconds to the 138bhp unit’s 10.2 seconds. While on-paper figures like this are academic in most cases, they chasm in performance is very noticeable on the road and the 138bhp offers a much more relaxing drive in all conditions. If you tow a trailer or caravan, the more powerful diesel is also the better bet for this kind of work. If you want added oomph with your diesel Tiguan, the 167bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine gives 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and punches through its six-speed manual gearbox with urgency, but the drop in economy, increased emissions and higher list price tip the balance in favour of the 138bhp unit yet again.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

Volkswagen didn’t do very much to the ride and handling balance of the Tiguan when it refreshed the car in 2011 largely because it didn’t have to. Body roll in corners is very well contained for a tall-riding SUV and the Tiguan gives the impression from the driving seat of being a small hatch in the way it performs rather than an off-road style vehicle. The only downside to this is the ride can err on the firm side of acceptable in more lump-assaulted roads, though it also endows the VW with cornering prowess that makes it fun to drive. Steering feel is good in the Tiguan and it’s among the most accurate and well weighted in this class. Only the Land Rover Freelander and Mazda CX-5 have the upper hand on the VW for this dynamic interaction with the car. Volkswagen offers the Tiguan in two- and four-wheel drive versions and, for our money, we’d stick with the front-wheel drive models as they offer better economy and acceleration, as well as feeling that bit more fleet of foot during on-road driving. If you need all-wheel drive for more serious mud-plugging, there’s the Escape version that comes with hill descent control and shorter bumpers to give better off-road ability, but it does sacrifice some on-road refinement, which is a shame as this is one of the Tiguan’s finest features. It keeps road, wind and engine noise at a more than respectable distance, so long treks in the Tiguan are something to savour instead of suffer.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 4 stars

No prizes for spotting the Volkswagen Golf dash that has been transplanted into the Tiguan, and no demerits either as this is a well organised and methodical dash. It’s also well made from tough materials and we expect it will last a very long time. We also reckon the mechanical parts of the Tiguan should prove rugged and enduring, though a mediocre score for this VW in the JD Power reliability survey knocks off a mark.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

You want it, the VW Tiguan has got it. Twin front, side and curtain airbags are all includes, along with ESP electronic traction control on all models. There’s also emergency brake assist and ABS anti-lock brakes, while four-wheel drive can be ordered on a variety of Tiguan versions. As for security, thieves are kept at by deadlocks, an alarm and an immobiliser.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

If there’s one area where the Tiguan cannot quite compete with the crossover rivals it must contend with alongside the more usual SUVs is cabin space. For four people, the Tiguan can cope well, but push that to five and rear seat space become cramped, though the rear seat does also slide fore and aft to vary boot space. This is just as well as the boot is not the biggest in the class, though it is well shaped to cope with suitcases and trips to the DIY store. In the front of the Tiguan, the driver enjoys and elevated view of the road ahead that gives great vision to the front and sides. For parking, the Tiguan’s high rear boot line can make car park spaces a bit trickier than they should be, but there’s the option of a reversing camera that negates this problem. With a dash taken from the Golf hatch, the Tiguan has a clearly displayed set of dials and information, which is just what we’d expect of a VW.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

The Tiguan is not the cheapest car in its class, no matter which version you choose. As a pay-off for this, the VW holds on to its value better than most of the competition, so you will see a proportion of your outlay returned when you come to sell. Most customers choose the SE model, which adds to the entry-level S model’s air conditioning, alloy wheels and all-round electric windows with climate control, Park Assist to help slot the Tiguan into parking bays, and rear parking sensors. The Sport version goes further with larger 18-inch alloy wheels and firmed-up suspension. At the other end of the extreme is the Escape model with extra under-body protection for off-road duties, bumpers with shorter overhangs and hill descent control as standard. Of the petrol engines, the 158bhp 1.4 TSI is the pick and it returns 42.2mpg and 156g/km carbon dioxide emissions. For most, though, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel in 138bhp form is the best all-rounder as it offers 53.3mpg and 139g/km in front-wheel drive guise or 48.7mpg and 150g/km emissions when specified in a 4Motion all-wheel drive version of the Tiguan.

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