It’s taken me years to come around to the 4x4. I wouldn’t say I was anti-SUV – it’s just that I’ve never understood the attraction. For a life in the countryside, fine, go right ahead, it makes a lot of sense. Off-road, in a Landie, I’m having as much fun as the next guy. I could even buy into the green-laning scene, all hiking boots and CAMRA pub stops. It would make for some memorable days out, I’m sure. But for people who live in London, I didn’t get it.
Now the penny has dropped. Having spent the week with Volkswagen’s latest compact Tiguan, I’ve converted. The key appeal of this car is its sheer VW-DNA simplicity – it does what it promises in a straight-as-a-die fashion. It’s comfortable, practical, safe and pleasing to drive. The advantageous viewpoint afforded by high seating – long since the SUV’s most enticing proposition for urban owners – no longer equates to boat-like handling. On road, this 4x4 drives well.
For a start, it’s an attractive motor. SUVs aren’t exactly known for being show-stoppingly cool. And most mainstream SUVs are let down by questionable looks. But this new Tiguan is a handsome beast. Our Tiguan SE BlueMotion 2.0-litre TDI test car is delivered in an autumnal brown I’ve not seen since my Dad wore bell-bottomed cords back in 1973. Amazingly, in this colour the Tiguan looks more stylish than my Dad ever did and a new grille at the front gives it a modern look. Before this refresh, the Tiguan spoke dull rather than fun but this version passes the “we’re-parents-but-we-still-have-some-taste” test.
The clean simplicity is continued on the inside. The interior is pleasingly restrained; the seats are conventional but very comfortable and there’s lots of leg-room. The boot is spacious and offers more than enough room for detritus. The trim is a little plasticky in places but the dash has an elegant, soft-touch covering with tasteful metal elements and the leather steering wheel is comfortable to the touch. The feeling is one of restrained and thoughtful simplicity.
The layout of the Tiguan’s dash is almost childlike, with big dials and buttons but the information is delivered in an intuitive and intelligent way. The set-up might be designed with the luddite in mind but it means that it’s also enjoyably straightforward. Volkswagen carries this approach through to the infotainment and sat nav system too, which is very simply laid out. VW seems to have seen through the common misconception that technology needs to be complex and multilayered in order to be of value. On the contrary, we’re inundated with data on a second-by-second basis these days, so an information system that cuts to the chase comes as a welcome relief.
Docking your phone with the Bluetooth is a cinch, so you won’t have to sheepishly request that your seven-year-old set it up, either. This all makes the car safer and less stressful to drive. After all, it’s a car you’re driving, not a submarine.
There’s a relaxed and easy feel to the driving, too. Steering is communicative and the Tiguan offers a refined ride. At 80mph, with the cruise control on, there’s no road noise, and little tyre or wind noise. On country roads the Tiguan feels surprisingly agile, with little body roll making it very well-mannered for a car of this size. The 140PS 2.0-litre TDI engine is responsive and progress feels quick, comfortable and efficient and fuel economy and emissions are improved to the point of fiscal acceptability. Overall the feeling is one of quiet satisfaction that you’re driving a very complete, very capable and extremely well-built 4x4. The new Tiguan is good right across the board and comes highly recommended. As an all-rounder for a young family it’s a very enticing proposition.
THE FACTS: VW TIGUAN
TOP SPEED: 116mph
CO2 G/KM: 150g/km
MPG COMBINED: 48.7mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****