The last couple of years we’ve experienced, by and large, reasonably mild winters with the odd cold snap thrown in. For the most part in the UK four-wheel drive is handy but probably unnecessary unless you venture off-road or live in the deepest countryside. Two-wheel drive and maybe some winter tyres will normally suffice for the majority.
For the last week I’ve had the pleasure of the company of a top-of-the-range Volkswagen Tiguan in R-Line trim. This version had VW’s 4Motion AWD and, for extra security, a set of Pirelli H-rated winter tyres. Fortunately (and that’s the only time you will ever find me using that word in relation to the white stuff), it briefly snowed my region; it wasn’t much and I had to venture out early in the morning into the wilds of the furthest country lanes to test the car’s bad weather credentials.To be honest it wasn’t much of a test despite the ice and snow on the road and the Tiguan took it easily in its stride; it may have even sneered with derision in the ‘is that all you’ve got?’ tradition. I might as well have been driving on dry tarmac but at least you know the capability is there as it quietly gets on with the job in hand. I don’t see the car as a true mud-plugger but for most users that won’t matter.
VW’s 4Motion is of the regular Haldex type designed to always send the drive to the axle with the better traction. The system is able to respond quickly to any road surface situation. The Tiguan still feels like a front-wheel drive car most of the time. In normal driving conditions, 90% of the engine’s power is sent to the front wheels, with 10 per cent going to the rear. This results in improved fuel efficiency over a system that shares the power equally to all four corners but, conversely, is obviously less efficient than standard 2WD. The whole thing links with the all the active safety systems like ABS and ESP. On a long run I saw a best average economy of 41.3mpg from the 2.0L diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Obviously this drops with around the town motoring but overall economy seemed fair enough.I liked the way the Tiguan handled, belying its size, thanks to the sports suspension. The car feels stable at speed with minimal road noise and the steering well weighted, positive and accurate. I had the sensation that the winter tyres made the ride seem a little more harsh – passengers didn’t notice. Performance is brisk but not especially quick. The interior is smart and of the usual high quality Volkswagen finish but I would have for preferred leather seats rather than the fabric supplied. The seats were comfortable and had loads of adjustment although could have done with more lateral support in my opinion.
The dashboard is built around a small but easily read central screen. I can’t find anything to complain about – it is all clear, concise and easy to use. The info/nav screen is small by today’s standard but is clear and legible and guided me around a tricky route without issue. My only niggle was the apparent speech impediment of the navigation ‘voice’ which drove everyone crazy.
Within the small SUV/crossover sector the Tiguan is quite spacious. The back seats slide and recline individually while the centre portion can be folded down to provide an armrest with a handy couple of drinks holders. Stowage space elsewhere on board is good with plenty of cubby space, including under the front seats. The boot is large and well shaped and is easily accessed through the sensibly shaped tailgate. There’s no underfloor storage to speak of though, that area being allocated to a space-saving spare tyre. There’s a full specification below.Out on the road the diesel engine was fine and it is probably the 2.0L in it’s three optional incarnations will be the one that most buyers would go for. Before ticking the diesel box however it would be worth checking out the the two petrol engines on offer. Official consumption figures are not that different and performance from the 1.4 or 2.0 litre engines might well be preferable. These days the oil-burner option isn’t always the be-all and end-all.In my opinion, the very well built Volkswagen Tiguan fits the bill as a safe and secure family car, although it is quite expensive. 4Motion is an option but it really depends on circumstance. Given the choice I’d save some money and invest the saving instead on a set of winter tyres on a 2WD version in the smart R-Line trim. I would also opt for the 2.0L TSI petrol engine for personal preference but the figures for the strong 1.4L look good. Explore all the options and the Tiguan makes for a good all-rounder. Geoff Maxted