Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The best-selling Tiguan is the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel model (badged 2.0 TDI 150) and it's easy to see why; it offers a fine blend of performance and fuel economy, with more than enough punch for town journeys and motorway speeds alike. Being a diesel, it pulls well from low revs which means you’ll rarely be wanting to power when you put your foot down. The cheaper 115 version (with 113bhp) feels a little short of puff, though. There's also a 190 version of the 2.0 TDI engine that delivers plenty of punch but is rather pricey, while the range-topping diesel 240 version brings yet more pace for an even more eyebrow-raising price.
If you’re more interested in petrol power, the entry-level 1.5-litre 130 model puts out 128bhp. However, while it's the most affordable model in the range, it struggles a bit up inclines, especially when loaded up to the gunnels. The 150 version is better, but still lacks the low-rev pulling power of the diesels.
As for the 2.0-litre 190 petrol engine, it feels fast and is quick off the line, thanks to all-wheel drive coming as standard. It doesn’t quite have the in-gear flexibility of the diesels, though, but around town you’ll have little issue with the decent performance it offers and out on the motorway there’s no problem overtaking. The top-spec 230 petrol extracts 227bhp from the same engine you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch. It makes the Tiguan feel pleasingly rapid but even the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel has a greater sense of urgency at lower revs.
The automatic gearbox, though, is a real letdown. When you put your foot down to get things moving, such as at a roundabout, when joining fast-moving traffic or frankly anywhere on the public highway, there’s a long delay until the gear engages and you’re granted the power to pull away. The resultant erratic burst of pace can make smooth progress tricky.
Suspension and ride comfort
By family SUV standards, the Tiguan rides very well indeed. It smooths over bigger imperfections, such as speed bumps, better than the BMW X1, yet the suspension is still firm enough to stop the body from bouncing up and down too much along undulating roads.
Patched up roads and broken Tarmac can unsettle the Tiguan a little – especially if you choose a version with big alloy wheels – but compared with its key rivals the Tiguan is comfortable. Even the sporty R-Line Tech trim is bearable, if not as good as lesser models. If you want a more settled ride, you'll need to choose something with a lower centre of gravity, such as the VW Golf.
SEL models and above get adaptive suspension as standard, which lets you choose between Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport to soften or sharpen the ride.
The Tiguan handles more like a conventional hatchback than many of its SUV rivals; it's genuinely enjoyable to drive. Some may feel the steering is a little too light, but it’s precise, and helps you feel in control of what is quite a hefty chunk of metal. The wheel lightens up appropriately at lower speeds, too, so tight multi-storey car parks feel no trickier to manoeuvre in than in a Golf. There isn't too much body roll through corners and all versions have plenty of grip, with the four-wheel-drive 4Motion models offering good traction in slippery conditions.
True, the X1 and Seat Ateca are even more agile through the twisty bits, but the Tiguan outshines most other family SUVs, including the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. The R-Line Tech model is available with sports suspension but this doesn’t really make the Tiguan any more fun.
4Motion models add a dial next to the gearlever that allows you to select different driving modes depending on the prevailing terrain, as well as a hill descent system to assist on steel inclines.
Noise and vibration
The petrol engines are especially smooth, even when being worked hard. The 2.0-litre units get a little noisy when you’re exploring the upper reaches of the rev range, but at a constant cruise they quieten down considerably.
The diesels sound a bit clattery at tickover and when you really put your foot down, but are quite muted at a cruise and far from raucous when accelerating gently. That said, the diesel engines in the rival X1 are slightly quieter.
At high speeds, you will hear a flutter of wind noise around the Tiguan's door mirrors, but there’s minimal road noise unless you opt for a version with really big alloy wheels.