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, whereas the cheaper 115 version (with 114bhp) feels a little short of puff. There's also a 190 version of the 2.0 TDI engine which delivers plenty of punch but is rather pricey, while the range-topping 240 version brings yet more pace for an even more eyebrow-raising price.
If you’re more interested in petrol power, the base 125 puts out 123bhp from its turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. 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 of the 1.4 is better, but still lacks the low-rev pulling power of the diesels.
As for the 2.0-litre petrol engines, the 180 feels quick while the 220 offers pace that isn’t too far off some hot hatchbacks. Both need a few revs to perform at their best, though; again they lack the in-gear flexibility of the diesels.
Volkswagen Tiguan ride comfort
By small SUV standards, the VW Tiguan rides very well indeed. It smoothes over bigger imperfections, such as speed bumps, better than the BMW X1, yet the suspension is still firm enough to stop the body 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 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 a VW Golf.
We wouldn't bother with the Tiguan's optional adaptive suspension. It doesn't improve the ride that much and there are more worthwhile extras to spend your money on.
Volkswagen Tiguan handling
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, which makes the car easy to place on the road. There isn't too much body roll through corners, and all versions have plenty of grip, although the four-wheel-drive 4Motion models unsurprisingly offer better traction in slippery conditions.
True, the BMW X1 and Seat Ateca are even more agile through the twisty bits, but the Tiguan outshines most other small SUVs, including the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. The R-Line model is available with sports suspension but this doesn’t make the Tiguan any more fun.
4Motion models add a dial next to the gearlever that allows you to select different modes depending on the terrain and initiate a hill descent system. A further option is adaptive chassis control – this allows you to stiffen or soften the suspension to prioritise either ride comfort or flatter handling.
Volkswagen Tiguan refinement
The petrol engines are especially smooth, even when being worked hard, and while the diesels sound a bit clattery at tickover and when you really put your foot down, they're still muted at a cruise and far from raucous when accelerating. That said, the diesel engines in the rival BMW X1 are slightly quieter.
At high speeds, you will hear a flutter of wind noise around the VW Tiguan's door mirrors – but virtually no road noise unless you opt for a version with really big alloy wheels.
The manual gearbox is light and easy to use while the DSG automatic is smooth and soothing the vast majority of the time, with only the occasional jerk at low speeds.
This is the least powerful petrol engine and the entry point to the Tiguan range. Available only with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, it struggles a bit when loaded up with people and luggage.
1.4 TSI 150
If you want an economical petrol engine, potentially in conjunction with a four-wheel drive system, this is the one to go for. Performance is brisk and the average economy is pretty good given that it’s a small engine in a big car. CO2 emissions are relatively high compared with the diesels, however.
2.0 TSI 180
You get a decent amount of punch from this petrol engine, but you pay a hefty fuel economy penalty. It’s a brisk option but we’d suggest going for a similarly powerful diesel instead; it’ll be cheaper to run and its mid-range pull better suits the Tiguan's relaxed nature. No manual gearbox is available with this engine; you get a dual-clutch automatic and four-wheel-drive as standard
2.0 TSI 220
This is the flagship petrol engine and, like the 180, an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive come as standard. It’s rapid, but will be expensive to run with high CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. Again, a diesel would be a better bet.
2.0 TDI BMT 115
This entry-level diesel isn't offered with the option of four-wheel-drive or an automatic gearbox, and it's doesn't have the mid-rev flexibility of the more powerful diesels. We'd recommend paying the extra for the much more flexible 2.0 TDI 150.
Our pick 2.0 TDI BMT 150
This is the best engine in the Tiguan range. It’s affordable, offers up a decent amount of punch and fuel economy is reasonable. CO2 emissions are acceptable, too, making this the most sensible choice for company car drivers. An auto ‘box and four-wheel drive are optional.
2.0 TDI BMT 190
Predictably, this diesel engine offers up strong performance although you are forced into paying extra for four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. If you want both of those things along with strong performance, this engine is worth considering. Shame it isn't a bit cheaper.
2.0 TDI BMT 240
This is currently the most potent Tiguan available. Powered by a twin-turbocharged diesel engine that’s also seen in the Passat, it offers serious pace with reasonable running costs. It's too expensive though, partly down to standard four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox.