Volkswagen Tiguan: Old kit, new tricks

  • First released in 2007 but Tiguan still impresses
  • Great ride and car-like handling characteristics
  • Smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine and automatic

The original VW Tiguan was first unveiled to the world in 2007.

If that doesn’t sound that long ago, remind yourself that back then VW was still selling the Mk5 Golf. Last year the family hatchback moved onto its seventh generation.

So you could reasonably expect this Golf-influenced compact SUV to feel its age, it’s history bubbling to the surface as soon as you slip behind the wheel, not only struggling to keep up with its modern competitors but falling far behind the car that gave it a platform.

I’ve spent some time in both the latest VW Golf and the Tiguan’s most direct and competitive rivals of late – including the all-new Toyota Rav 4 and Ford Kuga – so was expecting our Tiguan SE to feel like it came from a lost generation in many key areas.

Facelifted in 2011, the exterior was updated to include the new VW family face, and while it’s not quite as sharp and edgy as the nose of the new Golf, with the LED lights it’s equally as imposing as the Toyota Rav 4.

Inside much of the original car’s cabin remains, including that prominent centre console and finely detailed – and easily read – instrument pack.

The screen between the main dials has been upgraded though, the colour display feeling much more expensive than the old white-on-black example, and along with the air conditioning controls, the touchscreen infotainment system was also improved.

The new Golf goes one further by offering a proximity sensing touchscreen and a smartphone style pinch and swipe interface, but the Tiguan’s effort still feels impressive.

In fact, much of the cabin still shines, the material quality continuing its position as something of an industry lead.

And the seats are particularly comfortable, the optionally heated and electrically adjustable chairs (£1,640) feeling like money well-spent on my near 60-mile commute home.

Likewise I love the amount of light let into the, otherwise dull and predominantly black, cabin by the huge glass panoramic sunroof (£940). I’m just not sure I could justify spending my own cash on it.

The 2.0-litre TDI 138bhp engine is without doubt the one to have though – despite the new Golf offering it with an extra 10bhp.

Smooth, linear in its delivery and quiet at anything but starting idle, officially it’ll also top 48mpg. Our experience suggests the real figures are likely to be around 10mpg lower than that.

So while the new Golf can improve on both this and our car’s 150g/km CO2 figure, considering our Tiguan is four-wheel drive those numbers are still more than acceptable.

If we’d added the excellent DSG transmission those emissions would have climbed to 158g/km, but it really is the only other item that could have improved the driving experience of this off-roader.

There’s nothing wrong with the six-speed manual gearbox of course, but the automatic would suit this car’s relaxed, comfortable – but still car-like – mix of ride and driving dynamics.

And while the new Golf, and Ford Kuga, are very good this Tiguan is far but outclassed on the road.

In fact when you look a little closer at the Tiguan, there’s very few areas where it feels anything but on the money in terms of its abilities – including its looks, quality and way it drives.

An all-new Tiguan is expected to join the line-up in 2015, but until then I’ll keep enjoying our 2012 model safe in the knowledge it’s still as good as, if not better than, anything else out there.

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