Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Wide range of petrol and diesel engines on offer
  • Choice of manual and automatic gearboxes
  • Front- and 4Motion all-wheel drive available

It might take you a while to pick an engine for your Tiguan, as there’s such a wide choice on offer.

The petrol and diesel engines are all available in other VW models, so they’re all turbocharged and proven in plenty of other body styles.

And now, with both a high-performance R model and a fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid on offer, there really is a Tiguan to suit everybody.

Petrol engines

The Tiguan uses a range of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, kicking off with a 130hp unit. There’s also a 150hp variant of the same engine, which Volkswagen expects to be the best-seller in the range.

Either of these will prove good choices, though it’s the 150hp unit we’d recommend. As in other Volkswagens, it’s smooth, refined and more than powerful enough to cope with a family and their baggage, provided you don’t mind travelling at a slightly leisurely speed. 0-62mph is dealt with in 9.2 seconds.

Later on, two higher-powered 2.0-litre petrols will join the range, one with 200hp and one likely to offer around 240hp. This 2.0-litre powertrain is still smooth and refined but in our experience is quite thirsty.

Diesel engines

Diesel engines are all variants of the same 2.0-litre TDI. Power outputs include a 116hp, 150hp and 200hp version. As with the petrol engines, it’s the 150hp unit we recommend here. It’s not quick, but once up to speed it proves more than capable of hustling the Tiguan along just fine.

Which gearbox you can choose depends on your engine – but you’ll be offered either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG automatic. Volkswagen expects more customers to opt for the automatic, and for good reason – it’s quick-shifting, incredibly smooth and very appealing if you’re in the market for a self-shifter.

The DSG also has more ratios, helping fuel economy, and VW seems to have engineered out the hesitancy familiar to dual-clutch ‘boxes – making for a car that’s equally at home in stop-start traffic as it is on long cruises. The standard six-speed manual isn’t a bad gearbox, either.

Exciting Hybrid and R models 

New for the facelifted Tiguan is the addition of an eHybrid model. This pairs a 1.4-litre petrol engine to an electric motor and battery pack to create a plug-in hybrid powertrain – a first for the Tiguan, and one that makes it a real rival to cars such as the BMW X1 plug-in hybrid or Kia Niro PHEV.

The plug-in hybrid will do 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds, but don’t go confusing it with a performance SUV. Fast is certainly is, but ask for full acceleration from the Tiguan eHybrid and you’ll be met with a lot of unpleasant and rather undignified noise.

The electric motor does provide plenty of acceleration at town speeds, and when the battery’s fully charged it’ll do around 30 miles at speeds of up to 80mph. Leave the Tiguan eHybrid to its own devices and it shuffles between its two power sources almost seamlessly, with only the rev counter and the noise of the engine to spoil the illusion.

A further addition to the range is the first-ever Tiguan R. It’s a performance variant to rival cars such as the Cupra Ateca, Audi RS Q3 or even base models of the Porsche Macan. It uses a 320hp version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with the seven-speed DSG and four-wheel drive, tuned for performance and dynamic response – and making for a very quick SUV indeed, with 0-62mph taking just 5.9 seconds.

The R gains a new ‘race’ driving mode, while ‘Sport’ becomes the default – and you can switch between them with a dedicated switch on the steering wheel. An optional Akrapovic exhaust system ensures the engine shouts as well as it performs, too.

Handling

  • Impressively agile but there are sportier alternatives
  • Adaptive suspension option maximises comfort
  • 4Motion models are usefully capable on rough terrain

People tend not to buy SUVs such as the Volkswagen Tiguan for their handling characteristics. But it’s reassuring that for people migrating from a more conventional hatchback that - higher driving position aside - it feels entirely normal. More modestly sized SUVs tend to share their underpinnings with their hatchback cousins rather than use all-new, heavy-duty off-roading platforms, and the Tiguan is based on similar modular architecture to the Golf.

As a result, the Tiguan is impressively agile both on-road and off it, responding to steering inputs accurately and changing direction without fuss. But like the majority of Golfs, the Tiguan doesn’t feel remotely sporty – its cousin, the SEAT Ateca, will better satisfy keener drivers.

Instead, the watchword here is comfort and it’s immediately apparent. Specify larger wheels on the standard suspension and you’ll be more aware of sharper ruts in the road, meaning it’s preferable to stick to smaller rims or opt for the excellent Dynamic Chassis Control with adaptive suspension.

In its standard setting the steering feels on the light side but this can be made heavier through the Driver Profile system. It doesn’t make the steering any more communicative, although it offers a reasonable degree of feedback as it is; it simply varies the resistance experienced as you turn the wheel.

All models come with VW’s XDS electronic differential lock, which directs more power to the outside front wheel when cornering to enhance traction. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion come with 200mm of ground clearance – up from the front-wheel drive models’ 190mm – and by switching the Active Control dial to Off-road mode it becomes surprisingly adept at dealing effectively with rougher terrain, the intelligent four-wheel drive system metering out the power to the wheels with the most traction.

R is an accomplished handler

Handling in the R is a totally different beast than the rest of the range. Naturally, the chassis has been tuned to deal with all that extra power – that means stiffer suspension, larger wheels and more aggressive dampers. It’s also four-wheel drive as standard.

The R also gains an all-new type of rear differential. It uses a pair of electronically controlled clutches and can send 100% of available torque to each rear wheel under fast cornering, reducing understeer and making for more composed handling. It works very well indeed, and though the Tiguan R isn’t particularly fun to drive, you can’t help but be surprised at how quickly it can handle corners considering its size and weight.