Review and road test of the Volkswagen Tiguan (2011 - 2016)
COOL CALM & CONNECTED
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
The facelifted post-2011 version of Volkswagen's first generation Tiguan targeted compact SUV and Crossover customers alike with a high quality, well priced package that was smarter and more efficient. All the 4x4 you'll ever really need? Many saw it as just that. Let's check this model out for used car customers.
5dr SUV (1.4TSI, 2.0TSI / 2.0 TDI 110PS/140PS/177PS diesel)
If you're looking for a compact SUV or family-sized Crossover from the 2011 to 2016 era, then you'll certainly not be short of choice. But choice can sometimes be a compromising thing - and so it is here. So for the premium badge you'd like on a car of this kind, you have to compromise on equipment. For the practicality you'll need, you have to compromise on trim and build quality. And for the all-wheel drive ability you'll maybe sometimes want, you've to compromise on tarmac driving pleasure. Volkswagen understands this, which is why in 2008, they brought us this car, the Tiguan, a contender in this class that was arguably less compromised than any other. Especially in the rejuvenated guise that arrived here in the middle of 2011, the model we're focusing on here as a used buy.
The Tiguan proved to be a hugely successful car for Volkswagen and the reasons aren't hard to fathom. Here, you got all the class of a Land Rover Freelander or a Toyota RAV4 at a significant saving in cost, pricing being not too much more than Far Eastern budget brand models in this segment. The dynamics strike an appealing balance too, with tarmac travel to a standard not too far off a Qashqai or Kuga-like pretend-SUV Crossover model matched with off road ability far in excess of what cars of that kind could ever consider.
It all meant that, with not too much being broke, there wasn't a great deal to fix when the time came for VW to facelift this MK1 model Tiguan in 2011. In the end, we got a smarter look, a range of slightly pokier more efficient engines and some useful splashes of high technology. Would that be enough, commentators at the time wondered, to keep this model competitive in a sector brimming with ever-toughening competition? It turned out to be. This improved Tiguan sold steadily for the brand until its replacement by an all-new MK2 model in the Summer of 2016.
What You Get
The Tiguan has always been smartly but inoffensively styled. Hardly 'powerful and muscular', apparently the qualities that the design team were aiming at. You couldn't really apply those adjectives to the look of this revised post-2011 version either, but its looks were an improvement, Klaus Bischoff and his stylists neatening up the front end with the same kind of horizontally-lined grille used on the larger Touareg luxury SUV. Double-chromed louvers and daytime running lights in the optional bi-xenon headlamps completed the more up-market look.
Moving towards the rear, there are some thoughtful touches. Like the small plastic surrounds on the squared-off wheelarches that can be unclipped for off-road use and, if necessary, replaced afterwards. Most models have classy chromed roof rails and there are sharply-lit LED lights at the rear. Under the skin, as with the original version, it's all Golf hatchback-based, but this improved design uses a tougher modular sub frame that's partly steel and should be better able to withstand off road buffeting.
At the wheel, you'd certainly think you were in a Golf were it not for the slightly raised driving position. The leather-trimmed wheel feels good to hold, is adjustable for both reach and rake and is perfectly positioned for quality switchgear that falls nicely to hand. It's a practical cabin too, with door bins that can accommodate a sizeable drinks bottle, plus there's a cooled glovebox, plenty of cupholders and most models feature under-seat drawers for both front seat passengers.
At the rear, Volkswagen built in some of the flexibility used in its Touran mini-MPV. So the back seat bench can slide fore and aft by up to 16cm and recline by up to 23-degrees for greater comfort on longer journeys. If you're not using the middle part of the seat, it can be folded down to make an armrest with cupholder. As usual in this class of car, three adults would be a little squashed on the back seat but two will have decent standards of head, leg and shoulder room and three kids will be fine.
Out back, there's 470-litres of total boot space and the option of a ski-hatch for longer items. If that's not enough, pushing forward the 60:40 split-folded rear bench frees up a total of 1510-litres. You can carry quite heavy loads too, thanks to a payload capacity of 670kg. And there are neat touches like extra under-floor storage, a 12v power socket and an optional luggage net to stop your eggs mixing with you Iron Bru.
What to Look For
Our customer survey revealed a lot of very satisfied Tiguan owners but inevitably, there were a few issues. By the time of this post-2011-era model, Volkswagen had solved the timing chain issue that afflicted some owners of the original version of this car. We did still come across the odd report of a turbocharger failure though, something that also featured on a few early models. What else should you look out for on your test drive? Well we came across one owner who claimed his car had bouts of running in a 'lumpy' fashion; another complained of squealing brakes; and another experienced an oil leak. One buyer experienced a sat nav fault and another had a few instances of the electric handbrake not connecting properly. One buyer also found the alloy wheel deteriorating. Check all these things before you buy.
(approx based on a 2013 Tiguan 2.0 TDI) A set of brake pads are between £45-£50. Brake discs cost around £45 to £50 - or between £75 to £80 if you want a pricier brand. Air filters are in the £7 to £11 bracket. Oil filters cost around £8-£10 and fuel filters between £20 and £30. You'll pay around £10 to £20 for a wiper blade. A shock absorber would be around £85 to £100 depending on brand. Bash one of the wing mirrors and you're looking at paying between £15 and £30 for a replacement.
On the Road
When this Tiguan first arrived on the market, it was one of the few compact SUVs you could switch into from an ordinary family hatchback without noticing much difference. Today, almost all cars in this sector are like that, but this one remains an appealing choice, still one of the keener models in its class on tarmac. Even if you find an example that was originally kitted out with the optional XDS electronic differential from the Golf GTI, it's still not quite as sharp through the bends as a Kuga or Qashqai-class Crossover, but then these cars can get little further than a muddy carpark when it comes to going offroad. Likely Tiguan owners won't be looking to cross the Namibian wilderness but they do often need their cars to tow and deal with the kind of gnarlier muddy tracks you'd hesitate to attempt in a Crossover. And this Volkswagen can do just that.
We'll get to the muddy stuff in a minute. First though, you'll want to know how this car will feel on the school and shopping runs where it'll spend most of its time. Pretty good is the answer. Bodyroll is well controlled and the electric power steering's responsive, though even without the optional sports suspension, the ride might be a little firm and springy for some tastes - why is perhaps why some owners apparently christen their cars 'Tigger'. If that's an issue for you, try and find an example who's original buyer paid extra for the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system via which 'Normal', 'Comfort' and 'Sport' modes enable you to tailor the suspension to suit the mood you're in and the road you're on.
It's an easy car to drive in-town thanks to good all-round visibility and reasonably a tight 12m turning circle. And the optional self-parking system's a real boon in such an urban environment, effortlessly steering you into the tightest spaces. On the open road, as we've already suggested, there's nothing especially memorable about the driving experience, but it is pleasantly refined, with a slick feel to the six-speed manual gearbox, or the optional silky-smooth DSG twin-clutch 7-speed semi-automatic.
Right from the beginning of its life, all the Tiguan's engineware has been turbocharged and nothing changed on that front in this revised version. Nine in every ten Tiguan buyers opt for a diesel and buyers of the post-2011 version were offered a choice between three 2.0 TDI units developing 110, 140 or 170PS. Both the two lower-powered units came with the option of either 4MOTION 4WD or a simple 2WD front-driven set-up but we can't really see the point of buying the lowest powered variant since it isn't much cheaper and saves you nothing in running costs. Most buyers then understandably plump for the 2.0 TDI 140 variant, which makes sixty from rest in 10.2s on the way to a top speed of close to 120mph, regardless of your choice of two or four wheel drive. Opt for the pokier TDI 170 4MOTION variant and you'll find that it manages 8.9s and 125mph.
If you are one of the few Tiguan customers considering petrol power, then the choice lies between a couple of TSI units. There's a 1.4 with 160PS and optional 4MOTION drive and a 2.0-litre powerplant developing either 180 or 210PS, the latter Golf GTI engine capable of powering this unassuming little contender to sixty in just 7.8s on the way to 134mph. Standard on all the most powerful Tiguans is a full-time 4MOTION four-wheel drive system that most of the time, with fuel saving in mind, diverts only 10% of drive to the rear axle. Should the rear axle-mounted Haldex electro-hydraulic clutch detect wheelslip however, the system is capable of directing as much as 100% of torque rearwards, the proportion adjusted to suit the conditions.
These mechanicals won't be tough enough to facilitate really extreme off road use, but then the 195mm of ground clearance wouldn't really allow for that anyway. But this will all be quite sufficient to get most owners a surprising distance off-tarmac. If you really want to see how far that is, then you'll need to find something very rare - a Tiguan specified in 'Escape' off road-orientated guise. The 'Escape' package was only available on the 2.0 TDI 140PS 4WD variant and from new, only 3% of Tiguan buyers specified it. Volkswagen developed a revised front end specifically for this version that improved the standard 18-degree angle of approach to 28-degrees, thereby reducing the likelihood of off roading panel damage.
Escape buyers also get an 'off-road mode', supposed to improve and simplify control of the vehicle off the beaten track. Activating this function modifies the throttle and the braking to better suit off piste conditions, reduces the likelihood of stalling, offers assistance climbing up steep slopes and provides a hill descent control system to help you down them. All Tiguans can offer a rear departure angle of 28-degrees and a breakover angle of 20-degrees, but if you have to ask about that when you're out and about, then you're probably somewhere you shouldn't have ventured with this car in the first place.
It's not hard to see why the first generation Tiguan proved to be such a popular choice in its sector here in the UK. You get pretty much all the quality of premium-badged compact SUV for the price of a budget brand contender. You get pretty much all the tarmac handling ability of a Qashqai-like Crossover with virtually all the off road ability of something more capable. And it all comes with the enduring appeal of that Volkswagen badge and the enduring residual values that'll go along with it.
Such has always been this car's appeal and not much changed with this revised post-2011-era version. It's not a car for driving enthusiasts or those who live halfway up Snowdon - but then such people are unlikely to be shopping in this sector anyway. What the Tiguan did offer in this improved form was enhanced running costs from a more efficient range of engines that made the transition to a car like this from an ordinary family hatch less painful than ever. There's an extra dash of polish in everything this car does that'll make you feel as good when you open the bedroom window as you will when you're at the wheel. A sensible choice then, but one you'll enjoy making.
Volkswagen Tiguan (2011 - 2016) review by JONATHAN CROUCH