Price: from £23,140
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
You wouldn’t win any prizes for guessing that of the 12 models VW offers in the UK, the two bestselling vehicles are the Golf and the Polo. But which is in third place? It’s the Tiguan, of course! Ahhhh, you ponder, the Tiguan. But do you even know which the Tiguan is? There’s also the Touran and the Touareg and the Toucan… Well, not the last one, but you get the point. They’re all very sensible, very durable, very VW. You could count on them to drive you from South Africa to Finland, to serve you without complaint for decades… but you probably couldn’t pick any of them out in the car park.
To give its sturdy little offspring a colourful backstory, VW says Tiguan is a blending of the words tiger and iguana. Eh? What a freakish hybrid that would be: a sort of furry, stripy dragony thing with teeth. The original tagline for the car when it was launched in 2009 was: “The people want to play, but they want to play nice.” It sounds banal, unless you say it with a strong German accent and then it sounds quite naughty.
This second generation Tiguan is refreshed, redesigned and revitalised. In essence it’s a Golf with a higher roof, bigger boot and a decent 4WD system down its trousers. If you think of a Golf as being a pot-bound shrub, the Tiguan is what happens when you replant it in the garden. It sprawls a bit and thickens up to become a tougher country cousin to its waspish cosmopolitan relation.
In DNA terms it hasn’t fallen very far from the all-conquering Golf. Engines range from a saintly 2-litre 115bhp to a more sinful 240bhp. There’s also a 218bhp plug-in hybrid version on the horizon. Inside, the near vertical sides mean when you flatten the back seats you get a huge storage area. It’s Bunter-esque in terms of what it can swallow. In theory this could be for camping gear or wake boards and rock climbing equipmant, but in reality it’ll be for Ikea flatpacks and vast family shops when you’ve blagged a Makro cash-and-carry card.
The interior is noticeably posher than the Tiguan Mk1. Have you noticed how Volkswagen conjures up its own unique version of luxury? Its leathers are premium, the rubbers tactile, the plastics expensive… but somehow it never feels indulgent or excessive. You never feel spoilt. The same kit in a Mercedes or a Jaguar, even in a Peugeot or a Citroën, would make you feel pampered, but in a VW it just seems like good, sensible, solution-based practice. I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing.
A couple of things do, however, feel very swanky. The fully digital dashboard has been pinched from Audi’s TT and can now be configured exactly as your heart desires. There are also a host of clever driver and safety aids to make your time at the wheel less onerous and more secure: pedestrian warning front braking, driver alert and emergency stop, lane departure and side view, 360-degree parking cameras, self-parking with trailer assist… The list is endless. However the one that deserves a shout-out is the “active bonnet”. This is a first for VW. In the awful situation when contact is made with a pedestrian or cyclist, a sensor strip boosts the bonnet upwards by triggering a “pyrotechnic actuator”. This increases the distance between the relatively flexible bonnet and the deathly hard engine, so increasing their chance of survival. Like an iguana leaping to shield you from a tiger attack…