VW Tiguan: 3,746 miles

FIRST REPORT: We’re still finding our way with compact SUV. Can it make up for kit shortfall with other talents?

  • While I’m not a big fan of electronic parking brakes, I am growing to love the Tiguan’s auto hold function. A push of the button (pictured) and it stops the 4x4 rolling backwards on inclines, making pulling away easy. I’m warming to the rest of the system, too – as there’s no handbrake lever, the centre console is simple and there’s space for a decent-sized storage cubby.
  • I like the touchscreen stereo (pictured) that’s standard on the VW, but the CD changer is fiddly to use. It’s not the end of the world, though, as the car also has an auxiliary input for MP3 players – so you can listen to your own music without the need to cart around a load of CD cases.

I’m mapping out the months ahead in one of the newest additions to the Auto Express fleet – but it’s harder work than I’m used to! Why? Because I’m having to do it the old-fashioned way!

After waving a sad farewell to my much loved but sometimes impractical Audi A3 Cabriolet, I’m already making myself comfortable behind the wheel of our long-term Volkswagen Tiguan compact SUV. And I’m hoping the 2.0 TDI SE will prove to be a little more economical and a lot more versatile than its predecessor in my hands.

Since taking the keys to OY58 SDO, though, I’ve been reminded of the old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. There are two features absent from the VW that I’ve come to regard as must-have items: sat-nav and a Bluetooth phone connection.

As a road tester, I spend hours behind the wheel, invariably travelling on unfamiliar roads, so both are big omissions for me. One of my first trips in the Tiguan was to Colchester, Essex, where I was trying to find an address with the aid of printed directions. It was a nightmare – and made me realise how much I usually rely on sat-nav.

Having never been to the ancient town before, I was totally bemused by the volume and variety of roundabouts – including one massive junction made up of several mini-roundabouts. Trying to read my instructions and decide which exit I needed to take was incredibly stressful. I was desperate for a soothing voice to tell me where to go!  

What’s more, if the car had been equipped with Bluetooth, I could have avoided the whole scenario by safely calling my colleague to find out exactly where I should be heading. The hi-tech options can be specified for £1,585 and £465 respectively. While that sounds expensive, it’s worth the investment if you spend as much time driving as I do.  

In other respects, the VW has impressed – and given its shape, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a hugely capable workhorse. Over the recent bank holiday weekends, it has made numerous trips to the local tip and several visits to DIY stores. The rear seat folding mechanism is great – you can drop them into a flat position with one hand for hassle-free loading. The seats are rather heavy, though, so putting them up is less easy.

While I’ve been pining for the gadgets my old Audi had, the VW isn’t totally bereft of toys. There’s an in-dash CD changer – although it’s fiddly to use – plus an auxiliary input for plugging in an iPod. It also has the £1,480 leather upholstery option, which includes heated front seats, with electric adjustment on the driver’s.

In addition, I really like the Tiguan’s raised seating position. It certainly makes taking my parents out a lot easier than it was in the Audi. They love the smooth ride and the comfort the VW affords, while my mum, whose long legs normally pose a problem, is very appreciative of the generous rear space.

As for me? Well, it’s been a bit of a shock returning to a manual gearbox after the A3 Convertible’s twin-clutch S tronic set-up, especially on my congested daily commute. But the Tiguan’s light six-speed shift is good to use.

What hasn’t impressed so much is the shortage of low-down torque from the diesel. The 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine delivers 320Nm of urge, and is fine on the move, but I’ve stalled several times when creeping out of junctions or joining roundabouts in second gear. I’ll let you know if I get used to this.

While it’s still early days, I’m in two minds about the Tiguan so far. It is really practical and comfortable, but looks rather expensive considering the lack of essential gadgets. I’m keen to see if the positives outweigh the negatives in the months ahead.

Second Opinion

The thing that strikes me about the Tiguan is just how compact it feels from behind the wheel – it’s more like a small family car than an SUV. Get out the tape measure and it is longer than a regular Golf, although you don’t really feel the benefit inside, as the cabin doesn’t seem to offer much more space than the hatchback. Where it scores is on practicality, because unlike the Golf, the rear seats fold completely flat to leave a very useful load area.

Ross Pinnock Road test editor

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