You may be wondering why Volkswagen is launching a new Tiguan with a choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines at a time when the rush to electric vehicles seems unstoppable.
Similarly, you could say that VW already sells the fully electric ID.4 and ID.5 SUVs, both of which can theoretically manage 300 miles per charge if you buy one with a bigger battery. If we all have to buy electric, why the new Tiguan?
Well, the simple answer is that the Tiguan is currently Volkswagen’s best seller worldwide, having taken over the mantle from the immortal Golf hatchback. VW would be shooting itself in the foot as a company if it didn’t chase buyers still interested in combustion power.
Bad transition to electric power
Then there is the fact that the transition to electric motoring does not follow a smooth, predictable curve. Sales of electric cars in December fell 34 percent, while sales of diesel — the smelling salt — rose 12 percent. That doesn’t mean electric car sales are slowing down, nor that diesel sales will be revived for a long time, but it does mean that there are customers who are not yet ready for the transition to fully electric cars.
Having said all that, the new Tiguan can, indeed, be an electric car for most of its life if you opt for the new e-Hybrid model. This plug-in hybrid comes in two versions – with 201bhp or 258bhp – and both get a boosted 19kWh battery (up from the Tiguan e-Hybrid’s previous power capacity of 10kWh). This means an even more impressive electric range on a full charge of up to 62 miles.
In fact, it can be more than that when it comes to the official test of efficiency. Volkswagen estimates that the final WLTP figure could be closer to 75 miles of electric range, but the company’s engineers are being reasonably cautious, and reckon that 62 miles is the most realistic figure that buyers can expect.
Kudos to managing expectations
It certainly seems to be true. Our Tiguan e-Hybrid test car, a 201bhp model, showed that it could manage around 26 miles of electric driving after using 42 per cent of its charge. Not bad, that.
VW research suggests that 99 percent of average drivers’ trips are less than 62 miles, so there is at least the possibility – with care and attention to maintaining the charge – for this Tiguan to use electric power most of the time.
It’s easier to charge than ever, too. Using AC power (such as at home or on the go) means charging up to 11kW — up from as little as 3.7kW for the previous model, resulting in longer charging times, even with smaller batteries.
Even better, there’s now the ability to fast charge at a DC charging station up to 50kW, getting you back up to 80 percent full in about 25 minutes.
That’s still 25 minutes where any pure electric car driver in the area will fill your ears with innovation, by setting up their public “charge” points, but still… you’ll be faster than before, and really that’s the point of access to the charger more than anything.
It’s just a pity that the new Tiguan doesn’t look better. There has been an attempt to make the family look like the VW ID.4 around the headlights and nose, but the large front grille makes it look like Batman is trying to wear Bono’s round sunglasses. Aesthetic appeal is subjective but in my eyes, it’s not an improvement over the previous Tiguan, which had a nice chiselled look.
High quality cabin
No such complaints about the interior. Critics and customers alike have been giving Volkswagen hell in recent years over the quality of its cabins (the Golf 8 and ID.3 in particular) and the usefulness of its infotainment screens; some have hated it but most agree the user experience has been less than satisfactory. The updated ID.3 is much better and most would agree that the Tiguan’s cabin can be considered the answer to such complaints.
Quality standards seem to be very high, dating back to the old days of the Mk5 Golf and the sixth-generation Passat. Although there are cheap plastics available in the rear cabin, up front everything looks and feels very nice.
Also, we can’t complain about the storage space, and there are now two wireless phone chargers – they’re cooled so your phone doesn’t heat up to constant temperatures and destroy its battery. Why isn’t this standard on all wireless chargers?
In the back, there’s more than enough legroom and headroom for even taller adults or teenagers, but the boot in this hybrid version, at 490 litres, is less useful than the 652 liters handled by diesel or petrol Tiguans.
Ahead of the driver is a well-defined 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, while in the center of the dash is a new touchscreen. It measures a whopping 12.9 inches diagonally as standard, or 15 inches as an option. At that size, it’s almost too high in the cabin and takes up a lot of acreage beside the steering wheel. But most buyers will believe bigger is better when it comes to screen size.
The arrival of AI
And as touched on above, the Tiguan’s infotainment system has better software. VW’s user experience team claims to have gone back to the drawing board when developing this new ‘MIB4’ software and the hardware it lives on. The result is success, with faster response times and a more logical menu layout.
Keeping the weather controls always visible on the screen helps, as do the customizable shortcut icons at the top. The fiddly ‘slider’ controls for heating and stereo volume, below the screen, remain but at least they light up at night now.
There are also new physical controls in the form of a rotary switch on the center console. This is fantastic, and controls the stereo volume and selectable drive modes, as well as a new function called “Atmosphere”.
This cool feature changes the cabin’s lighting, temperature and stereo settings to presets like “Living Room” or “Happy”, which are meant to wow or soothe you, depending on your mood. It’s hard to see a good use for any of these, but at least your kids will play with it a few times before they get bored.
When they start crawling on the side panels, children can ask the Tiguan’s “machine learning” computer to keep them entertained. Volkswagen is rolling out ChatGPT’s production AI for its cars, and the Tiguan is one of the first to get it.
It is included in the Ida voice control, but it is for entertainment purposes only and does not control any of the car’s systems. VW also assured us that any data provided using ChatGPT is completely de-identified, and any questions you ask are deleted as soon as they are answered.
Honestly, getting answers to anything was a disjointed process, often leading to the usual “Sorry, I’m not meant for that” responses, delivered in a flat, unpleasant robotic voice. Alan Turing’s experiments have not yet been passed at this point however.
Comfortable, but not fun
More important is how the Tiguan likes to drive. The answer is okay, but not fun. It’s a big car now, 60mm longer than before (hence that ample back seat space) and weighs around 1,900kg in hybrid form.
That means performance, even with 201bhp and 258lb ft of torque on tap, is more consistent than the OMG. It spins well, with good refinement (finally, no terrible tire noise) and a feeling of satisfying lightness. But the tight corners create a bit of body roll, even with the optional DCC Pro fluids and their twin-valve technology.
Then again, good steering means you can keep that big chin (the car’s, not yours…) in a corner well enough. Switching to Game Mode helps a bit, too.
Drop it down to Comfort and hit the road, and the Tiguan has real quality. Those front seats, lifted directly from the larger Touareg, are very comfortable (with optional heating, cooling and massage) and with a decent enough ride quality (except when having to deal with short, sharp bumps) the Tiguan eats up time. tall without a problem. trip
The E-Hybrid should be good at doing that, as Volkswagen reckons a full tank and a fully charged battery will get you 500 miles down the stretch (400-ish is the actual figure).
Meanwhile the simple 2-litre 148bhp turbodiesel will easily manage 500 miles anywhere and stretch to 600 miles if you’re careful, with economy topping out at 53mpg on average.
better bet than ID.4?
None of this will be cheap, though. If you want the base 128bhp 1.5 petrol Tiguan, it will cost £34,060 – a price that will have local Hyundai and Kia dealers smacking their lips in anticipation of a sales win.
R-Line models start at £39,680 and an e-Hybrid like this, in R-Line specification, will probably be closer to £45,000. PHEVs from other brands offer better value, albeit only in electric range.
Therefore, you should buy a hybrid (or even – shock – diesel) Tiguan instead of electric ID.4? It depends, as always, on how and where you drive and if you have a driveway where you can charge at night. If you can, and want the flexibility of long journeys that liquid fuel allows, then the Tiguan e-Hybrid is worth a look, and still offers the ability to cover most journeys on electric power.
That you will do it with great comfort, and interesting actions act as icing and cherry. The powertrain will, of course, be bumpy but this Tiguan e-Hybrid can smooth some of those bumps a bit.