Volkswagen's third generation Tiguan has been subtly moved up-market but will retain a familiar appeal to hordes of loyal customers who liked this lower-mid-sized SUV's two predecessors. It's been redesigned outside and completely upgraded within. Plus it's more electrified, bigger and better connected.
It's difficult to overstate the importance of the Tiguan to Volkswagen. Since the introduction of this mid-sized SUV model line back in 2007, it's regularly been the brand's global best seller, consistently since 2018 ahead of the Golf hatch it's always borrowed its engineering from. The second generation version announced in 2016 was even more successful than the first, contributing greatly to a sales total that had crested 7.5 million by the time of the introduction of the third generation model we look at here in Autumn 2023. This rejuvenated design shares its general size and market positioning with its predecessor (just above the T-Roc, just below the Touareg); but not a lot else. The evolved exterior look is merely a prelude to a completely redesigned cabin which borrows much from the design revolution also seen in the latest Passat (with which this Tiguan now shares its upgraded MQB-Evo platform). Infotainment's also on a different level from before, borrowing lessons learned from the ID.7. It all sounds quite promising.
Probably the most familiar part of this third generation Tiguan is what lies beneath its bonnet. But lots of work has gone in here too. Volkswagen may not be developing any completely new combustion engines, but it's still spending lots of time refettling the old ones. Both the 2.0-litre TSI petrol units (201bhp and 261bhp) and the 2.0-litre TDI diesels (148bhp and 190bhp) feature updates, the more powerful variants in each case getting the company's usual 4MOTION 4WD system. Below these, the brand has slotted in new mild hybrid 1.5 litre front-driven eTSI petrol models at the affordable end of the range (choose from 129bhp or 148bhp outputs). That eTSI 1.5-litre unit makes another appearance as part of this rejuvenated Tiguan's Plug-in Hybrid powertrain. Which has had its EV range extended with a new 19.7kWh battery claimed to be able to take the car up to 62 miles without troubling fossil fuel. The eHybrid models in question both use this battery allied to a 113bhp electric motor driving only the front wheels and there's the choice of two versions, one offering 201bhp, the other 268bhp. As before, PHEV Tiguans use a 6-speed DSG auto gearbox - in contrast to the 7-speed DSG auto transmission that all other Tiguans must now have. Well almost all: we expect an all-electric ID.Tiguan model later in production, but VW hasn't confirmed that yet. There will almost certainly be a high performance Tiguan R model too, using the latest 315bhp version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol turbo unit found in the Golf R. Across the range, Volkswagen wants this to ride like a more luxurious car, so has re-worked the MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension set-up with new dampers and revised anti-roll bars. A lot of work's also been put into the optional adaptive damping system as part of a new Dynamic Chassis Control Pro set-up. This controls the electronic differential locks and also includes a Vehicle Dynamics Manager system from the Golf GTI which allows the driver to alter damping feel across a choice of fifteen settings.
This third generation Tiguan is a recognisable evolution of its popular predecessor but it wants to move a fraction further up-market, hence Volkswagen's decision to make it 30mm longer than before (it's also 4mm taller). Talking of length, there won't be an extended 7-seat Allspace version offered this time round because the brand plans to fill that niche with yet another SUV, the Tayron. This Tiguan's side profile is now more athletic, but the main changes are found at the front, with smart new LED headlights and a vast shark-like lower grille arrangement. The big differences this time round though, lie inside where there's a completely redesigned cabin that's more spacious, better quality and more sophisticated. All the screen stuff is based on the new VW Group MIB4 set-up we first saw in the ID.7, a major step forward from the MIB3 system that's attracted much criticism in the current Golf. The parts of that old system that featured on the previous Tiguan have been addressed here. So controls are now properly back-lit and the previous silly touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons banished. A 10.3-inch digital instrument display is now standard, paired alongside a central infotainment touchscreen that will usually be 12.9-inches but can be upgraded to a rather over-large 15.0-inch size on request. Because there are now no manual gearbox Tiguans (the transmission selector has been relocated to a steering column stalk), the centre console has been redesigned. It now hosts a rotary controller used to alter driving modes, audio volume and what Volkswagen calls 'atmospheres', basically pre-programmed settings for music and ambient lighting: there are five major ones - 'Lounge', 'Energetic', 'Joy', 'Minimal' and 'Me'. There's also a dual phone charging station and a head-up display that projects directly onto the windscreen (instead of onto a plastic panel as before). As for the rear, well despite the outside length increase, back seat legroom hasn't changed much because the wheelbase length is the same as before. But there is 10mm more headroom; and a clever new mechanism in the armrest that pops out to reveal a couple of cup holder spaces and a slot to rest your phone. The panel can be angled towards either rear occupant too. Out back, there's been a 37-litre increase in boot space (now up to a generous 652-litres), though it'll be quite a bit less than that with the PHEV versions.
Expect pricing to sit in the £35,000-£50,000 bracket, which is pretty par for the course when it comes to upwardly mobile lower-mid-sized SUVs these days. There's a choice of four trim levels - standard spec, 'Life', 'Elegance' and 'R-Line' variants. Even base spec gives you 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control and a rear view camera. Plus a 10.3-inch digital instrument display and a 12.9-inch central infotainment touchscreen. And there's the usual included app that allows you to interact with your Tiguan from wherever you're using your smartphone. With 'Life' trim, you get 3-zone climate control, 'comfort'-spec seats, different alloy wheels, a Park Assist system, auto main beam, adaptive cruise control and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. If you want to spoil yourself, you'll want to look at mid-level 'Elegance' spec, which gets you larger 18-inch wheels, acoustic glass, a powered tailgate, LED Plus headlights and a 'Park Assist Pro' system that will record the last 50-metres of your journey and retrace your steps automatically. At the top of the range, 'R-Line' models get 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and a sporty body kit. Key options include a head-up display and DCC adaptive damping. Safety kit includes a clever 'Automatic Post-Collision Braking System' that automatically brakes the car down to 6mph after a collision - so if, say, someone hits you and, understandably, you go to pieces, the car will automatically sort itself out. There's also a 'Front Assist' system that at speed, scans the road ahead as you drive for potential accident hazards, warning you if one is detected and automatically braking if necessary. You get that same kind of functionality at urban speeds too, as part of a 'City Emergency Braking' system included as part of the 'Front Assist' package.
The economy figures aren't too much different from before. Which means that if you opt for the base eTSI petrol 1.5-litre petrol variants, you're looking at about 45mpg on the combined cycle and about 140g/km of CO2. The base 2.0 TDI diesel improves that to around 55mpg and around 135g/km. As we told you in our 'Driving' section, the eHybrid PHEV models are capable of around 62 miles of range before you need to use fossil fuel. Volkswagen reckons that will allow many families to use this car as an EV, given German market research suggesting that 95% of journeys are less than 31 miles long and 99% are shorter than 62 miles. As for servicing across the range, well as usual with Volkswagen models, there's a choice of either 'Fixed' or 'Flexible' maintenance packages. You'll choose the 'Fixed' approach if you cover less than 10,000 miles a year and with this, the car will typically be looked at every twelve months. If your daily commute is more than 25 miles and your Tiguan will regularly be driven on longer distance journeys, you'll be able to work with a 'Flexible' regime that can see you travelling up to 18,000 miles between garage visits - or every two years, whichever is sooner. And warranties? Well the standard package is three years and 60,000 miles.
The Tiguan has evolved - but not beyond recognition. If you liked it before, you'll like it even more now, with its newly chiselled looks and more advanced powertrain selection. The redesigned cabin we think is key: the previous model's interior couldn't really carry off a price tag north the £40,000. With this third generation model, that had to change - and it has. Also key are the advances made to this model's Plug-in Hybrid option. Previously, a Tiguan eHybrid's all-electric range was little more than a nice-to-have bonus. Now though, for many family customers, the PHEV version of this car really could function pretty much like a full-EV most of the time. So this is a cleverer type of Tiguan, as it needs to be for the likely prices being asked. These might suggest a mid-sized SUV with a more premium badge. But there's no doubt that this one now has more of a premium feel.