Volkswagen sold around four times as many Tiguans in 2015 as it did in 2008, when the car was launched. It’s a sign of the car’s popularity, but also underlines what a huge part of the car market crossovers and SUVs have become.

Now there’s a new Tiguan to pick up where the old one left off. On paper it’s a straight replacement for the original, but it’s a noticeably bigger car. There’s a broader choice of engines, too, promising more power and better economy. The second-generation Tiguan also has strong credentials as a tow car.

Go for the 2.0-litre 150PS (148bhp) diesel, expected to be the most popular of the seven available engines, and it’s reasonably heavy. Even two-wheel drive manual models have kerbweights starting from 1615kg, giving an 85% match figure of 1373kg. The legal towing limit is 1800kg, and the maximum download on the towball is 100kg. 

The rest of the engine range is made up of three petrol engines with 125PS, 150PS and 180PS, and three other diesels, with 115PS, 190PS and 240PS.

VW says only a quarter of customers will go for a two-wheel-drive model, with most opting for the extra traction of one of the 4Motion four-wheel-drive variants.

As well as coping better with slippery roads and muddy campsites, the 4Motion is also that bit heavier, which makes for more favourable matching ratios. Volkswagen quotes a surprisingly wide range of kerbweights from 1673kg to 1917kg for the 150PS diesel 4Motion with the DSG automatic transmission. Playing it safe and using the minimum weight gives an 85% figure of 1422kg. The legal towing limit is 2500kg.

We took a drive in a manual two-wheel-drive and a DSG 4Motion, both with the 150PS diesel engine. The two cars drove well, although the two-wheel drive felt slightly lighter on its feet. It smoothed bumps in the road a bit better, too, perhaps because of its 18-inch alloy wheels rather than the 19-inch wheels fitted to the 4Motion we tried. 

The steering is light but precise and the Tiguan corners neatly, with lean kept well in check by SUV standards. It’s not desperately exciting, but it is thoroughly capable.

The 150PS engine is familiar from the Golf, the Passat, and many other VW Group cars. It only begins to sound strained at high revs and, with 251lb ft of torque from 1750rpm to 3000rpm, there’s really little need to head close to the redline. It’s economical, too, according to the official figures. The two-wheel-drive manual achieves 57.6mpg on the combined cycle, while the 4Motion DSG returns 49.6mpg. 

At motorway speeds the engine noise is little more than a background murmur, and wind noise is minimal. Some road noise makes its way into the cabin, but overall the VW is a quiet and refined car.

Inside, the new Tiguan is much better than the old, both in terms of the design and finish, and the interior space on offer. The dashboard is topped with soft-touch plastics, although the finish isn’t quite as plush on the lower parts of the doors. Even so, it’s much more inviting than the old car.

It’s easy to get comfortable in the driving seat, with the pedals and steering wheel well positioned and with plenty of adjustment. There’s lots of storage space, too, with very generous door bins.

In the back, the improvement compared with the old car is even more noticeable. Volkswagen says there’s 29mm more kneeroom (just over an inch). That means there’s enough room for a passenger of well over six feet tall to comfortably sit behind an equally lofty driver.

The seat slides back and forth on runners, to trade some legroom for more luggage space, and the rear seats have a reclined setting as well as a more upright position.

Boot space has improved, too. There’s 520 to 615 litres, depending on the position of those sliding and tipping rear seats. Levers either side of the tailgate fold the seats down to give a maximum load capacity of 1655 litres. 

There are five levels of specification, with the mid-spec SE Navigation trim predicted to be most popular. As this name suggests, this comes with sat-nav as standard, displayed through an eight-inch colour touchscreen. Buyers also receive a three-year subscription to ‘Car Net Guide and Inform’, which links the car to a compatible mobile device and can display traffic information, parking space availability, weather forecasts and more through the touchscreen.

Three-zone climate control (with separate temperature controls for the back of the car as well as the driver and front-seat passenger), cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, roof rails and a wide range of safety kit is also included in the price. VW’s Trailer Assist system, which helps drivers reverse when hooked up to a caravan or trailer by steering for them, costs £800. 

Prices start from £22,510, rising to £36,375 for the top-spec 240PS diesel. That looks a bit stiff compared with the competition. The 150PS 4Motion SE Navigation manual costs £29,745, which is only £50 less than a top-spec Mazda CX-5 manual with its much more powerful engine.

So, it’s not cheap, but this is a quality car. It would be a surprise if the new VW Tiguan didn’t prove at least as popular as its predecessor.