Volkswagen has updated the VW Tiguan SUV with revised styling, upgraded infotainment, hybrid technology and cleaner engines. The styling changes are very much a subtle nip and tuck, rather than anything extensive.

The diesel engines have been enhanced with ‘twin-dosing’ selective catalytic converters. The exhaust has two converters in sequence to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. This change helps the engines achieve the tough RDE2 test standard.

We’re testing the 2.0 TDI 150PS 4Motion Elegance with a DSG auto. It’s a combination that’s well suited to towing, with plentiful pull from the diesel engine and a 2500kg legal towing limit.

What are we looking for?

A well-designed and roomy family car
A well-designed and roomy family car

The Tiguan has been one of our favourite family SUVs since this generation arrived in 2016. Given that any mechanical changes are slight, there’s no reason to expect VW to have dropped the ball with this update. But has it improved on a winning formula?

Towing ability

Even with the panoramic sunroof that's standard on the Elegance model, there's plenty of headroom up front
Even with the panoramic sunroof that’s standard on the Elegance model, there’s plenty of headroom up front

In diesel 4Motion guise as tested here, the Tiguan has a kerbweight of 1715kg. That’s about what you’d expect of a 4×4 of this size, and gives an 85% match figure of 1458kg. That’s well within the excellent 2500kg towing limit. We wouldn’t advise even an experienced tow car driver to tow a caravan weighing more than the car’s kerbweight, but such a huge legal maximum suggests the engine and gearbox should cope well with towing.

Limited stock at caravan dealers up and down the country, combined with Covid-19 restrictions, meant that we matched the VW to our long-term-loan Bailey Discovery D4-4. We ballasted the caravan close to its MTPLM of 1206kg.

Pulling what is a relatively light van, it’s no surprise that the Tiguan gets up to speed easily. The engine has 266lb ft of torque, more than enough to handle the Bailey. Indeed, a mild-sized tourer should pose no problems.

Holding 60mph on the motorway is also straightforward, with the seven-speed duo sometimes in sixth rather than seventh on a gradient or into a headwind, but still pulling less than 2000rpm.

We’ve come to expect excellent stability from the Tiguan, both in carrying out aggressive test-track manoeuvres and in regular towing on public roads. The latest model doesn’t disappoint. It’s a reassuring, relaxing car to tow with on the motorway, exhibiting only the slightest of movements when overtaking high-sided vehicles.

If this were the first time we’d towed with a Tiguan, we might wonder if that stability was due to the Bailey’s small size and low weight. But past experience with heavier vans makes us confident the VW can handle a caravan weighing 85% of its kerbweight and still be very stable.

Turn off the motorway onto hillier roads, and it can be worth switching the gearbox from ‘drive’ to ‘sport’. Otherwise the DSG can be a little slow to swap to a lower ratio to hold speed uphill. In either mode, the gear changes are extremely smooth.

If you do need to stop on a hill, you’ll have no trouble getting started again. The electronic parking brake holds both car and caravan still and releases smoothly when the driver pulls away.

With so much pulling power available, an automatic gearbox, and the 4Motion four-wheel-drive system, greasy roads don’t pose a problem. That same four-wheel drive will come in handy if you’re staying on a grassy pitch in wet weather.

The towbar deploys at the push of a button, although it needs to be locked into place by hand
The towbar deploys at the push of a button, although it needs to be locked into place by hand

At low speeds, the Tiguan is easy to manoeuvre, with the DSG gearbox allowing the car to creep smoothly and controllably. The rear-view camera, standard on cars in Elegance spec, is a definite source of help when hitching up.

The towbar deploys at the push of a button, although it needs to be locked into place by hand. The 13-pin electrical socket is set into the side of the towbar, well clear of the bumper, so slotting the plug home is easy. We also found it straightforward to attach the towing mirrors (we used Milenco Grand Aeros), which isn’t always the case with the heavily bevelled mirror of some modern cars.

Solo driving

We found the updated infotainment system a little fiddly to use
We found the updated infotainment system a little fiddly to use

In terms of the way it drives, Volkswagen has taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the updated Tiguan. That’s no bad thing, as the car drives very well.

We prefer the standard suspension set-up of the Elegance to the firmer suspension of the sporty R-Line we’ve tested in the past, which makes the ride too stiff for comfort.

With its 19-inch alloys, our Elegance spec test car still clouts sharp-edged obstacles around town, but it smooths out as speed increases, to provide a nicely judged balance between comfort and control.

The steering is light enough for easy parking, but precise on a country road, so it’s simple to place the VW Tiguan exactly where you want it. So long as you don’t expect this SUV to handle with the agility of a hot hatch, you’ll find it a rewarding drive.

The latest version of the familiar 2.0-litre diesel engine does a predictably fine job. It’s a little clattery when cold, but there can be no arguing with the performance it delivers.

Space and practicality

There's lots of boot space, at 615 litres, folding the seats is quick using levers either side of the tailgate, and the boot floor is flush with the tailgate opening for easy loading
There’s lots of boot space, at 615 litres, folding the seats is quick using levers either side of the tailgate, and the boot floor is flush with the tailgate opening for easy loading

The Tiguan is a well-designed and roomy family car, although we do have some reservations about the latest changes.

We found the newly updated infotainment system a little fiddly, although wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto does allow for smartphone mirroring without plugging in. We’re also disappointed by the awkward controls for the air-con – small touch-sensitive pads, rather than rotary controls or physical buttons to be pressed.

These concerns aside, there’s still a lot to like in the Tiguan. Drivers of all shapes and sizes should be comfortable, with a good range of adjustment for seat and wheel. Both front seats have lumbar adjustment.

Even with the panoramic sunroof that’s standard on the Elegance model, there’s plenty of headroom in the front.

Those in the back also have plenty of room, enough for adults to travel without feeling cramped. In addition, they get the benefit of their own air-con controls, as well as vents located between the front seats.

Two will be more comfortable than three in the back; the transmission tunnel gets in the way of the middle passenger's feet
Two will be more comfortable than three in the back; the transmission tunnel gets in the way of the middle passenger’s feet

USB and 12V sockets below the air vents will keep tablets and mobiles fully charged while you’re on the move.

However, two passengers will be more comfortable than three in the back – the transmission tunnel gets in the way of the middle passenger’s feet.

The rear seats slide back and forth to juggle legroom or boot space, and will recline if anyone fancies a snooze.

There’s lots of boot space, at 615 litres. That beats plenty of estate cars. Folding the seats is quick using levers either side of the tailgate, and the boot floor is flush with the tailgate opening, which makes it easy to load heavy and bulky items.

Buying and owning

The Tiguan is relatively pricey. The equivalent Škoda Kodiaq, for example, is a few hundred pounds less, despite having seven seats rather than five.

However, research by What Car? suggests it shouldn’t be difficult to knock around £2000 from the list price if you haggle.

Running costs are low by SUV standards. Insurance premiums should be affordable, as the car sits in group 22 of 50. On the official combined cycle, it achieves 42.8-44.1mpg, and we saw 28.9mpg while towing.

The Elegance spec includes lots of equipment provided as standard, including three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, digital display, sat nav with an eight-inch touchscreen, and a three-year subscription to the manufacturers ‘We Connect Plus’ digital services.

There’s a tyre repair kit as the standard provision in case of a puncture, but a space-saver   spare or full-size spare are also available as options for £215.

When the time comes to sell the car on, resale values are likely to be strong.

How much will it cost on finance?

Leasecar.uk offers the Tiguan 2.0 TDI 150PS 4Motion Elegance DSG for £475.60 per month. That’s over three years, with an up-front bill equivalent to three monthly payments. The mileage allowance is 10,000 per year. Maintenance can be included for an extra £17.91 per month. Extending the deal over four years drops the monthly cost to £435.23.

Verdict

The VW Tiguan may be a little pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for
The VW Tiguan may be a little pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for

The VW Tiguan makes a very good tow car. Perhaps it’s a little pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Stability is the cornerstone of the best tow cars, and the Tiguan is very stable indeed. It fills the driver with confidence at 60mph, with only the slightest tugging at the back when you’re overtaking an HGV.

The Tiguan is also clearly at home towing in all sorts of conditions. On lumpy country roads, the combination of firmly controlled suspension and the punchy diesel engine makes for assured progress.

Without the weight of a caravan behind it, the VW continues to impress. It’s comfortable and quiet at speed, although the big alloy wheels do pick up some road noise. On B-roads, the Tiguan handles better than most rivals – despite being an SUV, the car doesn’t feel top-heavy, cornering neatly and precisely.

Inside, we question whether the revised dashboard is an improvement. In our book, conventional buttons and rotary controls are much easier to use on the move. However, in terms of space and practicality, the Tiguan is among the best five-seaters at this price point. Boot space in particular is very impressive, and makes the VW a good option for caravanners who tend to overpack.

Elegance comes well-equipped, so there’s little need to dip into the options list for anything more than the towball and electrics. Overall, the revisions feel like two steps forward, one step back. We could take or leave the changes in the cabin, but cleaner diesels are welcome.

If you liked this… READ THESE:

Audi Q3 towcar review

Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD SE

Six of the best luxury SUV tow cars

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.