The newly redesigned and roomier Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace is a weirdly named, but worthy rival to the Skoda Kodiaq, says Charles Rangely-Wilson.
Last year, I was bowled over by Skoda’s first SUV, the Kodiaq. Named after the island and its bears, the Kodiaq was, so the Czech car-makers claimed, large, powerful, protective of its family and good across rough terrain. Get it? Like a bear! Although, happily, not even slightly short-tempered, short-sighted or with a penchant for salmon. Such was the big Skoda’s blend of innovation and competence, I don’t suppose it would have mattered what they called it – the Ducq, the Yaq – the car would still have sold like hot caqes.
Although the Skoda was technically an SUV and thus a rival to snazzier motors with pedigree – the Audi Q7, the Land Rover Discovery – it was also, I felt, a subtly unique proposition, lightweight and car-like to drive, but with a cavernous interior perfect for mucky dogs, beach balls and 10 tons of shopping.
When Volkswagen (VW) launched the Tiguan Allspace a few months later, I was more than keen to try the friendly bear’s most obvious rival, even if Tiguan is a weirder nomen-clature: a blend of tiger and iguana, it conjures a less obvious set of epithets. Likes to hang out in trees? Eats goats? Never mind. The car is an intriguing alternative to the Skoda – it’s also spacious, easy to drive, an SUV, but not as we know it, Jim.
The Tiguan has been VW’s junior SUV for a decade or more, but not until now in a seven-seat incarnation. Now, its chassis has been lengthened by 11cm (4in), enough to create an agreeable chunk of extra legroom behind the driver and a sense of space throughout. As with the Skoda, the rear seats can also be tilted back, easing the strain of long journeys for taller passengers.
Having built the car to take a third row of seats, my view is that VW should have left them out and launched a usefully capacious car-like SUV. If you have a tribe of youngsters, you may think differently, but the Tiguan’s extra seats – described by VW as occasional – contrive to shrink the boot space even when flat, perhaps subtracting something more useful than what they add. The Skoda’s boot floor, by contrast, remains helpfully flat when the extra row is folded away.
Elsewhere, the VW’s interior does, of course, possess more pizzazz – it’s also a much nicer place to sit than any of its Japanese semi-rivals, such the Nissan X-Trail. Frugally functional, as is the Kodiaq, the plastics, the upholstery, the switch-gear, fixtures and fittings nevertheless give the Tiguan a more luxurious feel. In SEL trim, with ambient lighting and kinky seats that massage you, the spacious people’s wagon is positively luxe, calme et volupté.
To drive, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about, even if there’s nothing much to write home about either. The Tiguan has light, neutral steering and a ride that strikes a good compromise between control and comfort. There’s a less powerful and a more powerful version of the 190bhp engine that I tried, but I liked what I was given. Mated to a DSG gearbox, the car rowed along nicely, was quiet once on the move and returned a real-world 41mpg.
Which of these should one take, as Shakespeare’s Edmund infamously asked himself? The bear or the lizard-cat? Extra luggage or premium economy? Both are very good. It may simply come down to how large and messy your dog is.
On the road: Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 2.0 TDI 4MOTION 190PS DSG
Priced: From £36,155
Combined fuel consumption: 48mpg (41mpg as driven)
Top speed: 130mph
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