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We hit the road in the top-end R-Line version of the VW Tiguan SUV
125 & 180hp 1.4 TSI
115, 150, 190 & 240hp 2.0 TDI
S, SE, SE Nav, SEL, R-Line
Six-speed manual, six and seven-speed DSG automatic
It's hardly headline-worthy to point out that SUVs and crossovers are popular, but needless to say they are becoming the mainstay of many a manufacturer's range.
Such is the appetite that Volkswagen is now in the midst of a "global SUV product offensive" that will see it launch a barrage of 4x4-style models across several different classes before the end of the decade.
The Tiguan kicked off the expansion when it went on sale in the middle of last year and we've tested the top-spec R-Line model, which trades on its bling, sporting a body kit, 20in alloy wheels, a panoramic roof, and a cabin brandished with R-Line logos and white stitching.
Top of the range - almost
There's no disputing its road presence, and when you factor in the 4Motion four-wheel drive system and seven-speed DSG automatic transmission fitted to our test model, it's virtually as full-fat as the Tiguan gets - save for the most powerful 240hp 2.0 TDI engine (we settled for the 190hp version).
The second most powerful diesel unit is more than sufficient; even with the extra weight of four driven wheels, it'll crack 62mph in 7.9 seconds and has bags of mid-range shove. The DSG gearbox is a truly worthwhile option, too. It's as smooth and easygoing as we've come to expect from VW's autos, but you can always knock it from 'D' to 'S' mode, or switch to manual paddle shifts, and hang onto the gears for a very quick overtake.
If you've ever driven a Golf, then the Tiguan is more of the same ? except bigger. Even with the R-Line's 20in wheels, ride and refinement are still excellent, and smaller rims are likely to make it even comfier. It isn't a sports car, but the engine's power, responsive steering and composed handling make it far sharper than your average SUV.
Real world mpg
If the trip computer is to be believed, we averaged between 40 and 45mpg for the majority of our test, which consisted largely of A-road and motorway driving. Though a vehicle's own readings should generally be taken with a pinch of salt, trips to the petrol station more or less bore this out, which meant the Tiguan frequently inched within 5mpg of its official combined figure.
This is far from the most scientific test, but it vindicates comments from independent economy assessment specialist Emissions Analytics. Speaking to BusinessCar earlier this year, the firm claimed that, the current crop of VW products actually does very well in terms of real-world economy - and name-checked the Tiguan as one of the best.
Flash the cash
Given that the majority of VW's range is offered with the R-Line trim level, it would be mad not to extend the same to the Tiguan, and it wears the flash kit well. However, such kit does not come cheap and our test model added up to £41,225, including the £4,125 of optional extras (the £500 head-up display is a lovely feature if budgets permit it). Top-end trim levels of this nature absolutely have their place within any model range because, though expensive, they're desirable and they make room for more sedate versions further down the line-up.
However, delve deeper into costs and the Tiguan's Achilles' heel is revealed. At 75.7 pence per mile (according to Kwickcarcost), our test model was more expensive than the BMW X1, the Ford Kuga, the Kia Sportage and the Mazda CX-5 in comparable trim and transmission guises.
In the cold light of day, the mid-spec SE Nav model is the shrewd move for any Tiguan destined for life in a fleet. It may lack the R-Line's sports trim, but it includes all-important equipment such as the Discover Media Navigation system, front and rear parking sensors, and cruise and climate control. The starting price of £25,725 is also far lower than the R-Line's initial £32,755, but only £750 more than the standard SE (without nav), while the general rule of thumb for strong residual values is that mid-level specs usually produce the best results.