The Volkswagen Tiguan may have been on sale in the UK since way back in 2008, but sales of this scaled down SUV are still on the rise, as its small size and 4×4 styling continue to win many fans.

The compact off-roader class might be hugely competitive, with the Tiguan competing against countless rivals including the Nissan Qashqai, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V to name a few, but this car has proven popular thanks to the wide range of models available and its practical interior.

Buyers can choose between petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes and two and four-wheel drive versions. Prices start at just over £22,000, rising to £31,650 for the top-of-the-range model.

What is it?

The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s compact off-roader, which puts the focus on on-road comfort over off-road ability – though Escape models offer greater all-terrain capabilities with four-wheel drive as standard and an off-road mode.

We’ve tested the popular 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel version with four-wheel drive in range-topping R-Line trim, which costs a substantial £28,750. Standard equipment on this model includes two-zone air conditioning, a five-inch touchscreen sat nav system, a digital radio, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and wipers, parking sensors front and rear and sliding and reclining rear seats.

R-Line specification also adds sports suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights that swivel as you turn the wheel, a racy body kit and front sports seats.

What is it like to drive?

The standard Tiguan puts the emphasis firmly on comfort over sharp handling, but our test model came with R-Line sports suspension, which firms things up somewhat, along with Volkswagen’s optional ‘Dynamic Chassis Control’ which lets drivers choose between comfort, normal and sport modes.

Despite big wheels and sporty looks, the R-Line Tiguan is relatively comfortable on the road. The sports suspension does make it feel a little firm on rough Tarmac, but it is still more than smooth enough for most buyers. The sports seats are less impressive, though, not offering as much side or back support as they could do.

The steering is surprisingly heavy for this kind of car and weights up further if you choose sport mode. The firmer suspension gives the driver a reasonable amount of confidence around corners with little in the way of body roll, though the steering doesn’t provide much feedback. The clutch in our test car also took a little getting used to, with a very high biting point, while we found the gearbox a little notchy compared to some rivals.

Refinement levels, however, are high, with the diesel engine proving very smooth, with little engine noise and few vibrations making their way through to the cabin. It also offers an adequate amount of power, with the four-wheel drive system providing very good traction. The Tiguan also features a handy auto hold function for the handbrake, with the car holding itself at a standstill at traffic lights, for instance, before you pull off. It’s a simple device, but makes hill starts a breeze.

Visibility could be better, with oversized rear pillars making checking for vehicles in your blind spot more tricky than it should be. As a result, the optional reversing camera fitted to our test car came in handy when manoeuvring.

What is it like inside?

It’s on the inside where the Tiguan’s age becomes more obvious. Even in upmarket R-Line trim, the dashboard is more utilitarian than luxurious, and looks quite dated. Most of the controls are within easy reach, though, with the media system screen and air conditioning dials all coming easily to hand while behind the wheel.

The five-inch screen for the media system is very small, though, compared to more modern media systems in other Volkswagens, such as the Golf. Some of the materials do also feel a little cheap, considering that our test car cost nearly £30,000. In an attempt to spruce up the R-Line’s cabin VW has added a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Is it practical?

The Tiguan is usefully practical considering that it isn’t the biggest car in its class, with more than enough space in the front and rear seats for most passengers. There’s plenty of room for those in the front, with an upright off-roader style driving position for the driver and loads of head and leg room for passengers in the rear seats. The middle rear seat is also comfortable enough for adults.

The rear seats tilt and slide too, meaning that you can choose between maximising the size of the boot and space in the rear. Even with the seats in their normal position, the level of space in the boot is more than generous – and that’s with a spare tyre under the boot floor.

Should I buy one?

The Tiguan is an appealing compact off-roader, but the model we drove felt expensive, with the design and quality of the cabin not living up to the near-£29,000 price tag. Opt for mid-range Match specification in two-wheel drive form – let’s face it, most off-roader buyers don’t ever venture far off road – and the £25,520 needed makes the Tiguan a much more enticing prospect.

With reasonable comfort levels, a punchy motor, 48.7mpg economy (in four-wheel drive form) and a long list of standard equipment, the Tiguan puts up a strong case against its rivals. If you can put up with the slightly dated interior, this VW makes a sound compact off-roader option.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Volkswagen Tiguan in our classifieds here.

The facts

VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI 140 4MOTION R-Line

List price: £28,750
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Power: 138bhp
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 40.9mpg (urban), 55.4mpg (extra-urban) 48.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 150g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-stars