Volkswagen Tiguan review

Volkswagen Tiguan review

We road test the latest version of VW’s biggest selling car – the Tiguan family crossover…

The Tiguan is a hugely important model for Volkswagen. Since the family crossover was first launched back in 2007, nearly eight million have been sold and it’s the German giant’s best-selling car globally.

However, there’s no time to rest on your laurels in the automotive world, so it’s welcome to the third-generation Tiguan.

Volkswagen Tiguan review

It’s got its work cut out too, because its many rivals in the mid-size family SUV sector include the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, MINI Countryman and Hyundai Tucson.

On the engine front, Volkswagen has covered most bases with a choice of petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI) and mild-hybrid petrol engines (eTSI) from launch.

Later in 2024 there will be two plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) models offering offer up to 62 miles of electric range thanks to a large 19.7kWh battery.

Volkswagen Tiguan review

All Tiguan models now feature automatic transmission, while 4Motion (four-wheel drive) is only available in the more powerful 2.0-litre petrol turbo (TSI) powered cars.

At 4539mm long, 1639mm tall (minus roof rails) and 1842mm wide, the new Tiguan is 30mm longer, 4mm taller and the same width as its popular predecessor.

Looks-wise, it’s fair to say that it’s more of an evolution of the outgoing model, rather than cutting-edge design.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Overall, the styling is smoother and more curvaceous (the drag coefficient has improved from 0.33 to 0.28) and its front end is not unlike its all-electric ID cousins.

At the back, there’s a full-width horizontal LED strip with classy ‘Tiguan’ lettering on the tailgate.

The biggest changes are inside, where the third-gen Tiguan has been treated to a new cabin sporting a cleaner look, improved technology, higher quality materials and more space than its predecessor.

Volkswagen Tiguan review

All versions come with a 10.3-inch driver’s digital instrument panel, plus a central 12.9-inch infotainment touchscreen. A huge 15.0-inch version is also available as part of an upgrade – as is a head-up display.

The touch sliders at the bottom of the infotainment screen work better than some of the original ID models and they are now illuminated so easier to use at night. Thankfully, there are physical buttons on the steering wheel, rather than touch-sensitive controls.

There’s plenty of space for all the family, with ample head and legroom for rear passengers, plus a large 648-litre boot.

Volkswagen Tiguan review

Overall, the cabin is comfortable and pleasant (if slightly business-like) place to be with good visibility and clear, intuitive instrumentation and solid build quality.

My test car was a 1.5-litre eTSI mild (48V) hybrid, pushing out 148bhp. As you’d expect, the driving position is suitably high, while the gear selector has been moved up to the right-hand side of the steering column, meaning the left stalk now controls the windscreen wipers and indicators.

Mercedes-Benz already does this, and once you get over the initial wiper/indicator activation mistakes, it kind of works, but my preference would always be for separate stalks. Additionally, there are gear-change paddles behind the steering wheel.

Volkswagen Tiguan

It’s also worth noting that Volkswagen has decided to fit a useful rotary controller down in the centre console which adjusts the radio volume and switches between drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport or Individual).

For the record, the Tiguan I drove is capable of 130mph with a respectable 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds. CO2 emissions and economy are a claimed 141g/km and 45.6mpg respectively, with the latter seemingly very achievable even after a few hours of mixed driving.

On the road, the four-cylinder engine is smooth with plenty of mid-range pulling power. It will become more vocal under heavy acceleration, but for the most part it’s impressively refined.

Gareth Herincx driving the 2024 Volkswagen Tiguan

The slick seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox works well, though it occasionally holds onto gears for a fraction too long.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the Tiguan’s ride and handling are class-leading, but they are well up to the job. The suspension is at the firmer end of the scale, but not uncomfortably so. The steering is easy and light, and the car is generally composed with good body control in faster corners, combined with ample grip.

Choose Sport mode and the throttle and gearbox are a tad more responsive, but then performance and dynamism aren’t the main priorities for the family favourite that is the Tiguan.

Volkswagen Tiguan

At launch, the Volkswagen Tiguan range consists of five trim levels (Tiguan, Life, Match, Elegance and R-Line) with prices starting at £34,075.

Verdict: Volkswagen has played it safe with the much-improved third-generation Tiguan, sticking with a winning formula of understated style, comfort and quality. The good news for families is that it now also boasts more space, it’s equipped with the latest technology and safety kit, and it’s more economical.

Volkswagen UK

Morocco road trip: Mazda CX-60 rises to the challenge

Mazda CX-60, Morocco

Gareth Herincx puts this big family SUV through a gruelling 800-mile test of some on the best driving roads in the world…

Not a lot of people know that at its shortest point, Morocco is just 8.9 miles off the coast of Spain. In fact, on a clear day you can see Spain from Tangier.

About 1.8 times bigger than the UK, it’s a land of dizzying diversity, complex layers of history, epic landscapes and ancient cities.

I was among a group of just eight journalists selected to take part in the ‘Mazda Epic Drive’ to Morocco. Past #EpicDrive destinations have included Iceland, Turkey, the Arctic Circle and Kazakhstan.

Souk, Marrakesh

Our journey began in Marrakesh, which is about three-and-a-half hours from London Heathrow. Also known as the ‘Red City’ (many of its buildings and ramparts use clay infused with a natural red ochre pigment), at its heart is the Jemaa el Fna, a huge open space playing host to food stalls abd entertainers.

Souks selling everything from leather goods to spices branch out from the square, mostly in a labyrinth of narrow alleyways.

Gareth Herincx driving a Mazda CX-60 in Marrakesh

Day one of our journey took us out of the city and up through the High Atlas Mountains, down to the Sahara plain, before turning north-west towards Ouarzazate and a remote ecolodge for the night.

The challenging nine-hour drive carved through the dramatic landscape on the R203, taking in the renowned Tizi n’Test – a high mountain pass about 2,100 metres above sea level.

Morocco after the earthquake

We passed ample evidence of the devastation caused by last year’s 6.8 magnitude earthquake which levelled whole villages throughout Morocco. Families still living in tents and other temporary accommodation, collapsed buildings, rockfalls and ruined roads littered with rubble punctuated our drive.

Not for the faint-hearted, the Tizi n’Test revealed just how capable the Mazda CX-60 is when the going gets tough. Praise indeed in a region where the Toyota Landcruiser seemed to be the go-to 4×4.

Mazda CX-60, Morocco

For miles the road surface was just loose rocks. In some places there was barely enough space for two vehicles to pass, with a sheer drop on one side.

Our CX-60 was shod with road tyres, yet still provided plenty of traction on the poor surfaces. Thankfully, it was also equipped with Mazda’s newly-developed i-ACTIV all-wheel drive system, which prioritises rear-wheel drive for handling and stability, yet can transfer up to 50% of its power to the front wheels when required in slippery conditions.

Gareth Herincx -Mazda CX-60 in Morocco

What’s more, it works in tandem with the CX-60’s Mi-DRIVE Intelligent Drive Select system which offers drive modes covering a wide range of driving scenarios.

In addition to the everyday Normal mode and the increased responsiveness of Sport, there are also Off-road and Towing options.

Gareth Herincx -Mazda CX-60 in Morocco

We stopped off for a coffee at the Restaurant La Belle Vue, which is located high up on a Tizi n’Test hairpin bend and boasts stunning mountain views.

The route then heads down towards the Sahara desert where the terrain gradually becomes more arid and vast plains open up before you. For much of this section of the trip, it was just miles and miles of straight road, sandwiched between nothing but sand and rocks.

Further along, we drove through towns and villages, and passed the occasional oasis, switching to the N10 (National route 10) just beyond Tajgalt and Tafingoult.

Morocco after the earthquake

We then turned off the N10 on to the P1743 before following the N12 near Tissint, headed towards Ouarzazate – also known as the ‘door of the desert’.

After a night in a Berber tent at the Ecolodge Ouednoujoum, which is hidden away in a remote canyon about 12 miles south of the city, we set off for another route highlight – the Dadès Gorge.

A series of separate gorges carved out by the passage of the Dades River, it’s reached via a road known locally as the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs. Along the way, we spotted camels, sheep, goats and a massive stork’s nest, high above us in a chimney.

Dades Gorge, Morocco

We stopped off at the Panorama Dades Hotel for a coffee and to take in its breathtaking views of the Dadès Valley.

Then it was on the Dadès Gorge itself – an amazing road culminating in the famous switchbacks, best viewed from the café-restaurant Timzzillite Chez Mohamed.

Dades Gorge, Morocco

We’d also recommended stopping off at a rock formation known as Monkey Fingers, found along the road at Tamlalt. As the name suggests, the rocks look like the digits of a monkey’s hand.

We then headed back to Ouarzazate, which has become the centre of Morocco’s film industry. Taking the N9 back to Marrakesh you pass the studios where movies including Gladiator , Prince of Persia and The Mummy, plus scenes from Game of Thrones, were filmed.

Camel, Morocco

The N9 is the main highway crossing the High Atlas between the two cities, topping out about halfway at the 2,260-metre Tizi n Tichka pass.

Another rollercoaster of a road, it gave the CX-60 a chance to stretch its legs. Fitted with Mazda’s smooth new e-SKYACTIV D diesel engine, it offers lower emissions, improved fuel efficiency and high levels of torque.

Mazda CX-60, Morocco

Its big 3.3-litre straight-six is paired with a 48V mild-hybrid system, which allows the engine to switch off and coast to improve efficiency. Pushing out a decent 251bhp, it’s potent and refined for the most part. For the record, it’s capable of 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds, fuel economy as high as 54.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are a decent 137g/km.

Again, the CX-60 was well up to the job. Coming up behind slow trucks is not an uncommon experience, so swift overtaking manoeuvres are a necessity. Once you get used to the initial hesitancy from the eight-speed automatically gearbox, there’s an impressive kickdown, while smoother sections of the N9 were a refined cruise.

Marrakesh

The road gets busier the closer you get to Marrakesh, becoming nothing short of chaotic in the city centre.

After a second nine-hour day of shared driving, there’s no doubt that our Morocco Epic Drive was an unforgettable experience.

Now, I’d like to do it all again, but spread out over a week so there’s more time to stop off, see the sights and immerse myself in this multi-faceted gateway to Africa.

Mazda CX-60, Morocco

Mazda UK

Kia EV9 review

Kia EV9 review

We road test the Kia EV9 – the stellar South Korean brand’s all-new, all-electric flagship SUV

With its concept car looks, long range and effortless drive, the Kia EV9 is quite the statement.

About the same size as a BMW X5, it’s available as a six or seven-seater – the former sporting swivelling middle-row seats.

Kia EV9 review

Priced from £65,025, it’s expensive for a Kia, but you sure get big bang for your bucks. The big question is – will it tempt buyers away from prestige EV rivals from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?

First impressions couldn’t be better. It’s an epic car with a bold, boxy design that focuses on maximising interior space and passenger comfort. And despite its size, the EV9 looks much better in the metal than it does in pictures.

Previewing Kia’s future design direction, the combination of a long wheelbase and completely flat floor creates generous space for all in the three rows of seats.

Kia EV9 review

And even with all the seats occupied, there’s still 333 litres of cargo space – expanding to a superb 828 litres with the third-row seats flipped, or an enormous 2,320 litres with the second and third-row seats folded down.

The Kia EV9 is equally impressive on a technical level. All models in the range come with a large 99.8kWh battery, and there are two electric motor options.

First up is the 201bhp Single Motor model that powers the rear wheels. Or step up to the Dual Motor all-wheel drive EV9, which has 378bhp and a massive 516lb ft of torque. If economy trumps performance on your tick-list, then the former delivers a claimed 349 miles of range, while the flagship model still offers a respectable 313 miles.

Kia EV9 review

Or to put it another way, the Single Motor can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds (19-inch wheels), while the more potent model takes just 5.3 seconds (21-inch wheels).

Ultra-fast charging is standard, meaning 154 miles can be added in just 15 minutes. Or to put it another way, a 10-80% charge will take as little as 24 minutes via a 350kW connection. Naturally, it will also charge overnight at home, if you have a wallbox.

The Kia EV9 is generously equipped too, with a three-screen dash layout combining a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch driver’s display and a 5.3-inch touchscreen for the climate controls. With a few physical buttons thrown in too, it’s as logical and slick as ever – just what we’ve come to expect from Kia.

Kia EV9 review

There’s also wireless phone charging, Apple and Android connectivity, heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, LED lights all round, a 360-degree camera system, V2L charging, a power tailgate and a three-pin socket in the boot.

I haven’t even mentioned the long list of safety and driver assistance tech which helped to earn the EV9 a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, or the regenerative braking which is easily adjusted via paddles behind the steering wheel.

The overall build quality is hard to fault, while the interior materials (many of which are recycled) are just the job, though there’s still some way to go for Kia to be challenging the plush interiors of the big German premium brands.

Kia EV9 review

Once you’ve ‘stepped into’ the cabin, it instantly feels spacious and comfortable, with excellent visibility. You don’t feel perched, like some electric SUVs, and there’s plenty of seat adjustment.

I drove the Dual Motor EV9 in GT-Line S spec on a variety of roads around Aberdeen, Inverness and into the Scottish Highlands.

To say progress was relaxed and effortless would be an understatement. It feels big, especially in town and on narrower country roads, but for the most part it’s not an issue and it simply cruises silently along (wind and road noise are hardly noticeable). Ride quality is impressive and the steering is light-yet-accurate.

Gareth Herincx - Kia EV9

Despite its bulk, it manages to stay surprisingly flat in more challenging corners, but it would be an exaggeration to call it nimble. Helped by a low centre of gravity, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a 2.6 tonne car.

As you’d except from the AWD system, traction levels are superb. I didn’t get to try the EV9 off-road, but in addition to the steering wheel-activated Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, there’s also a terrain mode button, giving the options of Mud, Snow and Sand.

There’s no shortage of power either, but if longer range is more important to you, it might be worth going for the Single Motor model.

Kia EV9 review

Freezing conditions probably didn’t help, but after a couple of days with the AWD EV9, average energy consumption was 2.5 miles/kWh, which is a tad disappointing. Nevertheless, that still equates to a tidy real-world range in the late 200s (more in an urban environment), and I’d hope the RWD version would be able to return around 300 miles.

Finally, a quick word about the seating. If you choose the seven-seater (it’s one of the few such EVs on the market), the third row is useable for adults (I managed perfectly well and I’m 5’11”) – partly because the second-row bench can slide back and forth.

Kia EV9 review

And the two individual ‘captain’s chair’ seats, which swivel and recline in the six-seater version, are a great gimmick, and certainly add to the car’s wow factor.

Verdict: The cool Kia EV9 is as impressive as it’s big. A statement car if ever there was one, this striking SUV is competitively-priced, spacious and safe; delivering an effortless drive and useable real-world range.

Kia UK

Kia EV9 review

Lexus RX 500h review

Lexus RX 500h

We get behind the wheel of the sporty RX 500h – the first-ever turbocharged Lexus hybrid…

The three Cs (‘confidence, control and comfort’) are the cornerstones of the Lexus driving experience.

There’s no mention of ‘sport’, yet the latest version of the big RX SUV we’ve been testing seems to embrace performance and driver engagement as much as the three Cs.

Lexus RX 500h

What’s more, efficiency takes a back seat too, along with another Lexus fixture – the much-maligned CVT transmission.

So. the RX 500h (marketed as a ‘performance hybrid’) is a genuine curiosity and marks something of a departure for Toyota’s upmarket sister brand.

Just to recap, the original RX 450h was the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV when it was launched in 2005.

Lexus RX 500h

The RX is now in its fifth generation and buyers can choose from a 350h hybrid or 450h plug-in hybrid, plus the new range-topping 500h.

All offer four-wheel drive, but the 500h is the first-ever Lexus turbocharged hybrid.

The 500h mates a 2.4-litre petrol engine with two electric motors (front and rear) and a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox.

Lexus RX 500h

For the record, the engine develops 366bhp and 550Nm torque, translating into a brisk 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.2 seconds.

There’s also a new ‘Direct4’ torque-vectoring electric rear axle and four-wheel steering.

Priced from a hefty £77,195 and available in F Sport or Takumi trim, the 500h looks much the same as its siblings (the 350h and 450h ) which is no bad thing, and it’s a tad smaller than a BMW X5.

Lexus RX 500h

The RX’s design has subtly evolved from the previous generation. It’s retained much the same shape and athletic presence, but the styling is sharper and more refined, while its new pointy nose (complete with trademark Lexus spindle grille) is the biggest change.

Inside, the RX is luxurious, comfortable and beautifully built. The cabin is light and spacious, and there’s ample leg and headroom in the back.

You can then add 461 litres of luggage capacity (seats up) or 621-litre (seats up, loaded to the roof), expanding to 1,678 litres with the rear seats folded.

Lexus RX 500h

On the tech front, the latest RX has ditched the previous model’s fiddly touchpad infotainment control and there’s now a more conventional 14-inch central touchscreen, alongside a digital driver’s display. The system is on the quirky side and takes some getting used to, but it’s an improvement on RXs of old.

However, it’s on the road that the Lexus RX 500h (we tested it in F-Sport trim) comes into its own.

Firstly, the old-school auto gearbox has transformed the RX 500h. Gone are the days of easing the accelerator in order to avoid the temporary din of high engine revs (a CVT gearbox foible). Instead, the six-speed shifts smoothly with just the right hint of aggression.

Lexus RX 500h

It’s a big 4×4 and weighs 2.1 tonnes, so it’s never going to be the kind of car that can barrel up to fast corners and get away with it, but thanks to some clever tech, it’s more capable and fun than you might think.

Body lean is better controlled than lesser RXs, and there’s plenty of grunt, especially in the mid-range.

The steering is responsive and there’s a powerful engine note, while the hybrid system works imperceptibly in the background.

Lexus RX 500h

The ride is in on the firm side, but on A-roads and motorways, it’s the composed and confident cruiser you’d expect from a Lexus.

Of course, no car is perfect, and the Lexus RX 500h is no exception. Lexus claims it can return 34.0-35.3 mpg, yet we managed closer to 25mpg. With a bit of restraint 30-ish mpg is possible, but considering Lexus’s pioneering hybrid history, we expected more.

Verdict: The Lexus RX 500h is something of a revelation. The addition of a conventional automatic gearbox, a turbocharged petrol hybrid powertrain and other clever tech delivers performance and attitude to an already accomplished big SUV.

Lexus UK

Subaru Solterra review

Subaru Solterra review

We get behind the wheel of the Solterra mid-sized SUV – the first pure electric car from Subaru…

The Subaru brand has a relatively low profile here in the UK. Elsewhere, in countries such as the US and Australia, the Japanese company’s cars are more appreciated and sell in much bigger numbers.

Subaru’s very capable 4x4s are renowned for their durability, and traditionally, owners are intensively loyal, holding onto their cars for longer than any rivals.

Quite what they will make of the all-new Solterra is another matter because it’s sayonara to Subaru’s signature boxer engines and effective ‘symmetrical’ four-wheel drive system.

Subaru Solterra review

Before we begin, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, because the Solterra has been co-developed with the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ.

In fact, it’s manufactured alongside its cousins in the same plant at Motomachi, Japan, and they all share the same e-TNGA platform.

It also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Toyota and Lexus. However, there are some key differences.

The most important is that Subaru has kept things simple with the Solterra, which is only available in twin-motor four-wheel-drive form. That also means it has a higher starting price than some single-motor rivals.

Subaru Solterra review

There are just two trim choices too – entry-level Limited (£49,995) and top-spec Touring (£52,995). Both seem to be almost identical mechanically, which means they share a 71.4kWh battery pack and two electric motors, producing a combined total of 215bhp and 249lb ft of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds.

Significantly, Limited has a claimed range of 289 miles, while Touring tops out at 257 miles. The only obvious difference between the two is that the latter has 20-inch wheels (Limited has 18s) and Touring weighs 25kg more.

In other words, on paper it’s hard to justify the extra few thousand quid for a shorter range and a few spec upgrades such as an electric passenger seat, (synthetic) leather and a passenger door mirror that tilts when reversing.

As Subaru customers would expect, the 4×4 system is permanent, plus there’s an X-Mode button which helps you navigate tougher terrain such as deep mud, snow and steep, slippery slopes — all in a controlled, calm way.

Subaru Solterra review

We tried some light off-roading and the Downhill Assist Control, the speed of which can be adjusted via a simple switch on the steering wheel, is particularly effective.

What’s more, with a minimum ground clearance of 210mm, it can tackle trips some EV competitors can’t and it has a water-fording wading depth. It’s also worth noting that the Solterra has a towing capacity of just 750kg.

Inside, it’s not unlike Subarus of old in that it has a feel of functionality and durability, but it is a tad dark and drab.

Like its Japanese cousins, there’s the same unconventional layout for the driver. In other words, they share the same Peugeot-esque low steering wheel position and high instrument binnacle, plus centrally mounted 12.4-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Subaru Solterra review

That said, it is easy to get used to the driving position and the infotainment system works well.

There’s plenty of room for adults to sit comfortably in the rear, while the boot capacity is a useful 452 litres (441 litres in the Touring version). On the minus side, there’s no ‘frunk’ under the bonnet to store charging cables and no glovebox inside.

It’s well equipped too and, as Subaru owners will like the fact that it boasts the latest safety equipment, achieving a maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP.

All-round visibility is good, and if you need extra assurance, there’s a reversing camera and 360-degree surround-view monitor. Our only gripe is that there’s no rear wiper, which is OK in light rain, but a nuisance on filthy motorway journeys.

Subaru Solterra review

On the road the Subaru Solterra feels solid, composed and surprisingly agile for a relatively large, heavy car.

Push it on more challenging roads and body roll is kept to a minimum, there’s also plenty of grip and the steering turns in keenly.

There are three driving modes (Eco, Normal and Power). As ever, Eco dulls the driving experience, so it’s fine on motorway runs, but Normal is best for everyday tootling along, while Power is fun for overtaking.

Subaru Solterra review

Even though the 71.4kWh battery and two motors are on the modest side compared to some competitors, the Solterra seems to have plenty of poke.

Unlike some EVs, the brakes are fairly progressive, while brake regeneration can be adjusted via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

One final thought. If you test drive a Solterra, choose a smooth stretch of road and listen out for noise. Our Touring spec test car wasn’t quite the whisper-quiet experience we’d hoped for. Harsh, when even a bit of wind noise is noticeable in an EV, but we’ve come to expect no more than a distant wine from those electric motors.

Subaru Solterra review

As for charging, it’s capable of delivering an 80% boost in as little as 30 minutes via its (average) 150kW fast-charging system. The same charge at home will take 7-8 hours. Our charging experience wasn’t ideal because the weather was cold, so we couldn’t match the 30-minute target time or get close to the advertised charge rate.

Perhaps more importantly, our Touring spec Solterra only gets a 257-mile range, which in real-world driving is closer to 200 miles, so not ideal. What’s more, if you switch on the heating, for example, the range takes another hit. As we said before, stick with entry-level Limited spec for those extra miles of range.

Looking in the small print, the Solterra is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty (whichever is sooner). However, the bZ4X benefits from Toyota’s warranty which covers your vehicle for 10 years (up to 100,000 miles), provided your car is serviced by a Toyota dealer.

Subaru Solterra review

The Solterra’s electric SUV rivals include everything from the Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq iV and Nissan Ariya to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

So, the Solterra isn’t perfect, but don’t be put off. We like it, and in fact, we’d say it just edges the bZ4X.

Verdict: The handsome Subaru Solterra SUV is a confident EV debut. It’s not without a few gripes, but overall it delivers an assured drive, it’s easy to live with, well equipped, safe and spacious.

Subaru UK

Subaru Solterra review