The latest Volkswagen Tiguan represents a massive leap forward over its popular forebear. Better to drive, better equipped and claiming more technology and fuel efficiency than ever before, it lays a legitimate claim to the compact SUV class crown.
Its sheer breadth of talent means it’s gone beyond its usual competition and now rivals the traditionally premium options on the market. To see if it can hold its own, we compare it to the upmarket Audi Q3 and the sporty BMW X1.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – styling
The Tiguan gets off to a good start in the looks department. The bodywork appears taut, sharp and contemporary if a little subtle for some tastes. At the front, headlights feature LED daytime running lights that flow seamlessly into a bluff grille, while creases in the bonnet and along the sides help the body to look toned and reduce visual weight.
The Q3 is the oldest design here, having been first released in 2011 and updated in 2014. Parked beside the Tiguan, the body looks a little less toned thanks to more sheet metal with fewer styling lines. Nevertheless, thanks to the traditional Audi hexagonal grille and slim headlights, it still has the effortless desirability found across the Audi range.
The X1 couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a BMW thanks to the iconic kidney grilles that sit between the headlights. The upward sweep of the side windows lends the X1 a sporty profile, while the rear looks rather like a pumped-up version of a 3 Series Touring. It’s arguably more interesting than the Q3 but misses out on the Tiguan’s blend of style and understatement.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – interior
Those familiar with any Volkswagen product will find themselves instantly at home inside the Tiguan. Though some might consider the dashboard layout a little plain, everything is sensibly positioned, functional and feels well built. Top-spec SEL and R-Line models also gain the wonderful Active Info Display that replaces conventional dials for a customisable 12.3-inch TFT screen.
While it’s not as new as the Tiguan, the Q3 still scores highly inside its cabin. The quality of materials used is impeccable, while all the buttons and dials feel expensive to the touch. Its version of Audi’s MMI infotainment system works well but looks dated compared to newer ones and those in the VW and BMW.
The BMW’s cabin is beautifully built, too. The dashboard is angled towards the driver for a sporty feel and topped off by the firm’s excellent iDrive infotainment system. The dials are simple and easy to read, while forward visibility, courtesy of the SUV-like driving position, is great. The only disappointment is that much of the cabin looks lifted straight from the rest of the BMW range, making it feel less special as a result.
The BMW and the Volkswagen are similarly sized with the latter being marginally bigger while the Q3 a little shorter and narrower. This becomes apparent inside, where the Tiguan and X1 offer generous accommodation for four adults or five at a pinch while the Q3 feels a little cramped in the back. It’s the same story in the boot – the Audi’s 420-litre load bay – though reasonable – isn’t a match for the 505-litre BMW, which in turn is put in the shade by the enormous 615 litres mustered by the Volkswagen.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – driving
Where they once did, the Tiguan no longer shares a chassis with the Q3. The Tiguan’s new platform lends it noticeable improvements in ride and refinement compared to the latter, along with sharp, accurate steering and plenty of grip. The Q3 feels less sophisticated in comparison – it handles competently but feels less settled at lower speeds where rough road surfaces can transfer vibrations into the cabin.
The X1 offers a sportier drive than the Tiguan which is either a benefit or a detriment depending on what type of driver you are. The steering is heavier than either rival helping it feel sportier, while the body demonstrates unbreakable composure when cornering. Ride quality rivals the Tiguan’s level, especially when equipped with the optional – but expensive – adjustable dampers. It might be sportier but that means the X1 is more involved to drive so won’t suit those who prioritise comfort and ease of use as well as the Tiguan.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – engines
The Tiguan’s engine lineup consists of five diesel and three petrol units. One of the most popular options in the range, the 148hp 2.0-litre diesel, is capable of a claimed 58.9mpg in front-wheel drive form. The same engine is found in the Audi Q3 where it’s claimed to be even more frugal than the VW, achieving a figure of 61.4mpg.
A 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, offering 178hp make plenty of sense for Tiguan drivers covering small mileages or who fancy a little performance. City drivers will be well served by the soon-to-be-released 1.4-litre petrol engine in either 120 and 150hp guises – these are expected to be cheaper than the diesel choices. The same petrol engines are offered in the Q3 and, like the Tiguan, will suit city drivers or performance fans better than the diesels.
For those in search of a genuinely high performance option, however, the quickest Q3 is in a different league. The RS Q3 packs a 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol that delivers straight-line performance to worry Ford Focus RS drivers, and adds a fantastic noise into the mix, too. It hits 62mph from rest in 4.4 seconds and tops out at 167mph.
The X1 offers a choice of three diesels and one petrol unit. The 2.0-litre diesel fitted to the sDrive18d version should be the cheapest of our trio to run. Not only does it average 68.7mpg in official tests, but it’s marginally quicker than the equivalent choices found in the other two. Unfortunately, while they’re powerful and efficient, BMW’s diesels can’t match the refinement offered by Audi and VW’s units.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – value for money
Compare prices for the three like-for-like and it becomes clear that, in the case of the Audi and the BMW, you have to pay extra for a little brand snobbery. The entry-level 2.0-litre diesel Tiguan, with a standard kit list including 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning and an eight-inch infotainment system, costs from £25,530 – £1,660 less than an equivalent Q3. The BMW represents slightly better value – the sDrive18d costs £26,780 but benefits from a standard-fit satellite navigation system.
VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 – verdict
All three compact SUVs have plenty of merits but, ultimately, the Audi Q3 falls a little short in this company. It’s getting a little long in the tooth now and, as a result, it’s not as nice to drive, is less comfortable and less spacious than either the Tiguan or X1. Equally, when comparing the crucial diesel offerings, it’s the most expensive, too. The interior is still a wonderful place to sit and performance SUV fans are well served by the RS Q3 but, in this company, it comes a narrow third.
Which car wins this test comes down to whether you’d prefer your SUV to be an all-rounder or if you’d rather something with more emphasis on the driving experience. If the latter is high on your list of priorities, the BMW is the one to go for thanks to its excellent handling and high-speed composure. For us, however, the Tiguan is the best buy – it’s fun to drive when you want it but easy and comfortable when you just need to get from A to B. Additionally, its cabin feels the newest and, thanks to its clever layout, makes it the most practical choice, too.
Save money on your next SUV
Head over to our Volkswagen Tiguan deals page to find all of the latest discounts on our group test winner. If the VW badge doesn’t do it for you, check out our Audi Q3 deals page or head over to our BMW X1 deals page. Alternatively, check out our car chooser for help picking your next new car.