Volkswagen Tiguan

The centrepiece of the totally overhauled cockpit is a new infotainment system, running through either a 12.9in or a massive, 15.0in touchscreen – the latter of which is a mite intrusive on your field of vision and slightly at odds with Volkswagen’s humble acknowledgement of well-publicised public feedback that it went too far with touch controls in its recent cars. 

The screen itself hosts small icons that can be quite difficult to hit at times, especially on bumpy UK roads. Otherwise, its graphics are some of the sharpest in the class, it reponds nicely to your inputs, and once you allow time to get used to it, its menus and sub-menus shouldn’t cause you too much irritation.

The climate control touch bar is now permanently sited at the bottom of this screen so you won’t have a head-on collision every time you try to adjust the air-con, and the controversial heating control sliders are now backlit, so you won’t have to drive home sweating or shivering in the dark. 

But maybe the most welcome introduction – or reintroduction – is the array of good old-fashioned buttons and switches on the spokes of the steering wheel. 

The old Tiguan’s frustratingly unresponsive haptic panels for cruise control adjustment and stereo volume were not, it is plain, a resounding success in customer clinics and the Tiguan is among the early beneficiaries of a brand-wide return to analogue controls for such functions. 

A new rotary control with its own miniature screen can be used to alter the driving profile, radio volume and the cabin background lighting colours too.

Overall quality has taken a step up over the last car, with plush fabrics and soft-touch plastics dotted around the cabin to make it feel more like a natural rival to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The only hair in the soup is that some parts feel a bit hollow and overly flexible, which means it can’t quite match the premium Germans in the quality race. 

Over many of its rivals, however, the Tiguan is one of the first family SUVs to receive ChatGPT. This addition is all about Volkswagen attempting to get us off Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and dialled into its systems. 

It’s all about big data. But in this instance, it means ChatGPT works a bit like Apple’s Siri. Ask it a question and it’ll give you an answer.

I asked Ida (Volkswagen’s voice assistant; the Germans insist it’s pronounced Ay-da rather than I-da, but she answers to both) what the oldest car publication in the world is, and she replied with Autocar. Good stuff. 

I asked her who made better cars, Volkswagen or Mercedes, and she replied that both manufacturers had solid reputations. Not so good. 

Volkswagen’s ChatGPT expert kept encouraging me to ask her how to make a chocolate cake. Her answer was, as far as I could tell, legit. But asking ChatGPT via Volkswagen while I’m driving for cooking instructions seems like the worst, most ill-conceived and stupidest way of receiving cooking instructions.

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