Back on track
Tiguan leads Volkswagen’s belated SUV onslaught
THE Tiguan is back from the wilderness. It’s been eight years, which is at least two years too long for SUV shoppers, but Volkswagen has finally renewed the car that should become its top seller in Australia.
The family-friendly SUV should allow the German juggernaut to focus on selling cars rather than the embarrassment of its emissions cheating, after losing SUV ground and friends to the likes of Mazda, Kia and Hyundai over recent years.
The Tiguan has what it needs to improve the company’s stocks. It has a bigger body, impressive safety and quality and five engines including diesels that can tow 2400kg.
Best of all, it drives more like a car than any of its SUV rivals.
The good news is offset by premium pricing that starts at $31,990 for the 110 petrol manual Trendline and ramps up to $49,990 for the fully loaded 140 diesel Highline with seven-speed DSG auto.
Almost no one will buy a manual, making the effective starting price $34,490.
Also, the 162 petrol engine — from the Golf GTI — will not arrive until next year.
But the Tiguan is as impressive as anything that has emerged from VW since it introduced its MQB platform strategy, which takes the basics from the Golf and spins it into nearly two dozen different models.
Doing so much development from a single “toolbox” means high-cost engineering and manufacturing can be spread to a wide variety of models.
“The critical thing for me with the Tiguan is what it says about the brand,” says Volkswagen Group Australia MD Michael Bartsch. “It’s our first major post-emissions vehicle and it says unequivocally that VW is in great health and is moving ahead.”
It’s critical because Volkswagen’s SUV sales are embarrassing for a brand that has soared in the past decade.
VW sits fourth for passenger car sales this year. In SUVs — the booming part of the newcar market — it’s ranked 17th.
Bartsch is aiming for at least 10,000 sales a year, taking the Tiguan past the Golf, and makes big claims for a car that is most likely to be compared with the Mazda CX-5. “I think the Tiguan redefines the segment. This sets the benchmark in quality, in driveability, and in design and styling. It’s not arrogant. I think it’s a fair assessment.”
Bartsch also believes the Tiguan can cause trouble for BMW and Benz, giving prestige buyers something to shop against the X1 and GLA at a sharper price.
The all-new Tiguan is a fiveseater — until next year — with three petrol and two diesel engines, front and on-demand all-wheel drive, six and sevenspeed twin-clutch automatics, with Trendline, Comfortline and Highline equipment packages.
The car is well specified from the get-go, as the 110 petrol Trendline gets auto safety braking, lane-keep assist, a reversing camera and parking radar, 17-inch alloys, auto headlights and wipers and even tyre-pressure warning.
The move up the models inevitably brings the likes of three-zone aircon, satnav, larger infotainment screen, LED headlamps, 18-inch alloys, heated leather sports seats and paddle-shifters for the auto.
Three options packages — Luxury, Drive Assistance and R-Line — add from $2000 to $5000. A $2000 glass sunroof is an option on the Highline.
VW expects a solid pick-up rate for the Drive Assistance deal, which brings adaptive cruise control, “surround view” cameras, what it calls “side assist”, rear traffic alert and larger infotainment screen with TFT instrument display.
ON THE ROAD
Among the many Tiguan choices, it makes sense to focus the preview drive on the 110 Trendline with six-speed auto.
It makes a positive impression within 200 metres of the kick-off, absorbing a string of speed humps with barely a murmur. There is no crash or bang, no suspension deflection, just a sublime rise to the challenge.
The Tiguan is very quiet, the extra interior space is noticeable and the seats are well shaped and supportive.
The four-cylinder petrol turbo (110kW/250Nm) is more than good enough for the job. It accelerates quite briskly and will hold higher gears up inclines.
There is no kick through the steering on acceleration, even though it’s “only” front-wheel drive, and the chassis is taut. It sits firmly on the road, absorbs all sorts of bumps without fuss and corners without the rockand-roll feel of many of its rivals.
Within minutes I’m comfortably at home, then I get a surprising bonus when the car announces it is in “two-cylinder mode” as we lope along at 90km/h. That means the cylinder deactivation has cut
the fire for half the engine, which helps it achieve the claimed 6.0L/100km.
I had no idea from a driving perspective. The stop-start also fires up the engine more quickly than other recent VW Group cars I’ve driven.
After a long drive with the 110 petrol I swap to the basic 110 diesel, which immediately provides more torque and the classy TFT instrument display. But the front suspension is not as fluid as the petrol car, which is probably down to the extra weight of the engine, sevenspeed auto and the AWD.
It prompts a swift decision: I’d go for a diesel Tiguan only if I was planning to tow.
So then I jump into the 140 diesel and discover that, with 18-inch alloys and 55 profile tyres, it has a ride that is equal to the 110 petrol.
So the basic petrol DSG is my first pick, with the 140 diesel — only available in Highline spec at $49,990 — the choice for long-distance towing.
VW expects the petrol 132kW engine to be the most popular choice and it proves willing and refined.
There is much else to enjoy in the new Tiguan, from an oddments bin in the top of the dashboard to “curry hooks” for holding takeaways, rear aircon outlets, fold-out picnic tables in some models that are ideal for iPads and the usual USB and 12V sockets.
The quality seems good in every area, although the cabin design is a bit bland compared with some of its rivals including the CX-5. One of the test vehicles had glitches with the Apple CarPlay.
The spare is a space-saver, even if VW calls it a “full-size speed-limited steel wheel”.
The game has changed for fiveseater family SUVs this year with the latest Kia Sportage and CX-5. After eight years, the Tiguan needed to be good — and it is. Overall, Volkswagen has done a top job.