Back on track

Tiguan leads Volk­swa­gen’s be­lated SUV on­slaught

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

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”.

VER­DICT

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.

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