Try to feel the love

The Tiguan sets a new bench­mark for mid-size soft­road­ers, giv­ing VW a start on re­build­ing cred­i­bil­ity

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - BILL McKIN­NON bill.mckin­non@news.com.au

THE cost will be in the bil­lions when VW in­evitably pays its fines, set­tles a moun­tain of law­suits and makes Diesel­gate go away. Of much greater im­por­tance is the long, hard road it faces to re­build cred­i­bil­ity.

I’ve been test­ing the new Tiguan 110TDi Com­fort­line all­wheel drive diesel, a beau­ti­fully de­signed and en­gi­neered wagon and rea­son­able value at $42,990.

The Beloved couldn’t care less. She likes the Tiguan but not VW. “I wouldn’t buy one of their cars now. They duped ev­ery­one and don’t respect their cus­tomers,” she says.

She’s un­moved when I ex­plain that all car com­pa­nies tell porkies when they think they can get away with it. I know when I’m los­ing an ar­gu­ment. Let’s look at the car.

DE­SIGN

The Tiguan now com­petes in the mid-size SUV class. In­te­rior space is com­pa­ra­ble with Subaru’s Forester, though the VW’s roofline is lower, its rear seat nar­rower and its boot slightly larger.

Cabin decor is 20 shades of grey — typ­i­cal VW — with a few sprin­kles of gloss black and fake al­loy trim. Plas­tics and fab­rics are high qual­ity, fit and fin­ish are ex­cel­lent and high con­tact hard­ware such as door han­dles, wands and the leather­wrapped wheel feel pre­mium Euro to the touch.

You sit in a firm, gen­er­ously padded pew, with (more typ­i­cal VW) faux-quilted cloth up­hol­stery. The seat is quite low for an SUV, so short peo­ple and older folks will find ac­cess easy. The head re­straints have height and lat­eral ad­just­ment.

The Driver As­sis­tance op­tion ($2000) on our test car in­cludes cus­tomis­able dig­i­tal in­stru­ments, which look flash, are easy to read and put the nav­i­ga­tion map right in front of your eyes.

VW has ob­vi­ously thought about what fam­i­lies want in a mid-size SUV, be­cause the Tiguan has clever, prac­ti­cal touches ev­ery­where.

A squil­lion handy stor­age com­part­ments in­clude a cov­ered dash-top box, pas­sen­ger footwell net, front seat draw­ers, big bot­tle hold­ers in all doors and an ex­tended roof con­sole.

The flat rear bench is split 60-40, has Isofix and tether strap re­straint an­chors, an ad­justable back­rest and slides fore-aft. Legroom is fine for adults but if you reg­u­larly carry three rear pas­sen­gers you prob­a­bly need a wider wagon. Vents and tem­per­a­ture con­trols, flip-up rear ta­bles, front seat pock­ets and a 12V out­let make this a happy kid space.

Its low, easy to load boot floor ex­tends to al­most 1.7 me­tres us­ing levers near the tail­gate to flip the rear seat backs down. The longer floor is stepped. An­other 12V out­let, hard load cover, net and a cou­ple of bag hooks are all use­ful.

AROUND TOWN

The smooth, quiet 2.0-litre turbo diesel will trun­dle along in traf­fic all day, barely go­ing above 2500rpm and re­turn­ing sin­gle-fig­ure fuel con­sump­tion.

It’s sleepy in Eco mode. Nor­mal and Sport are more en­er­getic — rel­a­tively. This is non-per­for­mance mo­tor­ing. VW’s seven-speed DSG works more smoothly with diesels than with petrol en­gines; here, it dis­plays none of the hes­i­ta­tion from rest that it has in other mod­els.

Volk­swa­gen claims best-in- class safety for Tiguan and at base model level this is cor­rect.

The Driver As­sis­tance op­tion is worth tak­ing be­cause it also adds safety fea­tures to rival any lux­ury SUV.

Area View, for ex­am­ple, in­cludes blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and 360 de­gree perime­ter cam­eras, so when ma­noeu­vring in tight spa­ces you can see what’s go­ing on all around the ve­hi­cle. Rear cross-traf­fic alert with ob­sta­cle de­tec­tion is also in­cluded.

Au­to­matic re­verse and par­al­lel park­ing is stan­dard but it’s so te­dious and slow you’ll soon learn how to do it by your­self.

ON THE ROAD

In sev­enth gear at 100km/h the 2.0-litre ticks over smoothly and al­most silently at 1700rpm. On a long high­way run it av­er­aged 5.1L/100km.

Rolling ac­cel­er­a­tion is re­spectable and the sev­en­speed quick to kick down into the 2000rpm-4000rpm sweet spot when you want a bit of ex­tra shove. Radar cruise con­trol is part of the Driver As­sis­tance op­tion.

VW claims a max­i­mum tow­ing weight of 2500kg. This is ridicu­lous, be­cause the Tiguan’s max­i­mum tow­ball down­load, which should be about 10 per cent, is just 100kg.

Ag­ile and well-bal­anced in cor­ners, it’s ac­tu­ally fun to drive, which you can’t say about many of its rivals.

On rough roads, it’s to­tally se­cure — the snow and off-road driv­e­train modes, which ad­just the trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol, front-rear torque split and other pa­ram­e­ters for op­ti­mum grip on less ad­he­sive sur­faces, give it sim­i­lar con­fi­dence on dirt.

All-wheel drive diesel Tiguans are rel­a­tively heavy, with firm sus­pen­sion, so the ride is a touch lumpy and fussy, but it ab­sorbs big hits with ease.

VER­DICT

Just as Golf MkVII set a new bench­mark for hatch­backs, so does the Tiguan for mid-size SUVs. Kil­ler prod­uct won’t by it­self re­store the com­pany’s shred­ded rep­u­ta­tion but, as a ges­ture of atone­ment, the Tiguan shows that VW is try­ing very, very hard to win back some love.

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