– Strong economical engine
– Cabin space and features
– Enjoyable ride and drive
– Less-than-average boot space
– Jumpy first-gear response
– Limited off-road ability
Volkswagen makes only a few hundred different models based off the Golf platform. One of them is the Tiguan, a compact crossover that is shorter than the average, but still firmly competing in the compact SUV segment. Considering our version is an R-Line model, and also shares engines with the Golf GTI, we were instantly wondering whether the Tiguan will be the GTI of crossovers.
The R-Line package for the Tiguan looks good, adding 19-inch alloys, a mild body kit and sportier suspension. But when it comes to compact crossovers, the Tiguan isn’t as big as, say, a Toyota RAV-4, sizing up alongside the Hyundai Tucson more.
Of course, comparing the Tiguan to the traditional players in this segment isn’t fair, as it costs a bit more. And for that money, you get a much better cabin. The dashboard top and upper door sills come with soft-touch padding. The rear door sills skimp out with hard plastics, but all doors still get huge leather inserts and padded armrests. And then there is the premium tech that belongs in the luxury league.
Space is in this 5-seater is abundant, with excellent headroom and legroom, both front and rear. The leather front seats are moderately bolstered, with only the driver’s one powered. There are four hideaway cup-holders, door pockets and storage areas all over, including these weird airline trays that pop up from the front seatbacks. Boot space is only a little more than a hatchback, expectedly, but the sliding rear benches can also fold down.
Panoramic glass roof, touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth phone, kicking CD/MP3 stereo, tons of airbags, cruise control, parking sensors, turning foglamps, electric parking brake and keyless start, all were present in our tester. A Tiguan can be ordered loaded to the brim with even more options, such as HID headlights, adaptive cruise control and a USB port. The dual-zone auto a/c worked well during our May test, and even came with rear vents. And to top it off, our tester also came with the automatic parallel-parking system that worked freakishly well.
Our Tiguan was powered by VW’s sporting 2.0-litre “TSI” turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, producing 200 hp at 5300 rpm and 280 Nm of torque from only 1700 rpm. Mated to a 7-speed “DSG” automanual and all-wheel-drive, the motor is very perky, with a strong kick at low revs and never feeling weak in most driving situations, although it loses a bit of steam near the top-end when overtaking at 120 kph. We pulled off a 0-100 kph time of 8.9 seconds using RON95 petrol, though it feels faster. And the engine is reasonably economical, burning fuel at a rate of 12.5 litres/100 km during our time
The Tiguan R-Line excels in the handling department, expectedly. There is very little body roll and good grip in sharp corners. Taking a look at the 19-inch alloys, the tyres are 255/40, very wide for a vehicle this size. Still, we didn’t get to push it too hard, as the stability control is very aggressive, slowing it down as soon as the understeering pressure builds. The steering feel is light, with little feedback, but is sharp and precise. It is generally enjoyable to drive, but is let down a bit by its slightly-delayed electronic throttle response and average braking power.
Driving the Tiguan daily is a pleasure too. The ride is smooth on all but the sharpest bumps, there is no floatiness, wind noise is minimal and road noise is surprisingly low considering the wide tyres. All-round visibility is excellent and parking is easy, especially parallel-parking, for obvious reasons. The only snag is the weird throttle response, especially in first gear as you’re trying to crawl along, because the pedal seems to respond non-linearly – if you press the pedal a little, it does very little, so you push it a bit more, and the car lurches ahead. Side-effects of the DSG automanual aside, the gear shifts lazily in auto mode and holds gears well in sport mode.
The all-wheel-drive Tiguan can manage beach sand just fine, but it has neither the ground clearance nor the low-range gearing for the real rough stuff. It has hill-descent control, and there is an “off-road” button that forcefully sends power to all four wheels, otherwise it stays in front-wheel-drive mode, sending power back only when some computer thinks it’s needed. Our tester was the road-biased “Sport & Style” model anyway, and there is apparently a “Track & Field” model with smaller bumpers for slightly better offroading prowess.
The Tiguan is for those who want to experience the impeccable build quality of the Germans without paying the insane prices of the premium German marques. It is as practical as the usual players in the compact segment, unless you need a whole lot more boot space, while adding a bit of fun to an otherwise boring segment.
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