– Strong economical engine
– Cabin space and features
– Entertaining handler
– Less-than-average boot space
– Slightly harsh ride at times
– No low-range gearing
The “Tiguan” badge came about from some sort of public popularity contest by Volkswagen to pick the name of their new-at-the-time compact crossover. It comes from joining the words “tiger” and “iguana” to form a completely meaningless new name. It’s been four years since then, and the Tiguan has become one of VW’s most popular sellers, so much so that for its sort-of-second-generation version, the German carmaker hasn’t done anything different other than to give it a new grille.
Well, that new corporate grille is mated with new bumpers, lights and wheels as part of the 2012 facelift, but the Tiguan essentially remains a crossover on the smaller side of the compact class. We actually tested the latest version in two flavours, one a Track&Style version with the “offroad” front bumper and other outdoor accessories, and the other a top-spec R-Line version with a sporty body kit and unique interior add-ons.
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 leatherette inserts and padded armrests, with brown upholstery in the Track&Style model and black in the R-Line. And then there is the premium tech that belongs in the luxury league.
Space is in this 5-seater is abundant, with great headroom and legroom, both front and rear, a although still a bit less than, say, a Honda CR-V. 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 less than others in its class, 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 top-spec testers. 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 R-Line additionally got a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium pedals and other minor doo-dads, while the Track&Style test car was loaded up with a roof rack, coat hanger, rubber mats, custom-sized coolbox, extra pockets and other stuff that came right out of the accessories catalog. The dual-zone auto a/c worked fine during our winter-afternoon 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 at steering into spots.
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 9.0 seconds using RON95 petrol, though it feels faster. And the engine is reasonably economical, burning fuel at a rate of 12.4 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, the stability control is very aggressive, slowing it down as soon as the understeering pressure builds, but the limits are pretty high for a tall crossover. The steering offers mild weight and 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 most road surfaces, there is no floatiness, wind noise is minimal and road noise is surprisingly low considering the wide tyres, at least up to 100 kph. The firm ride becomes noticeable on freshly-laid surfaces or gravel roads, but the suspension tuning is rather good for a car that rides on 19-inchers. 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, at least in the hands of an amateur. It can be outfitted with hill-descent control, and there is an “off-road” button that forcefully sends power to all four wheels, but neither of our test cars had that option. Otherwise the Tiguan stays in front-wheel-drive mode, sending power back only when a computer thinks it’s needed. Incidentally, we did take the R-Line on some mild dunes, and it did better than expected, but only because it was using its torquey engine to power out of the soft sand.
The Tiguan is for those who want to experience the impeccable quality feel of a German car without paying the insane prices of the premium German marques. While it is by no means cheap, it is as practical as the usual players in the compact segment, unless you need a whole lot more boot space, but considering how much more fun it offers in an otherwise boring segment, the trade-off may be worth it for some.
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