As a brand, Volkswagen has the ability to consistently divide motoring enthusiasts and the car buying public. In recent times, Volkswagen has never been far from controversy. There are those who love the brand for its innovation and offering the promise of German engineering at a reasonable cost. On the other side of the equation are those who are hesitant to endorse a brand that has seen more than its fair share of negative headlines.
The new Tiguan is a model that should be considered just as it is written, new. It’s an all-new car. Also, the new Tiguan should not just be seen as another mid-size SUV. Instead, it's an opportunity for Volkswagen to once again connect with the wider motoring community, demonstrate what it’s capable of and challenge those with doubts.
Often new models are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The new Tiguan is the exception that proves the rule. The new model bears little to no resemblance to the model it replaces. This Tiguan is here to raise the stakes in one of the most competitive market segments.
For this review, Volkswagen have supplied a 132TSI Comfortline. In standard specification, it has a list price of $41,490, plus on-road costs. This model sits in the centre of the new Tiguan range and appears - on paper at least - to be where the smart money is.
For anyone familiar with the older model, the first thing that stands out when examining the new car is the exterior changes in size. The car has grown 30mm in width to 1,839mm, the length of the car has been increased by 60mm to 4,486mm, and most importantly, the wheelbase now measures a far more usable 2,681mm. This represents a whopping increase of 76mm.
Interestingly, the height of the car is 38mm shorter. This works to give the car better proportions. These proportions are highlighted by sharp design lines that produce a very modern looking package. The Tiguan is now a looker and is further enhanced by the lovely Caribbean Blue metallic paint, which adds $700 to the price. Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no objections were raised during the week of testing.
The Tiguan Comfortline 132TSI is powered by a 2.0L 4 cylinder inline turbocharged direct injection petrol engine. It is rated to produce a handy 132kW of power and 320Nm of torque. The transmission it’s mated with is a 7 Speed DSG (dual-clutch automatic gearbox). It is also equipped with Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.
When it comes to the driving experience, it doesn’t take long for the Tiguan to establish its credentials. Ride comfort is excellent. The suspension calibration and 17” alloy wheels wrapped in 215/65 R17 rubber provide a very cosseting drive. One aspect of the Tiguan that really impresses is cabin noise. Tyre and wind noise levels are low, even at highway speeds. The level of refinement on offer is well ahead of its big selling Asian competitors.
The engine delivers more than enough power and never needs to be pushed too hard. Accelerating to cruising speeds is an effortless and smooth process. When confined to city driving, the stop-start system works seamlessly and is never intrusive.
The new Tiguan also handles well. The steering is well weighted and precise giving the driver excellent feedback. It doesn’t have the artificial feeling found in some of its rivals.
The DSG is always a Car Conversation or argument starter. Most of the concern about the transmission comes from previous bad experiences with earlier models, hearsay, or just misinformation found on internet forums. The 7 Speed DSG used in this car is very smooth. The annoying juddering that afflicted earlier DSG units wasn’t on show throughout this test. Gear changes were smooth and exact. Thorough testing in a variety of driving conditions was undertaken to ensure the transmission was doing its job.
The 132TSI Comfortline utilises Volkswagen’s 4MOTION Active Control. This allows the driver to select one of four driving modes depending on the driving conditions. Regardless of the situation, the driver can use Active Control to take advantage of the pre-set ‘on road’, ‘ice and snow’, ‘off-road’ and ‘off-road individual’ settings. The system alters the steering settings, throttle response and transmission shift points, to improve the cars ability on different surfaces. The car’s character does change slightly with each selection. Normal and sport modes were predominantly used during this test as part of the ‘on road’ setting.
The 4MOTION all-wheel drive system used here is effectively driving the front wheels until slip is detected. When a loss of traction is sensed, power will be distributed between the front and rear axle.
The parking assist technology removes the skill set required for parallel parking, however, on this test the angle the vehicle uses to complete the manoeuvre can disrupt the second lane of traffic.
Breaking performance is spot on. The pedal has a great feel and like other aspects of the Tiguan’s package, the responsiveness to driver commands are immediate.
From the driver’s seat, the interior is first class and brilliantly executed. The cabin feels modern and bang up-to-date. The centre display and controls are slightly angled towards the driver and soft-touch materials provide a genuine feeling of quality.
It’s difficult to think of another car in the mid-size segment that can beat the Tiguan’s interior. Of course, the prestige brands will give it a run for its money, but competitors from the mainstream brands can’t get near it. Everything the driver touches, from the steering wheel to the climate controls, feels well put together.
The test car was equipped with the optional luxury pack which includes: electric adjustment for driver's seat with 3 position memory function, electrically foldable exterior mirrors with environment lighting and memory function, electrically operated automatic opening and closing of the tailgate with easy open and close functions, front and rear LED reading lights with illuminated buttons, individually heated front seats, keyless access, keyless entry and starting system, electrically adjustable lumbar adjustment for driver's seat, panoramic glass sunroof and Vienna leather upholstery. This pack will add $5,000 to the cheque, but it’s plenty of gear for the outlay. It also gives the cabin a greater sense of occasion when you are behind the wheel.
The leather seats with their excellent level of adjustment and lumbar support remain comfortable during long drives. The panoramic roof lets light flood in to brighten everything up, unfortunately, it also lets in heat, making the 3-zone climate control system work overtime to keep the cabin comfortable on a warm day. The 132TSI Comfortline comes with a proper set of rear vents. Despite, what some brands and writers may say, they make conditions far more pleasant for kids stuck on the rear pews.
The infotainment system is intuitive and very easy to operate. The 8-inch display is very responsive and can quickly move between functions. The satellite navigation is one of the better systems on the market and is a genuine highlight. In fact, it worked so well there was no need to resort to Google maps. Pleasingly the system is complimented by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are both standard inclusions.
The attention to detail is what sets the 132TSI Comfortline cabin apart from the competition. Things like the aeroplane style flip-up tables for rear passengers help to differentiate the Tiguan and give it a bit more showroom appeal.
Speaking of the rear, it is tight in the back seat if the front passengers are tall. Although the Tiguan has grown considerably, with a 192cm driver, it still feels like a few extra inches on the wheelbase would make a significant impact on rear seat space and comfort. In a good move, rear passengers can share 12V socket located in the centre console.
The rear bench can be moved forward to increase luggage space to 615 litres, but with rear passengers wanting maximum space, it drops back to 520 litres. Cleverly, the rear seats easily fold down to provide a massive 1655 litres of cargo space.
The new 132TSI Comfortline is brimming with safety features. It comes standard with seven airbags, a driver fatigue detection system, front assist with City Emergency Brake (City EB) function, parking distance sensors at the front and rear with acoustic warning and audio volume level reduction when sensor warning is activated, Optical Parking System (OPS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist and Electronic Stabilisation Program (ESP), ISOFIX child seat anchorage points on the outer rear seats and a brilliant rear view camera (RVC Plus) with multi-angle views and dynamic guidance lines.
When looking carefully at economy, the Tiguan is also on the money. This test covered over 700 kilometres of city and country driving, returning an average of 7.3 litres/100km. Considering the amount of driving around Melbourne’s CBD to test the DSG, and the air conditioner usage, this is an impressive return. It also betters the official combined consumption figure of 7.5 litres/100km.
I once heard “if there’s an elephant in the room, it should be introduced.” In this case, the elephant takes the form of perceived high ownership costs, poor reliability and dealer network support. In Car Conversations about the new Tiguan, I came across many people that like the car, but concerns over ownership costs and the support offered by dealers are impediments to giving it serious consideration.
In terms of the ownership costs after the initial purchase, the Tiguan is more expensive to maintain than most of its rivals. Volkswagen publish capped price service costs on their website. Over the first five years of ownership - service costs - including all fluids and filters, average $698 a visit. The Tiguan’s maintenance intervals are conveniently set to 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
Another point to note when considering running costs is fuel, the Tiguan requires 95 RON premium unleaded which will slightly add to overall running costs.
Volkswagen, as a brand, need to improve the perception of its reliability. This matters to a large proportion of new car buyers and is evidenced by the amount of cars Toyota move each year. There are Volkswagen cars running around parts of Europe with hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock. Even in Australia, some of their cars have demonstrated the ability to bat on after they should have been put out to pasture.
This suggests Volkswagen do make reliable cars. Some fans suggested to me the dealership network needed to be more responsive when issues occur, though, this can be said for a number of manufacturers. Not all dealership experiences relating to service issues are positive ones.
It was also remarked to me that Volkswagen does not always receive the credit it deserves for bringing new technology to the market. They are a manufacturer that takes risks and brings some of the latest tech to the mainstream. In Car Conversations with enthusiasts of the marque, it was suggested that when you constantly bring new innovations to the market – an unintended consequence is likely to be some reliability issues. An interesting point that is worthy of consideration.
Volkswagen support the Tiguan with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty and three years of roadside assistance. The warranty isn’t good enough. With sister brand Skoda recently moving to a five-year warranty, it further magnifies the need for Volkswagen to offer more. A long warranty period does send a strong message to the market, and could be a means for Volkswagen to improve the perception of its reliability and backup service.
When assessed as an all-new model, the Tiguan is a great car. It has the style, ride quality and handling characteristics that set a new benchmark in the category. But, you do pay for it. The test car with options comes in at $47,190 plus on-road costs. For a model that sits in the middle of the Tiguan range, it’s getting expensive. It does claw back some value by offering an excellent interior, especially from the driver’s perspective.
For anyone looking at a medium sized SUV, they would be remiss not to give the Tiguan an opportunity. While it is easy to rely on internet search engines and forums to inform purchasing decisions, nothing can compare with the experience of getting behind the wheel. The Tiguan is a classy car, a car that can offer an alternative to the Korean and Japanese models. When assessing the Tiguan objectively, as a new offering, it’s difficult to not be impressed. It does offer the most complete package in the segment. While concerns over reliability and after-sale service may have been previously warranted, this all new car sets a tone of high build quality. The improvements over the old model go beyond styling and move the medium SUV category a little further along. While it is easy to cast doubt, damaged reputations can be restored with time and effort, for Volkswagen, the new Tiguan is a great place to start.
Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline Specifications
Price from $41,490, plus on-road costs Engine 2.0L 4 cylinder inline turbocharged direct injection petrol engine Power 132kW @ 3900-6000 Torque 320Nm @ 1500-3940 Transmission 7 Speed DSG (dual-clutch automatic) Combined Fuel Consumption 7.5L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Performance 0-100km 7.7 seconds Length 4468mm Width 1839mm Height 1658mm Wheelbase 2681mm Weight 1691kg Ground Clearance 201mm Turning circle 11.5m Service Intervals 12-months or 15,000km Warranty three year/unlimited kilometre
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Let's start a Car Conversation, has anyone test driven the all-new Tiguan? Do you think it represents good value for money? If you recently purchased a medium SUV did the Tiguan make your short list?