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TEST: Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI

22 November 2016

VW’s latest Tiguan has landed. Smarter, sportier and all-round better than before, on paper it seems as if it has the ammunition to take the fight to current trendsetters like the Hyundai Tucson and the upcoming Kia Sportage. We spent a week with it to find out if the Volkswagen really has what it takes to be the new class leader.

THE first generation Tiguan was sold in South Africa for eight years and it only really started showing its age recently, once its main competitors started replacing their mid-size SUVs. There were many reasons we loved the first generation Tiguan, chief among which was the overall aura of solidity. We’ll never forget that satisfying ‘thud’ its doors made when you shut them. It was a quality item, right up until the end.

Now there’s a new one and we spent a week in its company, mostly to see whether that satisfying thud has been retained. And while we were doing that, we’d also check the rest of the package to see if it’s worth recommending to potential mid-size SUV buyers.

Why so aggressive?
The standard vehicle is typical Volkswagen, so it blends in nicely in a car park. You can change this by adding the R18 000 R-Line package, which is worth every cent. Some may think it’s too brash, but we like it a lot. It adds an indecent amount of aggression to the overall styling, which is quite a departure from the norm for VW. Heck, even their fastest hot hatches tend to be understated.

Step inside, sir
Volkswagen is very good at building quality interiors and the Tiguan serves as a reminder of that fact. It may seem too familiar and generic to some, but we like the idea of having a car where everything just makes sense from the very first time you turn the key. Touch points are superb, noise vibration and harshness levels are sublime and the list of standard kit is surprisingly generous. Our Comfortline model was equipped with everything you could possibly need on a day-to-day basis, but, naturally, there is an options list and our test unit was fitted with quite a few expensive items. This elevated the purchase price to above R500 000.

The standard radio does a stellar job, but we’d recommend the mid-range touchscreen option. It works a charm and it connects seamlessly to any smartphone. Thanks to the large screen and easy-to-understand menus and submenus, you’ll be able to confidently operate it within the hour. The Dynaudio Sound Package is worth it if you’re a sound aficionado, but the standard sound had no problem coping with the upper end of the decibel scale. If you spend a lot of time on the open road, it’s worth investing in the adaptive cruise control. The electric boot lid is also handy.

Our favourite optional extra is the Active Info Display, which is basically a digital instrument cluster. It displays all the usual trip computer info, but it also allows you to access every other in-car function, except for the climate control. It sounds complicated, but it’s easy to operate once you get the hang of it. It’s also a much safer way of interacting with the vehicle, since your eyes and hands never have to stray further than the instrument cluster and steering wheel.

So the quality and equipment is sorted, but what about space? The previous model struggled a bit in this regard, but Volkswagen sorted this issue with the new Tiguan. Space is generous up front, in the rear and in the luggage compartment, which boasts over 600 litres of packing space. The inclusion of a full-size spare wheel also doesn’t affect the boot capacity, as it so often does on competitor vehicles.

The Tiguan was tested under Euro NCAP’s most recent parameters and it scored the maximum five stars, making it one of the safest vehicles currently available in South Africa. Given our abysmal road safety record, this fact is going to be a major selling point for this car.

Only petrol?
Our test mule was the (current) top-of-the-line 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol, mated to a six-speed DSG gearbox. Its power output of 110kW and 250Nm is somewhat disappointing when compared to its rivals, but in all honesty, it actually felt faster than our long-term Tucson, which is equipped with a 130kW turbocharged 1.6-litre four pot. That shouldn’t be a shock, seeing as how VW kick-started this whole small capacity turbocharged engine business, and has had nearly a decade to refine the recipe. Now couple this engine to the best double-clutch transmission in the business and you have an almost perfect powertrain.

It should come as no surprise that this 1.4-litre packs a decent punch when you step on it, but what impressed us the most was how easy it was to tap into its supposedly frugal nature. These small turbocharged engines exist because they’re supposed to use less fuel than a similarly powerful 2.0-litre power plant. The Tiguan consistently returned a fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres/100km without a single adjustment to our ‘enthusiastic’ driving style.

How’s the ride?
The ride is plush and it never feels anything but planted, even at high speed. Thanks to the DSG ’box, it’s probably the best mid-size SUV for the daily grind in the city. As the Tiguan is currently available only in front-wheel-drive format, we can’t comment on anything but its gravel travel prowess. The smooth ride on tar also translates to a smooth ride on dirt. Thanks to a host of smart electronics, the Tiguan will also sort itself out nicely when you get too enthusiastic.

If you’re only planning on using the VW for gravel travel adventures, the front-wheel-drive Tiguan ticks all the right boxes. If, however, you intend to use it for more challenging 4×4 adventures, we recommend waiting for the all-wheel-drive model, which will be available in South Africa early next year.

Is it expensive?
Considering that it’s made by a premium brand, the answer is no. This current top-of-the-line model retails for R457 680. It’s slightly more expensive than most, but not by much and the added snob appeal, solid reputation and large dealer network more than make up for the additional premium. On the other side of the coin, the range is rather limited and the stock Tiguan looks fairly bland without the R-Line trim.

After spending a week with it, there’s little doubt in our mind that the new Tiguan will be one of the main contenders for the 2017 Car of the Year title. We consider it the current segment leader in the front-wheel-drive ,mid-size SUV category, but it does face some stiff opposition in a very competitive segment. Only time will tell if it will dethrone the bestselling Hyundai Tucson, if it will be able to see off the challenge of the upcoming Kia Sportage, and if it will beat its old enemy, the Toyota RAV4, in the sales race.

Engine 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Power 110kW @5 000r/min
Torque 250Nm @ 1 500r/min
Gearbox Six-speed DSG
4×4 drivetrain ESC, Anti Spin Regulator and electronic differential lock
Driving aids ESP, ABS, ASR, auto hold, trailer assist
Ground clearance (claimed) 189mm
Average fuel consumption 7.7 litres/100km
Range (58-litre tank) 753km
Service plan Five-year/90 000km
Price R457 680

Text: Gerhard Horn
Photographs: Deon van der Walt