The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s foray into the burgeoning CUV (Compact Utility Vehicle) market which is rapidly attracting other European makers to the small ‘soft-roader’ party.
It is not a big SUV and it won’t carry half the soccer team to practice, but if you think of it as a combination of the interior from a reasonably equipped, luxurious sedan, like a Passat or an Audi A4, in the body of a Golf on stilts, you will get it.
First visual impressions of the Tiguan are that it is smaller than you think. It looks a little slab-sided in profile, but the front and rear ends are cohesive if a little Euro-chic bland. The wheelbase is quite short but the interior packaging is good with ample room in the back seat for tall people. The seats are quite comfortable on long trips despite initially feeling firm. Up front it takes time to get used to what all the buttons do and the functions available. The instrumentation is clear but there is a lot of information displayed on the mini-screen between the speedo and tacho which a bit distracting when driving.
The ‘Wild Cherry Red’ colour on our test car set the curves of the Tiguan off very well.
Sporty driving is not the Tiguan’s forte. It can handle tight roads at a moderate pace with not too much body-roll. The 4-Motion four-wheel drive system provides decent grip as do the 235/55/R17 tyres, but push it hard and the weight and high centre of gravity start to show. The Tiguan has this covered though with ESP and other electronic aides that help to keep the car on the black-top. In everyday driving though, the car feels well-planted and soaks up bumps well.
The Tiguan’s 103kw diesel engine provides decent acceleration from 2000rpm, but below that the 2-litre struggles with turbo-lag. Cruising at 100kph it can be tricky to modulate the throttle for smooth progress when changing lanes on the highway due to the on/off power delivery caused by 320nm of torque being lumped between 1750-2500rpm.
The engine is not an aural gem and sounds more like a synthesized reproduction of an engine than a real mass of reciprocating steel, but it did return a decent city/highway fuel consumption average of 8.1 l/100km on our test which is close to Volkswagen’s official 7.5 l/100km.
The 6-speed transmission is very smooth and performs well in normal, sport, or semi-auto modes shifting seamlessly.
The steering feels jerky at parking speed like the power-assistance is not sure whether it should be on or off. At speed however, the steering feels linear and gives adequate feedback.
The Tiguan’s party-piece is something pretty cool but also slightly disturbing;
it can parallel-park itself. You can’t jump out and watch it manoeuvre into a parking space – that would be silly – but to watch the steering-wheel spin quickly around unaided is a spooky experience, made even more intimidating because with its sensors, the Tiguan parks faster and better than you can.
Now, as a trick, the parking assist is cool, you can freak your friends out with it. But if you were a driver so bereft of parking ability that you routinely needed this function, I would have to come and confiscate your licence myself.
The options we had were the panoramic sunroof ($2500) which made the car feel more spacious and had multiple adjustments, and the upgraded stereo ($750) which a colleague liked but I though was just middling.
The Tiguan is not all things to all men. The boot space isn’t as large as a full-size SUV and the parking assist may eventually evolve into a cyber-tronic robot and steal your soul (or just your driving ability) but it does work very well for its intended market.
The fact that the Tiguan comes into a market place full of Japanese CUV competitors but few German or American rivals also makes it unique, for the time being.
Being a luxurious, smallish car packed with technology and some off-roading ability, the Tiguan looks like a good choice as a family wagon to take to the snow, but all this comes at a price.
At a base price of $53,990 it is at the sharp end of the CUV market and makes the less flashy Japanese alternatives look like good value, but then again the Tiguan has features that the competition doesn’t.
So for now the Tiguan is the top of the CUV heap for all the tech and luxury it packs into a small space, but it will face more serious competition when Audi (?), BMW (X1), Volvo (XC60) and Mercedes-Benz (GLK) release their forthcoming CUVs. Can’t wait.
Price: from $53,990. As tested: $57,240
What we like
- 6-speed transmission
- Parking assist
- Interior ambience
What we don’t like
- Jerky low-speed steering
- Parking assist
- Air vents have small range of motion
103kW @ 4200 rpm
320Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm
Diesel Particulate Filter
6-spd Tiptronic Retail Price (including GST) – 103kW TDI $53,990
Performance & Fuel Consumption
¢ 0 — 100 km/h 10.7
¢ Top speed km/h 182
¢ Combined l/100km 7.5
¢ CO2 g/km 199
¢ 3-point automatic seat belts, height adjustment and seat-belt tensioners for front seats
¢ ESP (electronic stability program) with ABS, EDL (electronic diff lock), ASR and Brake Assist
¢ Driver and front passenger airbags, with front side and curtain airbags
¢ Electromechanical steering with safety steering column (steering wheel height & reach adjustable)
¢ Flat tyre indicator
¢ Front passenger airbag deactivation
¢ ISOFIX mountings on rear seat
¢ Outer rear view mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated
¢ Rear fog light
¢ Three rear headrests
¢ Automatically dimming interior mirror
¢ Automatic headlight control with coming home/leaving home function
¢ Backrest release for fold-flat front passenger seat
¢ Climatronic dual-zone air-conditioning
¢ Comfort sports front seats with height adjustment
¢ Cruise control
¢ Drawers under front seats
¢ Electric park brake
¢ Folding tables on front seat backrests
¢ Front centre armrest with storage box
¢ Illuminated vanity mirrors
¢ Interior lights in front footwells
¢ Leather multifunction steering wheel
¢ Luggage compartment cover
¢ Multifunction Indicator Plus
¢ ParkScan Parallel Parking Assistant
¢ Privacy glass (65% tint), B-pillar aft
¢ Rain sensor for front windscreen wipers
¢ RCD 300 audio system with 8 loudspeakers, MP3 CD compatible
¢ Remote central locking with immobilizer, tilt sensor and interior monitoring alarm
¢ Silver anodised roof rails
¢ Storage pockets on front seat backrests
¢ “Visible” cloth upholstery
¢ 17″ Boston alloy wheels, 235/55 tyres with space-saver spare wheel
¢ 4Motion all-wheel drive
¢ 4-link independent rear suspension
¢ Towing weights (unbraked / braked / tongue weight): 750kg / 2200kg / 100kg
Warranty and Assistance
¢ 3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion
¢ 3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance
Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham