- Five punchy and refined engines
- High-quality interior showcases new tech
- Impressive ride-handling balance
- Overall premium feel: it's the Golf of medium SUVs
- If you want AWD, you'll be spending at least $41k
- Advanced safety can't be added to the base model
- Handy auto tailgate a pricey option on most models
The 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan is all-new, and it's substantially improved over the car it replaces in two ways. Firstly, it's bigger, with Volkswagen moving the car into the booming medium SUV segment. And secondly, it now feels genuinely premium.
The Tiguan is a building block in Volkswagen's goal of occupying its ideal niche: German premium player status, beyond its Japanese and Korean rivals, while retaining mainstream price points.
It's a compelling offer that summarises the way many Volkswagen models already feel – in particular, the Golf, which is closely related to the new Tiguan.
Volkswagen have needed a larger SUV to give it a player in this crucial segment against established rivals like the Mazda CX-5. Buyers need the new Tiguan too, because it moves the medium SUV game forward in a number of ways.
In essence, the Tiguan feels like a larger Golf, offering SUV practicality. That's a very good thing: the Tiguan introduces the Golf's premium formula of great engines and sophisticated ride-handling balance into this larger segment.
And where five-seater SUVs can feel and look quite generic, the Tiguan looks and feels distinctive. It's a capable car across the areas that matter - driving, comfort, practicality - and it feels like a quality product.
The larger form factor will give the Tiguan the practicality it needed, and with its traditionally-Volkswagen premium feel, the medium SUV class looks to have a new leader.
Four engines are available now – two petrols and two diesels. The halo 162TSI model, borrowing the Golf GTI’s spirited motor, will arrive early next year.
The new Tiguan drives like a Golf, and that’s a good thing because the Golf remains the dynamic benchmark among small cars.
Our first 100km behind the wheel had us nodding along to Volkswagen’s claim that the Tiguan can be the Golf of its segment.
Rivals like the Hyundai Tucson are impressive – but only if you option one of the more expensive turbo engines.
The Tiguan couples a superior ride-handling balance to a really impressive engine, at every trim level.
We drove the Tiguan at city speeds, on country roads and on the highway – a long, varied drive programme is often testament to a brand’s confidence in a car’s ability.
Volkswagen’s confidence would be well-placed, because the Tiguan satisfied across each of these environments – particularly on badly-surfaced, twisting B-roads.
Here the Tiguan can show off the improvements of its new MQB platform and chassis. Most of the time it feels solid and unflappable.
4MOTION models get adjustable drive modes. In the Sport setting, the steering feels properly weighted – but the non-adjustable steering on the 110TSI base model has been calibrated deliciously, with great communication.
Only the worst potholes jump out to jar the cabin, and smart buyers will go for smaller wheels, which preserve the comfort factor and emit less road noise.
There’s more than a hint of sportiness when you hustle the Tiguan – particularly in AWD models which felt very grippy in the wet, tight hairpins around Byron Bay.
None of the engines let down the package – in fact, the entry-level motors impressed us the most.
The 110TSI petrol (from $31,990) comes from the Audi A3 and it delivers power smoothly and linearly – it’s strong off the line and zippy in town.
But if you do long highway stints you’ll prefer the 110TDI diesel ($42,990). This is as good as small diesels get: incredibly quiet, free from vibrations, and responsive when given some stick.
The more expensive 132TSI petrol and 140TDI diesel feel like strengthened versions of their smaller counterparts – but they don’t feel significantly different in everyday driving.
Those looking for real shove in their Tiguan will want to wait a few months for the 162TSI.
We’ll reserve our feedback on fuel consumption until we keep the cars in Sydney for a couple of weeks – on launch, the cars are driven too hard to get a reliable figure. On paper, though, the Tiguan should be very competitive in this area.
So it drives like a big Golf, and inside, it looks like one – once again, that is a good thing.
But there are a few important features that the Tiguan can call its own.
The first is the availability of the Volkswagen Group’s flagship cabin inclusion – the Active Info Display digital gauges (Virtual Cockpit, in sister brand Audi’s parlance). This replaces traditional driver dials with a crisp 12-inch TFT screen.
This tech is just superb – and a navigation screen is much more natural, and safer, when placed in front of the driver, not in the centre stack.
This is impressive technology that the Tiguan’s rivals can’t match. While it’s not standard, it’s not inaccessible. The display is part of the Driver Assistance Package, which brings together autonomous and advanced safety features for about $2,000. That is good value.
The more traditional aspects of the interior are generally of a high quality. The best seats we sat in were those in the mid-tier Comfortline trim – it gets well-bolstered fabric seats that are even more supportive than the flagship Highline’s leather pews.
Each model – even the base – gets an eight-inch touchscreen – it could be a bit higher-resolution but it’s easy to use, and we appreciate the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As you’d expect in a Volkswagen the storage spaces are felt-lined and nicely damped – small things that add up to a feeling of high quality.
The same goes for the broad use of soft-touch materials – the steering wheel in particular feels luxe – but a few surfaces lower down remain harder than we like.
Back seat passengers will like the aeroplane-style tray tables, as well as the longer and wider body that means there is generous head, leg, and even shoulder room in the second row. Some rivals can’t match the Tiguan’s standard air vents back there, which keep car sickness at bay – but a USB port for the kids wouldn’t hurt.
Enlarging the Tiguan means it steps into medium SUV territory, which brings a host of new big-booted competitors.
That’s fine because the engineers have maximised interior space on this vehicle: the boot measures a highly competitive 615 litres with the seats up, or 1,655 with them folded flat.
We appreciate the multiplicity of hooks in the boot and the netting in the passenger footwell that keeps loose items from rolling around.
Manoeuvring the Tiguan seems easy – the steering lightens up at parking speeds, and the reversing camera has a few modes to scan what is going on at the rear. Upgrading to the Driver Assistance Pack adds a useful 360-degree camera.
The standard autonomous emergency brake will even hit the brakes if you’re reversing and an obstacle – including a person – walks behind the car.
We’ll need to subject the Tiguan to our practicality tests back in Sydney, but the signs are good.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen are pitching the Tiguan into the mix alongside the Mazda CX-5 and the Hyundai Tucson. For the most part, prices tend to be similar across those ranges and given how strong the Tiguan is – the value proposition is a strong one.
One exception is that fitting AWD is expensive on the Tiguan: it requires stepping up to the $41,490 132TSI engine, whereas a (very basic) CX-5 can be had with AWD for $32,190.
Our pick sits in the middle of the range: a 110TDI Comfortline with the Driver Assistance Pack fitted – to give you the great digital gauges. That car is $45,240.
Picking between one of three trim levels is the prime task when considering a Tiguan.
The entry level, called Trendline (from $31,990), includes a wide range of standard safety features: high and low speed autonomous emergency braking; lane keeping assist, multi-collision braking, a fatigue detector, and a tyre pressure indicator.
It’s clear that Volkswagen are moving the safety game forward – but the Driver Assistance Pack ($2,250 Comfortline, $2,000 Highline) should also be available on the Trendline.
This adds important stuff – adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, the 360-degree parking camera, and the fantastic Active Info Display.
Moving into the Comfortline (from $36,990) adds great seats, integrated navigation, three-zone climate control, and the folding tray tables in the back.
The flagship Highline ($49,990) adds supple Vienna leather upholstery, an electric tailgate, LED headlights, and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat with memory. A sporty R-Line kit can transform the Highline’s exterior and interior for $4,000. A sunroof is $2,000.
A $5,000 Luxury Pack can be added to the Comfortline which adds most of the Highline’s features.
The cheapest way into the immersive digital gauges is $39,240: a 110TSI Comfortline with the Driver Assistance Pack option.
While there are fourteen models competing in the medium SUV segment, in our view only four of them sit at the premium-feeling end of this segment.
Volkswagen tell us the Tiguan won’t be playing in price wars in this segment and that limits the field of true rivals to the better cars in this class.
Our field of rivals is based on the mid-range Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline ($41,490).
The closest rival is the Hyundai Tucson Elite 1.6T ($39,750), which binds a turbo petrol that mimics Volkswagen dynamics with an Australian-tuned suspension.
It may be being replaced imminently but the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.5L ($43,390) remains a worthy competitor, distinguishing itself with very sporty driving dynamics.
And the new Renault Koleos Intens ($43,490) may not keep up in driving dynamics, but its large dimensions and sophisticated interior mean it is worth considering.
First impressions though? They indicate that the Tiguan leads this field – but that’s a determination to be made after more thorough testing.
|Power||140kW at 4,000rpm|
|Torque||400Nm between 1,900rpm-3,300rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||83kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||5.9L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||60 litres|
|Average range||1017 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Configuration||DSG (double clutch)|
|Drivetrain||All wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1.69 tonnes|
|Cargo space (seats up)||615 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1,655 litres|