We have followed the journey of the new Volkswagen Tiguan extensively this year around the world. We first drove the GTE Active plug-in hybrid concept back in February. Later that month we put the regular models through their paces in the snow and were seriously impressed. Then it came to SA in September and we said that we would be astonished if VW does not treble its sales figures for the second generation.
The anticipation had definitely been created when a 1.4 TSI Comfortline finally arrived at the office, equipped with the sporty R-Line package. It was time for me to see what my colleagues had been raving about.
The old Tiguan was good, but it was a little dumpy in the looks department and was compromised slightly on interior space. Not so with the new one. In R-Line specification particularly, it looks really good and it has to, because it has to out-fashion models such as the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Toyota Rav4 before you even start looking below the skin. It does that really well, so already it’s a winner when it comes to design.
Space too is vastly improved thanks to it being substantially bigger and better packaged. Using the MQB platform which also underlines the Golf and Passat, the new Tiguan has grown in almost all areas, including gaining 60mm in the wheelbase. That translates into much more interior space, but VW has also been clever with that space, incorporating things such as sliding rear seats so you can choose whether you want more luggage room or space to fit in a basketball-playing teenager.
Using MQB also makes it easier to include elements that will be familiar, particularly to anyone who has sat in the latest generation Passat. The centre console has the same structure and many of the same components. Then there is the option of the Active Info Display. Just like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, this system makes most rivals’ instrument clusters look positively Flintstonian. It’s an option, but you have to have it. Sell an organ if you have to.
Overall the interior has that feel of quality and refinement we expect in a VW. Rivals, particularly Hyundai, are close, but the new Tiguan gets an edge immediately because we perceive German vehicles to be more solid and built to last.
Our test model was the front-wheel drive version, so no serious off-roading for us, particularly with that sports suspension and R-Line kit. However, we ventured off the beaten track north of Joburg and it coped well. The traction control sorted out any wheel slippage on a few rocky sections and it was all rather comfortable.
Then there is the 1.4 TSI engine. We continue to be baffled as to why there is so much lag on this engine when other car makers are managing to overcome it. Pull away and the box thinks for a few seconds before the revs climb and the turbo kicks in. Stay below that turbo line and you have little to get excited about. Once you have discovered the sweet spot though, the engine provides great torque enabling easy overtaking and maintaining momentum effortlessly during minor off-roading moments.
Dynamically, with the new Tiguan weighing 50kg less than the first generation, it also felt rather enjoyable when pushed through some twisty back roads. The sports suspension was never jarring and while there was a slight element of body roll, it was nothing that ever really upset the feeling of comfort.
All of this sets up the Tiguan as a vehicle that truly does what a crossover or small SUV should. With its sporty-looking R-Line kit, great overall looks and the cool digital dash, the package is well at home being the trendy urban warrior. Then, even in two-wheel drive setup, it is more than capable of being comfortable and capable transport when you feel the need to get out of the urban jungle for the weekend.
Is it the new segment leader? Well the Tucson gives it a serious run for its money and Kia is launching its new Sportage this week, so we will have to see. It kicks the backside of the Rav4 and is even a serious alternative to its supposedly more premium brother, the Audi Q3.
I’m in full agreement with my colleagues, so expect to see the Tiguan climbing the sales charts. It’ll be a scandal if it doesn’t. – Mark Smyth
Fast Facts: Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline R-Line
Engine: 1395cc four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 110kW from 5000 to 6000rpm
Torque: 250Nm from 1500 to 3500rpm
Transmission: six-speed DSG
0-100km/h: 9.2-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 200km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 6.1/100km (achieved combined)
Price: From R475 690