By Wayne Gorrett, Henley-on-Thames, England
First published at CARS.co.za
This is the 2017, second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan. The first iteration sold 2.8 million units worldwide since its release in 2008 and was Volkswagen’s first foray into a growing SUV/crossover market. This new one is a strong evolution – and a very fine one.
First revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last September, this latest Tiguan arrives sporting more chiselled styling, enhanced performance and improved efficiency. It now rides on the Volkswagen Auto Group’s new and all-conquering MQB platform, which you’ll also find under the Golf, Passat and Audi A3.
To cut it in a plethora of mid-sized SUVs and crossovers, you have to offer something pretty special. VW have responded by trying to chart a steady course between simply refining what’s there and producing something new. With that 2.8 million figure firmly in mind, they’ve erred on the side of caution and the new car is all the better for it.
Compared to the previous model, the new Tiguan is definitely a lot more stylish, with clean lines and a powerful dynamic stance that rewards with tangible gravitas. The front, particularly, is more dramatic, with a lower and wider radiator grille. New slim headlamp clusters, air vents and rounded wheel arches replace the ‘square’ design of old.
The car’s dimensions have predictably increased, yet overall weight has come down a little. This equates to more space inside – right where it matters – without a weight penalty. The new model is 60mm longer and 30mm wider than before, which doesn’t sound like much but you can now comfortably fit three adults in the back.
Inside, it’s Germanic to the core – ergonomically slick, exceptionally well put together and entirely functional. The extra room over the old Tiguan is good news, particularly in the rear where it’s now more family-friendly.
There can be no doubt that the interior of the new Tiguan is a sizeable step up. Front and rear seating is very comfortable while being surrounded by classier and better quality materials than before. Headroom and leg room are generous throughout.
The boot is a useful 520 litres but with the rear seats able to slide up to 18cm forward, that space increases to 615 litres if you need to carry more luggage. With the rear seats folded, a cavernous 1,655 litres becomes available.
If you’ve driven a Passat or Golf recently, the Tiguan’s dashboard and infotainment system will be very familiar. The design offers more sense than style but everything is very logically laid out and simple to get along with.
One of the biggest changes inside the Tiguan is the availability of a new 31cm ‘active info display’ which replaces the conventional instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. First seen on the new Audi TT, it uses digital dials and the screen can be configured to show navigation updates, on- and off-road vehicle settings and media information.
Apple CarPlay also allows owners to have the interface of their smartphone mirrored on the central touchscreen, which can show music, messages and navigation info. It will also display live signal from an on-board ‘GoPro’-like camera; perfect for the horsey set to monitor their charges in the horse-box throughout the journey.
Five familiar trim grades comprise the new line-up: the entry-level ‘S’ from £22,510, ‘SE’ (£25,260), ‘SE Navigation’ (£25,985), ‘SEL’ (£29,610) and the sporty looking top grade ‘R-Line’ from £31,925.
Standard equipment on the ‘poverty-spec’ Tiguan S is light years removed from the automotive bread line: 17” Montana alloys, media system with 8” colour touch screen offering Bluetooth, DAB radio, CD player all heard through an 8-speaker system, cruise control and air conditioning
Being a family-oriented car, standard safety kit across the new Tiguan range includes six airbags, auto hazards under hard braking, ESC, traction control, trailer assist, rain sensing wipers, dusk sensor, DTRLs, low beam assist, lane assist and city braking.
Three petrol engines are available on the new Tiguan; 1.4-litre TSI (125PS), a second 1.4-litre petrol TSI with cylinder deactivation technology (150PS), with the 2.0-litre 180PS offering a more spirited level of engagement.
All four turbocharged diesel engines are 2.0-litre units in varying states of tune – 115PS, 150PS, 190PS and 240PS and offer VW’s BlueMotion technology. All new diesel powered Tiguan models come fitted with a so-called selective catalytic reduction (SCR) filter to help reign in nitrous oxide emissions. It necessitates the inclusion of a 12-litre tank housing the AdBlue solution used in the exhaust gas filtration system mounted at the rear underneath the boot.
Transmissions are six-speed manual or 7-speed DSG automatics. The new Tiguan is available with two-wheel drive (front) running gear or Volkswagen’s clever 4Motion all-wheel drive system.
The petrol TSI models hadn’t arrived from Wolfsburg in time for the recent UK media launch, so I drove the 150PS 2.0-litre SCR turbodiesel in six-speed manual and the seven-speed DSG automatic. Both were in top-end R-Line trim and fitted with VW’s 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system.
My first extended spell in the new Tiguan was in the manual. Fire it up and the TDI settles to a pleasantly refined hum but this doesn’t last for long as, out on the road, the unit needs to be revved inordinately hard to make progress.
The six-speed manual gearbox is fairly long-geared, which is nice for a peaceful motorway cruise with the engine ticking over at a leisurely 2,000 rpm. However, when you need to engage with variable traffic, you often find yourself having to change down for a burst of acceleration, which means progress isn’t as smooth as it could be.
Elicit most of that 150PS performance though and there’s a decent turn of speed to enjoy with 340Nm of torque available. The Tiguan will sprint from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.3 seconds, but CO2 emissions of 141g/km means it’s not as clean as many of its rivals. Claimed fuel economy of 52.3 mpg is not too shabby though.
The other diesel model we drove was fitted with Volkswagen’s renowned seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox (49.6 mpg), which is smooth and responsive with good anticipation for up and down changes in most situations.
On the road, the Tiguan is unlikely to set pulses racing, but it’s very quiet and smooth, especially when fitted with the optional adaptive dampers which allow you to control how soft the suspension is. When in Comfort mode, the adaptive dampers make the Tiguan very comfortable, even over poor road surfaces and with the larger 20-inch wheels fitted.
I spent a couple of hours in the outgoing Tiguan two days before the launch event and the handling is definitely firmer than it used to be, so there’s not much roll in the corners which is helped in its turn by some noticeably well-weighted steering. The car is easy to place accurately and with confidence. In general terms, the Tiguan does a good job of isolating you from wind and road noise and feels very car-like and easy to handle.
If you plan to take the Tiguan off-road – or live in a hilly, rural location – the four-wheel drive model will make the most sense. In addition to 4Motion all-wheel drive, the Tiguan gets selectable driving modes that will tailor the traction control system and stability control to cope with everything from icy roads to muddy rutted tracks. It also rides 200mm above the road, while the 2WD models are 10mm lower.
There’s no doubting the Tiguan is an improvement in all critical areas, but in a sector where style counts double, it maybe a little safe in terms of design.
Overall, a high-quality interior, acceptable performance and VW’s classless image should be enough to ensure that this compact SUV has the potential to climb to the top of the sales charts and repeat the success of its predecessor.