The Tiguan is our reigning Top 12 Best Buys champ, but can the Tucson topple the accomplished VW in a battle of the diesels? We pit the Volkswagen Tiguan 2,0 TDI 4Motion Highline DSG against the Hyundai Tucson 2,0 CRDi Elite AT…
After testing the high-output 1,4 TSI Comfortline DSG derivative last year, we proclaimed the long-awaited second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan as the new class benchmark. The Wolfsburg-built model affirmed this lofty status by grabbing a coveted Top 12 Best Buys title in March 2017 thanks to its admirable spread of family-focused talents. The runner-up in the closely fought, annual compact SUV/crossover battle this year? None other than the Hyundai Tucson, which itself has assumed a pleasing maturity in its third generation. And now that these two local ranges have been expanded to include 2,0-litre oil-burning derivatives, a fresh diesel-flavoured skirmish looms large.
The protagonists top their respective line-ups in terms of price and are evenly matched on paper, although the slightly dearer VW has the obvious advantage of all-wheel drive. Interestingly, the two brands have taken different approaches to range composition, with just one variant (the 1,6-litre turbopetrol with its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission) in the seven-strong Tucson grouping sending drive to all four wheels, while three derivatives in Volkswagen’s similarly sized line-up feature 4Motion as standard.
Kitted out with the optional (R18 000) R-Line exterior package, the chrome-adorned Tiguan adopts a distinctly sportier stance than its well-proportioned Korean foe, gaining a rear spoiler, larger alloys, lower ride height and menacing bumper and sill extensions. The VW’s styling relies heavily on horizontal lines and eye-catching angular shapes, contrasting strongly with the Tucson’s use of softer contours.
Although the Hyundai’s 18-inch wheels don’t quite fill their arches with as much purpose as the upsized versions do on the slightly more slippery Tiguan, the Tucson’s overall design appears somewhat cleaner, particularly when you compare the German model’s fairly busy front-end with its rival’s sweptback countenance. While the two crossovers take markedly divergent approaches to exterior design, they are each attractively styled in their own right and both have already found strong favour among style-conscious South African buyers.
Inside, however, a clearer gulf emerges.The Tucson’s facia appears solid and durable, and the use of hard plastics in far-flung corners is a foible easily forgiven. But the Tiguan boasts both a higher level of perceived quality and a markedly classier design overall, even if you were to strip away the multiple layers of optional equipment lathered on the example we tested.
Despite the Tiguan employing a slightly longer wheelbase, little separates the two when it comes to the efficient use of interior space. The Tiguan’s lower-slung seating position, for instance, not only lends itself to added driving enjoyment, but also results in a touch more headroom up front, while the Korean crossover counters with a few millimetres of added cranial clearance for those accommodated in the rear.
But a sliding rear bench affords the VW a modicum more versatility, with its boot space and rear legroom measurements – at the extremes of said bench’s adjustability, that is – bettering those of the Czech-built Tucson by the slimmest of margins. Similarly, dropping the Tiguan’s split rear pews involves a simple tug on two levers in the boot, while achieving the same in the Hyundai (albeit resulting in a dash more utility space) requires the operation of levers located on either side of the bench, thus necessitating the opening of the rear doors. Still, the Hyundai manages to squeeze a full-size spare wheel under its boot floor, while the Volkswagen has to settle for a space-saver.
Second-row occupants in the Tucson will appreciate the dedicated, centrally mounted rear air-conditioning vents, although those in the rear of the Tiguan will furthermore enjoy access to a handy 12V socket and plastic fold-out picnic trays fastened to the back of the front perches. Electrically operated artificial-leather front seats, meanwhile, are standard in the Hyundai and optional (as part of a R12 100 leather package that includes memory and heating functions) in the Volkswagen, with the German crossover making do with manually manipulated, cloth-trimmed seats.
Performance & efficiency
At first glance, the powertrains of these two crossovers appear closely matched, with just a single kilowatt and 20 N.m between them. But, in reality, they’re really rather distinctive. The 2,0-litre turbodiesel in the Highline-spec Tiguan, for example, is classed as Euro 6 compliant, and boasts the lower fuel index, despite the extra weight added by the all-wheel-drive system (interestingly, this mill is detuned by 10 kW for local conditions). The Hyundai, meanwhile, employs an ageing yet capable Euro 2 unit, but its extra twisting force is available across a slightly narrower rev range.
Both engines, however, are fairly gruff at both idle and on the move, although our interior noise measurement tests suggest that the German crossover’s cabin is a mite quieter, likely in part due to superior insulation. The transmissions, too, are mechanically dissimilar, with the VW utilising a seven-speed dual-clutch and the Hyundai making use of a slightly slower-shifting six-speed torque-converter, although neither gearbox is intrusive in operation.
The extra cog in the Tiguan (which also features paddles) means the turbodiesel mill spends the majority of its time working in the meat of the power band, making for swifter, more refined progress. Indeed, despite its output disadvantage, the Volkswagen proved to be quicker on our test strip, completing the 0-100 km/h sprint in an commendable 8,70 seconds, nearly eight-10ths of a second quicker than the Hyundai. Of course, the Tiguan’s Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system comes into play here, allowing it to make better use of the diesel engine’s oomph right off the line.
The VW also outgunned the front-wheel-drive Hyundai on the braking front, registering an excellent average 100-0 km/h time of 2,79 seconds to the latter’s 3,09 seconds, which ranks as “good” on our scale. While the Korean boasts a tighter turning circle, the four-paw Tiguan responds with a braked towing capacity of 2 200 kg, besting that of its rival by 300 kg.
As mentioned, the Tiguan featured here is equipped with the optional R-Line package, which includes lowered, stiffened suspension and (on this particular model) “Suzuka” five-spoke, 20-inch alloys wrapped in 40-profile rubber. While this helps to lend the German a clear dynamic edge, adding to the already impressive grip levels served up by the 4Motion system, emphasising the progressive body control and complementing the pleasingly calibrated steering, there’s no escaping the fact that it detracts from the ride quality. Indeed, the effects of road imperfections are keenly felt at low speeds, a mannerism that thankfully dissipates as the speedometer needle heads towards highway pace.
The Hyundai, by contrast, is noticeably more comfortable at any speed – thanks at least in part to the higher-profile 225/55 tyres covering the 18-inch wheels – although more than one tester complained about a slightly troubled secondary ride, with the effects seemingly amplified over the rear axle. And, dynamically, it’s no match for the VW. Both SUVs make use of drive mode systems, with the Tucson offering normal, eco and sport, and the Tiguan adding a configurable individual setting, as well as a snow function and two so-called off-road modes accessed via a rotary controller positioned alongside the gearlever.
Value for money
If there’s one area in which the Hyundai takes a clear stride ahead, it’s in the realm of specification. While the Tiguan boasts a small handful of standard items not offered in the Tucson – such as tyre-pressure monitoring, rain-sensing wipers and front parking sensors – the Elite-trim Hyundai counters with a far lengthier list of standard features.
Indeed, the Korean comes fitted with a panoramic sunroof (a R10 500 option in the Volkswagen), blind-spot detection (with lane-change assist), keyless entry with push-button start (a R4 000 extra in the Tiguan), a reversing camera (something that is part of VW’s R5 000 parking pack) and the electric seats mentioned.
The Hyundai’s aftermarket eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with satellite navigation, will set buyers back R5 000, while a significantly more polished example costs R12 000 in the Volkswagen. And, although both models are equipped with six airbags and Isofix points on either side of the rear bench, the Tiguan adds a brake-assist function to its impressive array of safety features. The respective service plans are identical in length (both with 15 000 km intervals), but Hyundai offers a five-year/150 000 km warranty plus an additional two-year/50 000 km cover for the powertrain, eclipsing the three-year/120 000 km warranty provided by VW.
Test SummaryAs evidenced by their recent Top 12 Best Buys gongs, these really are the best vehicle ranges in what has become a highly competitive local segment. However, all testers agreed that the two vehicles featured here are not the best derivatives in their respective line-ups, despite their fairly hefty price tags and lofty positioning. The finest Tiguans, for instance, are found towards the middle of the range, while purchasing one of the cheaper Tucsons (such as the 1,7-litre CRDi model, albeit without the option of a self-shifting transmission) will likely leave buyers feeling as though they’ve spent their money more wisely. But, which one of these two enjoys the spoils of this battle? Well, while both powertrains come across as a little coarse, the Tiguan’s is slightly more refined, punchier and ostensibly more efficient. The added security that comes with all-wheel drive is another key consideration. And, although the Tucson trails in certain areas such as these, Hyundai’s compact SUV all but makes up for it with a generous standard equipment list and that unrivalled, seven-year warranty. And, despite the Volkswagen boasting an undoubtedly classier interior, specifying the very best bits – such as the VW Group’s nifty digital instrument cluster – is an eye-wateringly expensive exercise (for the record, our test unit was fitted with in excess of R100 000 of options). The R-Line package, too, represents a tricky proposition for potential buyers: are the swish looks worth the compromised ride quality? Ultimately, though, the impressive Tucson runs its classy rival close, landing regular counterpunches and positioning itself as a spacious, comfortable crossover with plenty to offer the South African buyer. It’s the more polished Volkswagen, however, that wins by a nose, thanks to its broader array of talents, a greater depth to its engineering and its all-round slicker execution. *From the June 2017 issue of CAR magazine
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