Volkswagen’s 2021 update to its midsize crossover aren’t sweeping but when it comes to a product this accomplished, it’s fair to say that the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it’ rings no truer than it does in the Tiguan.
What’s the same?
By and large, the updates to the Tiguan are primarily cosmetic, with the odd bit of new driver assistance tech folded into the mix. The updated Tiguan still rides on the MQB A2 modular platform and changes to the overall dimensions are all but indistinguishable. The underpinnings’ 2 681 mm wheelbase accommodates a sliding rear bench that serves up between 544 and 724 mm of legroom, as well as luggage space of 256-336 litres and 1 040 litres of utility space, making the Tiguan a compact but practically packaged member of its segment. This particular model’s running gear remains all but unchanged from that of the outgoing 2,0TSI 4Motion Highline; the MacPherson front/multilink rear suspension setup, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and turbocharged 2,0-litre inline-four turbopetrol developing 162 kW between 4 500-6 200 r/min and 350 N.m from 1 500-4 400 r/min fed to all corners via Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive.
The most noticeable change has to be up front, where the previous model’s nose treatment – featuring a mono-block arrangement within which the rectangular headlamps and grille were housed – makes way for a more curved chin section for the grille and headlamp apexes that echo the lines of the front wheelarches. The taillamps have also been revised, and the Tiguan badging has grown and migrated from the left of the tailgate to a central position beneath the VW roundel. Broader vent-work up front and a redesigned rear diffuser round out the external cosmetic updates.
Our test unit featured the optional (R28 000) R-Line “Black Style” styling pack. Among its features are gloss black finishes for the roof rails, wing mirror caps and sections of the grille; tinted privacy glass for the rear and 20-inch Suzuka rims.
Inside, the R-Line model we sampled features Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit Pro instrument array, comprising a 10,25-inch TFT display, as standard and replaces the physical buttons for the HVAC and steering wheel ancillary controls with haptic touch interfaces. We remain divided on the efficacy of these arrangements; while they do look a lot neater than buttons and dials, they are more difficult to modulate on the go and an accidental brush can see cabin temperatures and music volumes soaring unexpectedly.
Perceived quality is typically VW-solid; plentiful slush molding for much of the cabin trim, well screwed-together plastics for the rest and impressive NVH suppression mean the Tiguan remains one of the standard setters in the segment. The R-Line’s black-on-black interior motif is rather somber, but thankfully an ambient lighting system with 30 colour presets helps lift things. If there was one small criticism, it would be levelled at the leather upholstery for the seats. In our extensive experience with VW products, we’ve tended to find the hide coverings to be somewhat inflexible and prone to wear, especially when you consider that VW’s cloth seats are among the comfiest and most durable out there.
The updated Tiguan also ushers in a suite of extended active safety systems under the IQ Drive banner. The system is available in three flavours; one with adaptive cruise control, fatigue detection (detects if a driver is drowsy/medically incapacitated, activating alarms to rouse the driver and – if necessary – bring the car to a controlled standstill) and autonomous braking (R6 000); another which adds pedestrian monitoring, expanded child seat anchorage points, stop and go functionality for the adaptive cruise control and airbag/kneebag deactivation (R10 500) and an R18 800 option combining all the above.
On the road
In the past, we’ve often made mention of the ‘fire-and-forget’ nature of many VW products and the updated Tiguan continues in that very same vein. Far from being a means of damning with faint praise, it’s more an acknowledgement of just how accomplished it is on the road. From the steering, to the hushed mechanical refinement and poised body control; the Tiguan just marries everything so seamlessly that you’re effectively insulated from the nuts and bolts of the driving experience and simply left free to enjoy the journey.
Despite working against a reasonably hefty 1 635 kg kerb weight, the 2,0-litre turbopetrol’s 162 kW and 350 N.m outputs feel ample and the seven-speed auto’s combinations of quick downshifts and willingness to hang onto the revs when burying the throttle means overtaking is a cinch. A combination of motorway driving and spirited runs along the sinuous but sometimes badly pockmarked roads of the Cape’s southern peninsula revealed the Tiguan to be a balanced and eminently capable offering. The steering, although light, is responsive and well balanced while the chassis proves supple and only succumbs to some body lean when really pressing into corners. The optional 20-inch rims wrapped in 255/40 rubber required the no-cost fitment of the stiffened sports suspension setup, which can occasionally become shudder-prone when surfaces become rippled, but by and large the Tiguan ably takes everything in its stride.
While genuinely challenging opportunities to stretch the Tiguan’s legs off-road didn’t present themselves during the time we spent with the car, a couple of stints on gravel roads and steep inclines still allowed us to get a measure of the updated all-wheel drivetrain management system. Dubbed 4Motion Active Control Driving, it incorporates a quartet of presets (Snow, On-road, Off-road and Off-road individual) as well as an electronic diff-lock – the latter utilising brake, ESP and drive apportioning to mimic the actions of a mechanical locker in tough terrain. Basically, the system that tailors the ABS, stability control, throttle modulation and transmission parameters to best suit conditions – for instance, Snow will see you pulling away in a more measured second gear, as opposed to a potentially traction-breaking first. The Off-road setting certainly slows things down to a more measured gearshift pattern and throttle responses are more gradual, as you’d need on broken surfaces. In addition. the Tiguan’s 200 mm of ground clearance ensures you’re kept comfortably aloft of most potentially undercarriage-snagging obstacles.
While the changes to the Tiguan aren’t radical, they didn’t really need to be so. The fundamentals of what makes it one of the most highly regarded members of its segment – the bank vault-like build quality, effortless road manners, practical packaging – remain, while the new styling and inclusion of extended safety features do just enough to make things feel suitably fresh. The 162 kW R-Line’s R710 000 asking price does look quite hefty for its segment placing, but the performance on offer and generous standard specification helps justify some of that premium. No doubt, the pick of the litter will be the 1,4TSI R-Line – while considerably less powerful, it still possesses much of the cosmetic and convenience-oriented specification of its bigger brother but at a more palatable R644 500 price point.