Nearly three million people bought versions of the previous Tiguan. There is plenty riding on the new model, then…
That’s correct: globally, more than 2,8 million buyers opted for a Tiguan when shopping for a compact SUV (of these, 19 000 were South Africans). It was sold in more than 170 countries, making it Volkswagen’s most important passenger vehicle in terms of sales after the Golf, Passat and Polo.
You’d expect the traditionally fastidious manufacturer to be even more thorough than usual in the development of the second-generation model, then, considering how much the Tiguan’s success affects the VW Group’s bottom line.
In the South African market, the Tiguan is initially available in three derivatives. The 92 kW 1,4-litre in Trendline and Comfortline specification is supplemented with this 110 kW Comfortline. Before year-end, the line-up will have been bolstered with a 2,0 TDI in three states of tune – 81, 105 and 130 kW – and a range-topping 2,0 TSI developing 162 kW. The high-powered engines will drive all four wheels through VW’s Haldex-type 4Motion system, and be outfitted in Highline trim.
Considering the sheer extent of the range right from the get-go, it appears Volkswagen South Africa has every intent on contributing to the Tiguan’s projected worldwide success. Back to our test vehicle. Featuring the latest version of the VW Group’s 1,4-litre turbopetrol that it shares with, among a plethora of other models, the Audi Q3, this model is exclusively available with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission and offered solely in mid-range Comfortline finish.
At R457 680, it costs about R30 000 more than the equivalent outgoing 1,4 TSI 118 kW model, but countering that price hike is better spec and the main difference between the two generations: the implementation of Volkswagen’s MQB platform. Seeing its first local outing in an SUV body shape, the Modular Transverse Matrix underpinnings have allowed the company’s engineers more freedom in terms of the design of the underbody, which has increased static torsional rigidity (25 000 N.m/degree when fitted with a panoramic sunroof), and given them freedom to lengthen the vehicle by 60 mm and enlarge the hatchback opening.
Despite this increase in span and a decrease in height by 33 mm, the Tiguan retains its predecessor’s classic compact-SUV stance. Following the Passat as the second model adorned with Volkswagen’s newest visual direction, courtesy of design chief Klaus Bischoff, the pervasive theme is one of horizontal lines. Adorned in a chrome finish, these lines criss-cross the wide grille – between the standard-fitment LED headlamps and bumper, flow from behind the front wheelarches through to the rear lights – and bisect the rear hatch and the bumper below.
Coupled with this model’s optional (R18 000) R-Line package and its 19-inch alloys, bumpers and sill extensions with black accents, and a rear spoiler, we can’t recall a recent Volkswagen drawing as much attention from road users as this model during its two-week test tenure. We’ve seen versions equipped without the R-Line kit and they retain most of the visual appeal while appearing a touch less brash (and if you desire more lustre, there’s an optional Gloss and Shine package that does exactly what the name implies).
The real triumph versus the outbound model awaits inside, though … but only if you agree with us that the Golf has the best interior in its class. Despite being price-positioned higher up the VW food chain, the Tiguan’s facia looks and feels nearly identical to the one in Volkswagen’s C-segment hatch. Whether you think that renders it a somewhat dull, generic cockpit, it nevertheless means two things: the quality of the materials is beyond reproach; and the layout of the controls is as logical as you’d desire.
Comfortline Tiguans come standard with a simple-as-can-be five-inch Composition Colour touchscreen infotainment system with the usual bevy of audio playback and connectivity features. This version can be upgraded to 6,5- or eight-inch options (the latter when sat-nav is specced), as can the sound system to a nine-speaker 400-watt Dynaudio setup that this vehicle had fitted. It doesn’t quite have the clarity of sound to justify the price, which makes us wonder if the standard eight-speaker system isn’t sufficient.
Also optional on this model is Active Info Display, which replaces elegant analogue instrumentation with a 12,3-inch digital array that offers six different layouts, including an off-road display profile that indicates the steering angle and direction in which you’re heading.
One or two testers commented that the reach adjustment on the steering column isn’t quite as generous as they’d hoped, but most found the high-sited driving position – 8 mm loftier overall than before – ideal. It’s even rosier in the back, where we measured a considerable 724 mm of legroom with the 40:20:40-split bench at its rearmost position, and 336 dm3 of luggage space with the second-row seat moved all the way forward by 180 mm. That said, the overall utility volume isn’t as plentiful as on the Tucson and Kuga, but its certainly larger and more comfortable inside than the first-generation Tiguan … if you stick to the standard suspension setup.
Standard on the R-Line kit is sportier settings for the springs and dampers, which, when coupled with the 19-inch wheels and 45-profile tyres, make for a firm ride at low speed. Like on the Golf, you can hear the suspension thudding over imperfections, but here that’s coupled with a slight brittleness to the secondary ride that stands at odds with the Tiguan’s otherwise languid, refined demeanour. Avoid R-Line and you get suspension tuning with more give and 17-inch alloys enveloped by plump 65-profile rubber.
Thankfully, this firmness dissipates at higher speeds, where the Tiguan feels particularly planted (even in gusting winds during a cold Cape spell), not least because the perfectly calibrated, electrically assisted steering is direct but not nervous. That steering is light at town speeds, where it’s aided by clear sight lines and standard-fitment park-distance control to make the Tiguan an easy vehicle to manoeuvre and park.
This fire-and-forget nature is bolstered by the workings of the engine and transmission. Delivering 250 N.m on a plateau from 1 500 to 3 500 r/min, the torquey 1,4 TSI propelled the 1,6-tonner to 100 km/h in 9,57 seconds, and from 40 to 80 km/h in 4,59 seconds, figures only slightly slower than those we achieved with the Q3 1,4T FSI in September 2015.
The engine boasts cylinder-shutdown on part throttle, not that you would notice; a display flashes in the instrumentation to alert you to this step, but otherwise you’re blissfully unaware. It’s a refined unit at low rotations, but does exhibit a touch of lag – which might also be attributed to the otherwise excellent DSG ‘box – and turns gruff above 4 500 r/min.
The vehicle braked well, too, registering an average time of 2,90 seconds through a brake pedal that’s a touch too sharp; consumed a reasonable amount of petrol (8,3 litres) on our mixed-use 100 km fuel route; and boasts a projected travel range of 792 km on the 58-litre tank.
There are compact SUVs that have more power (Kuga), bigger utility space (CR-V), cost less (Kadjar and Qashqai) and are better equipped and boast longer warranties (Tucson), but none of those rivals possesses the spread of talents of the new Tiguan. It drives as well as a hatchback, seats five occupants in greater comfort than some larger SUVs and is as refined as a compact-executive sedan.
In fact, it's as thoroughly developed as you'd expect a product from VW to be, especially one that's this crucial to the company's fortunes. Simply put, based on this acquaintance, we have little hesitation in proclaiming it the new class benchmark.
*From the October 2016 issue of CAR magazine