Volkswagen Tiguan

Bigger is better, and with a touch of class

ALEX INWOOD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

WE FIRST sampled the allnew second-generation Tiguan a few months ago in Belgium, and we liked it. A lot. We praised its packaging improvements, its slick, upmarket interior, refined engines and overall polish, all of which shot it straight to the pointy end of the booming mid-size SUV segment.

But while all this was lovely, VW’s European drive route lacked the mix of roads, speeds and surfaces we needed to make a definitive dynamic call. So this Aussie drive is our first chance to dig beneath the Tiguan’s polished surface and see if it has the talent to rival the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.

And the news is good. On lumpy, pockmarked roads around Byron Bay, Tiguan version 2.0 asserted itself with aplomb. The handling is not only composed and light on its feet, but fun too, which is rare for this segment.

Key to this dynamic prowess is the Tiguan’s MQB underpants.

It’s the first SUV to ride on VW’s modular transverse architecture shared by Golf VII and Passat, and the family resemblance is clear.

The electric steering is accurate and well weighted, the handling progressive and precise, and bodyroll is kept tightly in check despite the taller ride-height.

The ride is also nicely judged across the range.

MQB has also addressed the Tiguan’s packaging shortfalls.

Where the original Tiguan had a tight interior and small boot, this new model muscles into mid-size SUV territory with larger dimensions all-round and a 77mm longer wheelbase.

The cabin ambience is classleading, with excellent vision and a rich mix of materials and textures, even in the entry-level 110TSI that starts at $31,990 in front-drive, six-speed manual spec. And there’s oodles of interior space, plus a vast 615L boot with the sliding second row pushed all the way forward.

There’s also plenty of equipment. Three trim grades are offered – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline – and all score an 8.0-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear air vents, cruise control, and auto wipers and headlights.

Engines wise, Aussie buyers are spoilt for choice. Five turbo donks are available – three petrols and two diesels – starting with a gutsy and spirited 1.4L 110kW/250Nm petrol in the entry-level 110TSI. Two tunes of VW’s EA888 2.0-litre follow, starting with the 132kW/320Nm unit in the 132TSI (which at $41,490 with a DSG and standard 4Motion is tipped to be the volume seller). A GTI-spec 162TSI with 162kW/350Nm will join the line-up in early 2017.

The pair of 2.0-litre turbodiesels (110kW/340Nm and 140kW/400Nm) are smooth and impressively quiet, though the 140TDI is more responsive and has a stronger mid-range.

It’s a convincing and comprehensive suite of engines with no obvious weak point, a fact that adds to the Tiguan’s overall feeling of engineering prowess.

The only real area of complaint goes to the conservative exterior styling. While handsome in Highline spec, especially with the R-Line package, the new Tiguan is boxy and appliance-like in base variants on 17-inch wheels.

Buyers could also be put off by the higher entry price given some Asian rivals start below $30K. But the Tiguan is still good value with its refinement, classy engines, polished dynamics and class-leading equipment. VW’s smallest Aussie SUV has grown up, literally, and is arguably the best offering in its class.

PLUS & MINUS

High starting price; snoozy styling, especially at base level Dynamics; packaging; refinement; equipment; interior quality and design Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI Highline 1968cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 140kW @ 3500-4000rpm 400Nm @ 1900-3300rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1691kg 7.9sec (claimed) 5.9L/100km $49,990 Now

Brady Bunch

Tiguan starts something of an SUV explosion for VW. Five new SUVs will bolster the local line-up by early 2019, with a longwheelbase, seven-seat version of the Tiguan, known as Tiguan XL, set to launch next year.

Tiguan XL will be closely related to the Skoda Kodiaq. A new Touareg is also planned, as is a smaller, Golf-derived crossover/hatch first previewed by the T-Roc concept of 2014. A Polobased small SUV is also likely to surface next year to take the fight to the Mazda CX-3.

OR TRY THESE...

Mazda CX-5 Akera $50,410

Deceptively speedy diesel and with sweet steering and sharp handling, top-spec CX-5 also offers oodles of equipment. Can’t match Tiguan for interior quality or refinement.

No second-row air vents.

Hyundai Tucson Highlander AWD $47,450

German-inspired Tucson is nicely built, cleverly packaged and fun to drive. Trumps the Tiguan for looks, though comfortable interior is let down by drab plastics.