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Volkswagen Tiguan road test (copyright image)

ROAD TEST:   Volkswagen Tiguan (diesel/auto)

by Ian Barrett

19th July, 2009

Home > Road Tests > Volkswagen

At the upper end of the SUV market segment, Volkswagen's Touareg has been quite a success story. Its combination of size, style and economy have won it many friends around the world. Particularly in 5.0-litre V10 TDI format, it's a tow vehicle par excellence, capable even of moving an unladen Boeing 747 at a pinch (with modifications)! But it's a large and relatively pricey vehicle, out of range of most budgets.

How about a Touareg in a smaller package! Enter little 'brother', the VW Tiguan, styled, sized and priced to give the Japanese and Koreans a serious fright! And with power train options which will have Big Oil also gnashing their teeth.

We've tested the 6-speed DSG automatic version of the Tiguan 103TDI, and came away from our week with the vehicle quite impressed with it's overall fitness to compete with its Oriental rivals. As well as having the optional 'Comfort Package' ($1,000), leather trim ($4,000), metallic paint ($800) and satellite navigation ($3,500), our test vehicle was fitted with Volkswagen's latest feature, "Park Assist" ($1,400), adding $10,700 worth of options to the base vehicle price. And, yes, for an additional $1,400 you can have a car which reverse parks all by itself! Well, almost - it does still require someone behind the wheel, but more about that later.

Instantly recognisable as a Volkswagen, the Tiguan is a sleek and stylish design somewhere between Touareg and Golf in appearance, which in most eyes isn't a bad thing. External adornments include black finished roof rails to which various accessory racks can be quickly mounted. Standard 16" x 6.5" alloys with chunky 215/65 x 16 rubber give the car a purposeful stance on-road. Although our test vehicle was fitted with optional 18" x 7" alloys ($2,300) and appropriate rubber, together with front fog lights ($400), for an even sportier look. The options fitted to the test car now total $13,400!

Ian Barrett with the 
Volkswagen Tiguan (copyright image)

Inside is a comfortable and spacious 'workplace'. Like the Golf from which it's (partly) derived, Tiguan comes with comprehensive equipment levels, even in standard trim. Highlights include multi-function trip computer and leather-rimmed wheel (tilt and reach adjustable), heated exterior power mirrors, semi-automatic air conditioning, and height adjustable centre armrest with storage box. The 60:40 split rear seats are raised, cinema style, to improve visibility for occupants, and they individually slide and recline for maximum versatility and comfort. Storage abounds for small items, with the obligatory cup holders and door pockets complemented by clever touches like glove box pen and notepad holders, and a centre console bottle opener.

Our test vehicle came with the optional "Comfort package", which includes rain-sensing wipers, light-sensing headlights, dual-zone climate-control and automatic dimming interior rear view mirror. The leather trim option features heated front sports seats, electric adjustment for driver (including 4-way lumbar support), and even fold-down airline-style tables for rear passengers. This option also includes a fold-flat front passenger seat backrest, handy for carrying that extra long load back home from the hardware store.

With a capacity of 395 litres (rear seats upright), the boot area fails to match the cabin for spaciousness, but this extends to 1,510 litres with both seats folded. It does feature a couple of useful under-floor storage trays beside the spare tyre, which is - you probably guessed - one of those skinny little space-saver temporary jobs. Just what you need when venturing off the beaten track next weekend to reach your favourite fishing or camping spot. Though our forays off the bitumen were quite limited, this is a car which does have reasonable weekend off-road capabilities.

Ground clearance is a useful 195 mm, which is roughly comparable to major rivals. Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system incorporates ESP, TCS traction control, Auto Hill Hold and electronic diff locks for drama-free progress in many snow, sand or gravel conditions. For the really adventurous, an Off-road Technology package ($300) is available which includes Hill Descent Assistance, and adjustments to ABS and TCS for enhanced control on steep descents or loose surfaces. Overall handling, road grip and ride comfort put the Tiguan at the front of the pack in this category, on the bitumen. Off-road it feels very sure footed, if not quite as absorbing as some competitors in this class. All this technology, along with 6 airbags, earns Tiguan a 5-star safety rating.

Volkswagen Tiguan road test (copyright image)

But arguably Tiguan's greatest strength stems from its drive train choices, particularly the availability of a diesel engine to address the SUV 'achilles heel', high fuel consumption. This is comfortably achieved in the 103TDI variant we tested. The new 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection turbo diesel puts out 103 kW at 4,200 rpm, and a robust 320 Nm of torque from 1,750 - 2,500 rpm. Combined with the 6-speed DSG automatic, it manages a 0-100 km/h time of 10.7 seconds, and will cruise easily up the longest and steepest of highway hills without raising a sweat. All this while achieving a frugal 7.9 L/100 km (combined figure), sufficient to give the car a highway touring range beyond 800 kilometres from the 64 litre tank.

Earlier, we made mention of the Park Assist. A first in a vehicle in this price range, it will prove quite handy for anyone lacking confidence in reverse parking. If there's enough space, an extra pair of 'eyes' and 'hands' take over to expertly 'whiz' you into that parking spot. Of course, the driver must still control other crucial elements such as vehicle speed and braking during this 'automatic parking' manoeuvre. But simply having both front and rear parking sensors, along with the digital dashboard display, is perhaps its greatest value.

In short, given the strong buyer demand for SUVs in western countries, Tiguan ought to be a licence to print money for Volkswagen. Priced from $39,190 without options (manufacturer's list price excluding delivery fees and statutory charges), the 103TDI automatic version shows rival makes a thing or two about combining both on- and off-road ability, with acceptable performance and fuel economy for our challenging times. That should be enough to give the long established leaders of the pack a decent shake-up.


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