2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

The larger, 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan takes things up a notch. Prospective Mazda CX-5 buyers should take note.

The second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan medium SUV launches in Australia this September, promising to be a more complete rival to top-sellers such as the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, and our newly crowned class-leader, the Kia Sportage.

More spacious inside than before and now offering competitive cargo space, the 2016 Tiguan is also expected to be a few thousand dollars pricier, pointing to a starting price around $30,000 plus on-road costs, stretching to close to $50,000 at the top of the three.

Indeed, Volkswagen has gone from talking mostly about growing sales to offering something almost semi-premium, but still “for the people”. The company believes the Tiguan is both a rival for the CX-5 and co, but also a legitimate cross-shop against higher-end Europeans.

The new German-made generation-two Volkswagen Tiguan will be available in Australia in a significant number of variations, with five engines, three specification levels, and sharply-designed R-Line versions of each therein.

We ventured to Berlin this week for the global launch of the 2016 Tiguan to get an idea of what it’s like, ahead of the Australian launch — just one market amongst 170 worldwide. The question: if you’re in the market for a medium SUV in Australia and in no huge rush, is the new Tiguan worth waiting for?

Before we get down to detail, some quick background. The Tiguan is the first Volkswagen SUV based on the ubiquitous MQB platform that underpins a vast swathe of VW, Skoda and Audi products. It therefore has more in common with the current Golf and others than before.

The new version is longer, lower and wider. It comes in front- or 4Motion all-wheel drive (with 11mm more ground clearance at 200mm), a range of small-capacity turbo-petrol and diesel engines, and in three states of trim: Trendline, Highline and Comfortline.

It also begins Volkswagen’s “SUV product offensive”. Soon, we’ll see a seven-seat Tiguan derivative, a larger SUV for the US and China, a new-generation Touareg, a radical crossover previewed by the T-Roc concept, and a Polo-based SUV to rival the Mazda CX-3.

But we’re in the here and now. What’s the new Tiguan like? On first impressions, very good indeed. When the old one arrived in 2007, it set a few benchmarks, but by the end of its life-cycle it was too small, and too dated.

The most important aspect of the new Volkswagen Tiguan is the improved cabin practicality and layout. The second generation can handle at least 520 litres of cargo. But the back row of seats slides 180mm forwards (with a 60:40 split) to allow 615L. Flip-fold the middle seats and you have 1655L. They’re bigger claimed figures than many rivals.

The cargo area is pretty clever as well. You get little flippy levers positioned near the (electric, on high-spec cars) tailgate that fold the back seats, like the Mazda CX-5. There’s also a removable cargo cover that’s rigid, yet hard to store, a 12V socket and a rare-for-the-class 230V powerpoint. Whether this comes to Australia is unclear. We’ll likely also get a space-saver spare wheel under the floor.

Back seat space is on a par with the class in terms of knee, shoulder and toe room, and the seats recline more than most, though the middle pew is typically tight. There are outboard ISOFIX points. Visibility through the large windows is decent, and our Euro-spec test cars had rear air vents and even a rear USB point, something few (bar the Sportage) offer. There are big door pockets and flip-down cupholders.

The improvements in cargo and rear seat space, yielded on the back of a 77mm longer wheelbase, are the real story here. At 4486mm long, the Tiguan is 60mm longer than before, making it more equivalent to cars such as the Tucson. It’s also stiffer in the body than before, yet 16kg lighter thanks to the MQB platform.

The second-generation model not only looks good from the outside (in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s one of the more handsome Volkswagens), but it also lifts its game inside in a big way, in terms of the materials used and the overall look and feel.

The dash is now driver-oriented, and in atypical style for the sometimes dour brand, has some interesting shapes and angles. It’s typically ergonomic and has good tactility with high-quality plastics and soft touch points, while there’s a feeling on-road that can only be described as ‘solid’. Little touches such as the flock-lined door pockets and the ‘thunking’ doors the brand likes talking about so dearly do genuinely make a difference.

The new seats are also good, and on top-spec cars have 14-way adjustment. They also have cool sliding storage trays hidden under the bases.

All of our test cars came loaded with every optional extra under the sun, though some tech highlights jump out. These include the 12.3-inch Audi-style digital TFT driver’s instruments that display a range of features such as the Off-Road mode and sat-nav, the full suite of active safety tech such as blind-spot monitoring and autonomous brakes, LED headlights, inductive smartphone charging and a rather chintzy heads-up display with a slim glass flip-up panel. This is not the best execution we’ve seen.

All Australian models will come with a touchscreen with haptic feedback, fitted with AppLink software that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That’s good. We don’t know full Australian specifications yet, but it’s safe to make some guesses ahead of the September launch.

The Comfortline will likely add nicer suede seats, satellite-navigation, multi-zone climate control and bigger wheels, among just a few features. The Highline will likely get leather seats, a 400-watt 10-speaker stereo, sunroof, auto parking, and the aforementioned safety equipment, to name just a few. Want a heated steering wheel? VW will do it for you.

Still, we reckon there’s going to be a long-ish options list to peruse, if our test cars are an accurate guide.

The overall feel inside the cabin exists very much in the same vein as the Golf — premium-ish, beautifully made, a little subdued but ergonomic. Even small touches such as the fat glovebox hinges and felt-lined storage cubby atop the dash (which we must say was a little fidgety to open at times) are notable. It’s among the very best in the class.

So what’s under the bonnet? Australian buyers will get no fewer than five engines. The entry 110TSI unit is a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol with 110kW/250Nm and cylinder deactivation, matched to six-speed manual or six-speed DSG transmissions, with front-wheel drive.

There are two 2.0-litre turbo-petrols on offer, the 132TSI with 132kW/320Nm and the 162TSI with its 162kW/350Nm engine shared with the Golf GTI. In R-Line spec this presents as a little hot hatch on stilts. Both of these will come with a DSG only (with flappy paddles), and front-biased on-demand 4Motion AWD.

The diesel side of the ledger in Australia will comprise two offerings, both with 2.0-litre capacities. These are the 110TDI with 110kW/340Nm, and the 140TDI with 140kW/400Nm. The 176kW/500Nm 176TDI isn’t coming to Australia, which is a shame. These are also DSG-only and 4Motion-only.

We drove three engines, with the all-new 132TSI a highlight. This will be the volume-seller in Australia, and it has a notably strong mid-range and is more relaxed than its mostly naturally aspirated rivals. VW has really ironed out obvious turbo lag and DSG shudders, on first impressions. It has an odd, gruff exhaust note that’s not entirely unpleasant.

The 110TDI is a typically relaxed engine, with typical tractability, while the 140TI is a rocket ship just like the R-Series Hyundai/Kia diesel and Mazda’s SkyActiv unit. The towing capacity is also up to 2500kg in Europe, and this engine would do it easily enough. This figure may be pared back for Australia’s hot climate, it remains to be seen.

Still, we’re going to have to wait for the Australian launch to give more detailed technical feedback, because the limited drive loops on the launch emphasised relaxed city driving and high-speed Autobahn time. We can say that the DSGs felt well-behaved, the throttle response more polished than the old car, and the general body stability at 180km/h just fine — not that anyone outside of the Northern Territory will, or should, ever find out.

We didn’t tackle many corners on this limited first taste, but the general ride quality even on 20-inch rims felt pretty plush, with cobbles, ruts and bridge joins dispatched well. It’ll have its work cut out matching the Australian-tuned Tucson, but it feels up there, being positively Golf-like.

The progressive electric steering has a greater degree of resistance as you speed up, and we’d bet its handling and body control in corners is 90 per cent Golf, given the Tiguan remains basically one of these, on stilts. Insulation from road noise on smoother German roads was good, though whether this remains the case on our coarse chip surfaces, on low-profile tyres, remains to be seen as well. Sorry to be so vague.

Volkswagen was at pains throughout the launch this week to point out the Tiguan’s surprising abilities off-road. Indeed, the company is offering the Tiguan with a separate, more bluff off-road nose design with better approach angles. This version won’t come to Australia initially, but if enough of you ask for it in the comments below…

Volkswagen, in typically extravagant style, made a miniature off-road park within the confines of Berlin. We tried some basic moguls, cobbles, moderate camber, sharp steps, soft-surface hill climbs and a downhill descent to test the hill-descent control system with adjustable engine speed.

Using the drive-mode select toggle (which also comes with Sport and Comfort road modes), you can opt for the dedicated off-road mode, which re-meters the throttle response, programs the DSG to hold lower ratios, loosens the stability control, changes the damper settings and activates hill-descent control. Suffice to say, with the right tyres, the Tiguan will go deeper into the rough than you may guess.

All told, the new Volkswagen Tiguan is precisely as impressive as you’d guess. It shares much with the Golf and new Passat, both lauded cars. It’s also notably more premium and practical than before. You can fit a pram in the back this time, for one thing. Our limited drive also hinted at refined road manners, with good rounding-off of bumps and strong engines.

What Volkswagen has done with the second-generation Tiguan is create a more grown up offering that should give anyone about to put money down on a CX-5, Tucson, Sportage, Kuga and company, pause for thought. If you can wait until September to take a test drive and decide for yourself, then we suggest you consider doing so.

Provided Volkswagen can get the pricing right, the new Tiguan will in all probability be a hard car to beat. And given medium SUV sales are through the roof right now, that should make VW’s Australian division very happy indeed.

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