The Volkswagen Tiguan is a car that will set the revitalised German importer apart and at the same time take it into a headlong battle with some of the most established Japanese brands in one of Australia’s most volatile market segments.
- David Twomey
VW Australia marketing director Peter Dierks says the Tiguan is set to become the second biggest selling VW in Australia, behind the 11,000+ a year VW Golf.
One thing is certain this is not just the first European soft-roader to hit our market, it is very different from almost anything else currently on offer.
One of the most significant differences is that, for the time being at least, it will be a diesel power only vehicle, and that is certain to make life tough for its Japanese rivals, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, all of which do not have a diesel engine on offer.
The compact SUV market segment is populated with the so-called “user-choosers” the young, middle income, novated-leasing families, who it seems have been major embracers of diesel power in the Australian car market.
Step inside the Tiguan and you are immediately struck at it’s difference from the current offerings that crowd this market segment.
Not only does the dash layout show a strong influence from its Golf heritage, large round dials, centrally placed video display and air-conditioning controls and good all round ergonomics, but it is also undeniably European in feel and style.
The European-style of this car is a big feature as far as VW is concerned but that’s what it sees, rather correctly we think, as being its big point of difference with the rest of the market.
And features abound throughout the Tiguan, even in the base model, except for the range-topping !47TSI petrol model which gets virtually all the options as standard, there is really only one model of Tiguan, plus a list of options and accessories.
Firing up the engine will also make you aware of something else that’s different about the Tiguan, at the moment it is diesel only.
VW Group Australia Managing Director, Jutta Dierks, had two options, wait until later this year to launch the Tiguan with both petrol n diesel engines or go to market now with just the diesel.
Given VW’s strong emphasis on diesel engine technology and an overwhelming urge to get the Tiguan into the Australian market as soon as possible she elected for the latter.
Currently the Tiguan is available with the all-new 103kW TDi common-rail engine. The move to common rail technology is a first for VW and the driveability of the new engine is vastly improved over the old pump-fed diesel.
Except for the undisguised diesel engine start-up sound the engine is extremely quite and like all diesels produces mountains of torque from as low as 12000rpm. The full 320Nm is available from 1750rpm.
The diesel Tiguan, which is priced at $35,990, comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and a six-speed automatic is available as a $2300 option. VW did not opt for the exceptional DSG gearbox in this vehicle because of the need to manage more extreme operating temperatures due to the four-wheel drive system.
When the petrol vehicles are launched later this year there will be a base 125TSI model starting t $33,990, which will use the 125kW four-cylinder, tubo engine and offer either manual or automatic gearboxes and a range topping 147TSi, at $42,990,I which will offer a 147kW four-cylinder, turbo engine with an automatic gearbox only.
Driving the car as we did over a mixture of both major and minor sealed roads plus a short excursion off-road into some dusty, deeply rutted farm roads gave an overall good impression of the Tiguan’s abilities.
This is not a serious off-roader, but then neither are its competitors in the main, and the vehicle, with its very smart Haldex diff system that sends the power to the wheels that need it most, will cope with most mild off-road situations, allowing the Tiguan to move safely through snow, mud and loose sand.
The manual gearbox is typical VW and works smoothly, allowing good use of the diesel engine’s huge spread of torque.
The automatic, which will probably bee the transmission of choice for most buyers, is also good, but does seem to jump up and down gears a little more than is necessary.
Performance was brisk in the diesel, which VW says will go from zero to 100km/h in 10.5 seconds and uses and average of 7.4L/100km. In fact on several hundred kilometres of driving, including some off road, we recorded an average of 8.1L/100km on the cars trip computer.
The Tiguan also has a firm ride, as you would expect from a European car that’s set up essentially to handle well through corners. Ride quality can be a little bumpy on undulating surfaces but not to the point where it becomes a problem.
There are some nice applications of VW technology from models further up the chain, like the electronic park brake, first seen in the Passat, which is operated via a switch in the centre console.
There’s also an ‘auto-hold’ function which electronically engages the rear brakes while the car is at rest and holds the car until the accelerator is depressed.
Brakes are firm and progressive as you would expect in such a composed vehicle.
Not being one of the shortest people in the world I thought the back seat might be a challenge, but not so and there was reasonable legroom and more than adequate headroom, even though the rer seats are positioned higher than those in the front, something that children will probably appreciate more than adults.
Speaking of which the rear seats will be fine for three up to teenage years, but I think two adults in the back would be okay but three would be a definite challenge.
The rear load space looks a little meagre but we were actually able to fill it with a substantial amount of luggage, although its shape des mean that you families with prams might find it challenging. However the rear seats do hold with a 60-40 split leaving a flat load space and also are able to be moved forward, like the front seats to increase the rear space.
The Tiguan comes with a long list of options, including leather upholstery, a 2000kg towing hitch, and a touch-screen sat-nav system that includes a 30gigabyte hard drive and a reversing camera.
There’s also a self-parking option which for $1390 offers the facility for the car to park itself in a suitable parking space.
In all the Tiguan is certain to set the compact SUV market n fire and although VW is going to be short on supply of vehicles this year, Ms Dierks has said that supply will not be a problem in 2009 and she is confident the company will be able to meet any demand.