The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life takes its place as the entry point to the Tiguan line-up, effectively meeting equipment levels from the previous model’s 110TSI Comfortline model grade. Name changes aside, the Tiguan has been an excellent platform for some time now, and a midlife facelift looks set to refresh an already high-quality medium SUV.
The changes are subtle, but relatively extensive when you run through the list. There is new exterior styling, updated interior tech, a revised engine line-up for Australia and upgrades in terms of standard equipment, with LED headlights, a digital instrument display and a full suite of active safety tech – along with price rises that vary depending on the variant.
Read our pricing and specification guide for the details. The Tiguan Life starts from $39,690 before on-road costs.
Nominally, the Life that we are testing here has crept up by just $200 compared to the aforementioned Comfortline, but features similar levels of standard equipment. What it means in real terms, though, is the base Tiguan now feels like a more upscale variant than a stripped-out price leader would otherwise be. By some margin, too.
|2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life|
|Engine||1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine|
|Power and torque||110kW @ 5000–6000rpm, 250Nm @ 1500–3500rpm|
|Transmission||Six-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.9L/100km|
|Boot volume (unfolded and folded)||615L/1655L|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2020)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Skoda Karoq|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||From $39,690|
Standard equipment highlights include auto LED headlights, with auto high beams, LED fog lights and tail-lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with proprietary satellite navigation, gesture control and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 10.25-inch configurable driver’s display, tri-zone climate-control automatic wipers, heated door mirrors, hands-free electric tailgate, rear-view camera, 18-inch Nizza alloy wheels and a space-saver spare.
There’s plenty to like, then, about the Tiguan’s specification sheet, before you even open the door, but once you do take a seat inside the cabin, the Life feels like anything but an entry-level model. Like other Tiguans we’ve tested recently, there’s a solid, insulated, quality feel to the cabin, beyond simply clever storage provision and ergonomic controls. Medium SUVs are very much Australian family vehicles in 2021, and the Tiguan puts forward its credentials in fine style.
The Life we’re testing here, which forms the first stage of the updated Tiguan’s launch cycle, is powered by a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and FWD. Peak power arrives between 5000rpm and 6000rpm, while peak torque is on offer between 1500rpm and 3500rpm. On paper, then, despite the diminutive capacity of the engine, it should feel punchy from low down in the rev range. Which is exactly what makes for an enjoyable around-town drive.
The ADR fuel claim is 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and through the course of our testing we used an indicated 8.9L/100km.
Up front, the Tiguan really does feel like it belongs in a segment that is half a step bigger. The front seats are neatly sculpted, comfortable, and there’s plenty of electric adjustment in the driver’s seat to get it where you need in order to get comfortable. Visibility is good, both fore and aft, and as we’ve noted with VWs of late, there’s plenty of useful, clever storage.
Cupholders in the centre console are hidden beneath a retractable door, they have small adjusters in them to suit cups of different sizes, and there are bottle holders in the lined door pockets. Why don’t more manufacturers line their door storage bins? Keys and wallets can be stowed safely, and there’s a shelf ahead of the shifter that takes care of smartphones.
On test, we spent time using both the wired and wireless Apple CarPlay connection and it worked faultlessly. The infotainment screen is fast and responsive, and commands work quickly and effectively. It is prone to fingerprints, which doesn’t work well with my OCD, but aside from that it’s a quality, visible offering. There’s a bit to learn there, too, delving into the various menu systems and displays that control the car. It’s all easy to understand, though, once you do start navigating your way through.
The interactive driver’s panel is also a good one – something we originally assumed might only be available on the most expensive variants when it first came to the market. That changed quickly, though, and it’s now a common inclusion across a variety of model grades. I usually opt for the map display in the centre, with the smaller dials out to the edges of the screen. Needless to say, though, there are plenty of options in terms of how you lay the display out.
Driving the Tiguan has for some time been an exercise in comfort and quality, and that remains true with the updated model. VW has managed to find a suspension tune that is firm enough to feel taut when you’re rolling into and out of corners, but also comfortable enough to soak up sharp speed humps and ruts with composure. The 18-inch wheels and tyres would help here, too, eschewing massive wheels for the sake of it.
The general balance of the Tiguan Life feels nicely matched to the way we drive around town in Australia, and it’s always comfortable and insulated. There’s effectively very little tyre noise until you hit coarse-chip surfaces at freeway speed, and wind noise has been managed effectively at that speed too.
The fact that the cabin feels as spacious as it does points to an effective long-haul family tourer as well. Even packing a relatively small 1.4-litre engine, the Tiguan Life will hold 100km/h or 110km/h for long stretches with ease, and still has enough in reserve to nail a roll-on overtake when tasked with one. The modern family has moved from large sedans to medium SUVs for this type of country driving, and the Tiguan is up to the challenge.
VW’s stop/start system is a good one, and is in fact one of the few that we didn’t feel inclined to deactivate after we’d tested its response a couple of times. Even in annoying crawling traffic, it is relatively unintrusive. The DCT exhibits only the slightest hesitation at crawling speed, but that’s more than countered by its sharp, precise response as speed builds.
VW has spent plenty of time refining the DCT concept clearly, and this Tiguan’s is a good one. If you nail the throttle from a standstill into a corner or on a slick surface, you’ll get some slight torque steer and tyre slip, but that’s only if you’re trying to do it. When the only negatives you can find are that, and some fingerprints on an infotainment screen, I reckon that’s testament to how good the car is.
Given the cleverness of the electronic trickery that is going on beneath you, the case for AWD in the city at least is weakening by the day. Personally, I still prefer my SUVs to be AWD, but plenty of buyers couldn’t care less, and at the end of the day that’s what matters – sales figures. So far as FWD SUVs go, this Tiguan is excellent.
The previous comment I made about theoretical punch from the engine down low rings true on the road too. It revs cleanly right up to redline, but it’s willing just off idle, too, and it rolls up to speed effortlessly. So, while it will enjoy a bit of work, you don’t need to work it too hard to get moving safely off the mark. Its combination with the gearbox as the revs rise is also impressive.
After spending a few days with the Tiguan Life for our launch drive, a couple of points become abundantly clear. First, at $39,690 before on-road costs, it’s an exceptional value proposition. It looks, feels and drives like it should cost more money.
Second, a medium SUV with this level of equipment is a strong contender even for a one-car family, let alone as a second vehicle if there’s a large SUV, dual-cab, or sports car in the garage as well. It’s got all the space and versatility buyers will need.
Lastly, VW has once again delivered a competent and effective package at a price plenty of Australians can consider. It’s no surprise rusted-on fans of the German manufacturer keep lining up for new models. It’s also no surprise that so many first-time buyers fall in love with various VW platforms. As we’ve seen with the Golf, evolution rather than revolution works well for the brand. It’s working especially well for the Tiguan.