When the Volkswagen Tiguan went on sale in Australia back in 2008, it seemed to take the market by force, at least from where I was sitting. No longer were the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and the Land Rover Freelander kings of the medium SUV world.
I too had the same opinion after test driving said list, and in 2010 I took the plunge to purchase a base model 125TSI 4Motion Tiguan, with a great deal on our traded-in 2007 Holden Astra (which had a water pump and cylinder head blow-up one week after factory warranty ran out!) and a good price due to the updated DSG boxes soon arriving later in 2010. Purchasing at Barloworld in Mascot was easy, and I soon took delivery of my Pure White Tiguan, with leather seats and tow-pack.
Being a base model, I was not disappointed with the level of kit provided, however, in the interests of full disclosure, up until this point I had been driving a 1967 1300cc Beetle as my daily driver around the New England region, Coffs Coast and finally as my commuter in Sydney.
Another pleasant surprise stepping up into the Tiguan from the venerable Beetle was the air-conditioning, plush leather seats with heating (and bolstering!) and the smooth delivery of power from the 125kW, 280Nm, four-cylinder turbo petrol.
The petrol engine matched to the six-speed torque converter Tiptronic auto is sublime. Having driven the diesel (103TDI), the lack of urgency off the line was off-putting in Sydney traffic, I suspect made worse had they been matched to the soon to arrive DSG box. The peak torque of the engine is delivered from as low down as 1700rpm, all the way to 4200rpm, right where the average daily driver spends its time. Riding the torque band, merging onto motorways is no problem, aided by the now so desirable SUV driving position.
The party piece of this package and a surprise given the vehicle's size is its 2,000kg (braked) towing capacity. This capacity has been tested on several occasions as the old Beetle has now been relegated to race car duties in historic regularities, hillclimbs and supersprints, crescendoing when my wife and I relocated to Queensland.
That journey also included a 3am awakening by Skippy’s smaller mate just outside of Ballina, which required the right-hand wheel arch faring to be replaced. The Tiguan only bruised the poor fella but the trailer finished him off… Yuck!
The downside to towing though is fuel economy, suffice to say towing up the Kembla Range at the speed limit saw the fuel gauge move just as swiftly.
When the car came out we were chuffed with its economy, however, a combined cycle of 10.1 L/100km nowadays is dismal. The DSG fixed this somewhat in later models, lowering that to 8.8 L/100km.
The open road and not the city is the car's home, and if driving on cruise control to the speed limit exactly you can expect as low as high 6s (L/100km) when at 100km/h and around 7L/100km when at 110km/h. The maximum range is close to 740km, but driving with the multi-function display showing 0kms range at the end of the F3 Motorway is not an experience worth repeating!
On numerous road trips, the interior of the Tiguan has been a comfortable place to spend hours, MMI cables keep our (now outdated ) 80Gb iPod playing, and two adjustable cupholders in the centre console holding coffees, or the obligatory road trip Mac-attack drinks safe and handy.
Additional cupholders for large bottles are in all four doors, and four smaller drink holders in the rear. Two in the centre armrest, and two just below the rear passenger air-conditioning vents, which always seemed to be a bit naff in design; an afterthought perhaps?
The rear 40:20:40 seats slide forward and backwards on rails and recline and fold almost completely flat, along with a flat-folding passenger seat, items like longboards or Ikea furniture are easily hauled home, without leaving your wife in the carpark. The centre armrest also folds down to reveal a ski-hole for longer items like… umm, skis?
Having Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, some Thule aero roof racks and a decent sized ski bin meant that any inadequacies of the somewhat disappointing boot (395L) were forgotten on several trips to the NSW ski fields. The car and accessories easily swallowed four adults in comfort along with four pairs of skis, two snowboards, ski boots and gear for a week in the snow.
And driving in the sometimes icy and snowy winding roads can be tackled with assurance both from the car's five-star ANCAP rating, but also the hatchback-like handling.
The Tiguan rides on the same basic architecture or platform as the Mk V Golf, and I suspect some of the GTI’s DNA runs deep, not only because of the shared platform, but also the shared ‘de-tuned’ 2.0L TSI engine.
Winding bends can be taken at pace with only some typical new car understeer if you really push, but at all times it is hard to trip up the 4Motion for sheer traction on sealed surfaces, wet or not.
Matching the car's exceptional mechanical grip to some decent tyres like the now-fitted Michelin Primacy SUV tyres will only improve things. Bumps on the open road are soaked up, but sharp ruts and the like can be a bit harsh. Navigating Sydney’s pot-holed roads was no trouble though, and any dodgy driveways and the like are overseen by the car's 195mm ground clearance.
Service and ownership has been easy and comparable in terms of cost to the Holden Astra. There have been some horror stories from other Volkswagen owners, if you believe everything on forums, but our experience with several dealers along the eastern seaboard has been good.
All things being equal we’ve only had to visit the dealer once a year or when we’ve travelled 15,000km. As an alternative to dealers, we now service with a well-respected independent VAG (Volkswagen Auto Group) and BMW mechanic in Coorparoo, Queensland, who has looked after all our modern VWs and Audis.
On servicing, a bug-bear of the TSI engine is its oil consumption. Not a hassle when used to running a 50-year-old car daily, but having the oil light come on and buying the correct weight oil and VW approved variety can be daunting to some. Without much exception at about 10,000km after our service, we need to add 0.5L to 1L of 5W-30 oil to the engine. For those who aren’t sure VW502.00, 505.000 or VW504.00, 507.00 are the VW oil standards to be looking for, most bottles say so on the back.
On a side note, upgrading the windscreen wipers to Bosch aerotwin blades has made a huge difference. These wipe the windscreen (front and rear) clear and quietly, the VW ones tend to go a hard after about 6-12 months and smear and chatter across the screens especially the back screen, rather than wipe, in our experience.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed owning our Tiguan, but with the smallish boot increasingly looking like it could be up for baby-related duties, lack of modern interior tech and in modern terms, poor fuel economy, we will be making our first trip to a VW dealer to look at the new Tiguan, especially after watching them being built at Wolfsburg in November last year. Or we may consider a Golf wagon considering the premium paid for driving an SUV these days.
The new Tiguan though, really seems to have addressed any concerns we’ve had, like the tech, boot and economy. Realistically we’d be keeping ours if these weren’t an issue! Alternatively, I may keep the Tiguan and consider the numerous aftermarket ECU remaps, intakes and suspension upgrades and see how much fun I can have!