I have been born with a curse. It's a curse that makes any car trip to the supermarket an episode of mild annoyance.
Having always been an owner of a compact or small car, it could be argued I brought this curse upon myself – and this could be a rational explanation – however, being an adult today means my curse is everyone else's fault, or indeed a problem with society at large.
My curse is that no matter where I park, whenever I return to my vehicle, there is always a great stonking SUV in the space adjacent to my car, thereby making reversing out an annoyance. This curse holds true no matter the location, time of day, or capacity of the carpark. I have parked at my local Coles at a quiet 7am, only to come back to my car and find Barry the 4WDer thought that next to my car was the best place for his Prado.
"No more," my wife and I sighed in resignation, "We too are going to have to 'join them'," as we referred to the army of compact SUVs that coursed through the veins of our city, serving as moving blind-spots for us inside our Honda Jazz.
Also, with the family expanding by a single child, the Jazz was already bursting at the seams trying to carry three people. A bigger car was needed.
After brief episodes in looking at the Kia Sportage (good warranty, but boot space was lacking and it was as ugly as a sack of split golf balls), Hyundai Tucson (same as Kia, less ugly but no Apple CarPlay at the time), Renault Koleos (decent, but the CVT droned like a middle-aged idiot who had found a Prado parked next to his car), we finally settled on the Volkswagen Tiguan Comfortline 110TSI – despite the premium over the aforementioned cars, and the virtual acres of comments sections dedicated to question marks over VW reliability.
'Tiguan' apparently is a portmanteau of 'Tiger' and 'Iguana', but whenever I say its name, I feel like an ignoramus who is fumbling over the correct name for a Native American shelter.
As our driving was going to be 95 per cent city, diesel was not an option, and while I would have liked all-wheel drive, it was an unnecessary frivolity for what our growing family required. We needed economy, internal room and boot space. And the extra higher inches for those annoying car park episodes, of course.
In 110TSI guise, the Tiguan feels plenty strong while lower in the revs, although the dual-clutch transmission is clearly programmed to sip at the fuel – shifting early and frequently. Bump the shifter back when in Drive and you can switch to an S mode, which keeps the revs higher for more responsive throttle response, but the little 1.4-litre turbo engine does quickly run out of huff in the higher RPM.
The car does feature that stop-start thing in where the engine shuts off when stationary, however it can be a little overzealous, sometimes catching me as I'm creeping up to intersections. I'll be slowly approaching a junction, and am about to stab the throttle to rush through to beat an approaching car, only to have the engine cough and snort at me as though I'd woken it with a smoke in its mouth.
The dual-clutch transmission is definitely smooth and feels superior to certain CVTs I've driven, but (as noted in many reviews I'd read about the Tiguan) can get a bit dopey at low speeds.
Ride quality is fine for regular driving, although VW seems to be trying to have the car fit every application, which bafflingly includes offering sporty pretensions, and the Tiguan feels sprung a little firmer as a result. It's fine for smooth roads and city speeds, although in our home town you'll seldom find both.
We optioned our Tiguan with the Driver Assistance Package, which added blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and that oh-so fancy Active Info Display that replaced the dials with a single LCD screen.
I had apprehensions about that last feature, thinking that the bright screens in night driving would be frustrating, and that having all the car's important information on a single (and potentially fallible) component was a risk. However, both these concerns have been unfounded thus far, and I find myself actually liking the array of options and information I can access while driving.
The lane keep assist feature I am more divided on. Driving along a highway at sunset meant the system interpreted a seal on the road (likely a repair from something that had scraped across the lane) as a lane line, and it jerked the wheel in my hand. Not enough to cause a major issue, but certainly enough to give me and a couple occupants a startle. Off it now goes.
Fuel economy has been excellent for this class of vehicle, often returning mid-7.0-litres per 100 kilometres in the city. Considering that we had achieved slightly lower in a smaller compact car, we find these numbers astonishing for something that is larger, heavier and with the comparative aerodynamics of a lego car.
The versatile rear seats that recline as well as sliding fore and aft have meant that the carrying capacity of the Tiguan has more than suited our needs, fitting a large pram along with the various small soft bags that often accompany an infant.
The car does everything we need, and it did face some very competitive alternatives before we made the choice for the Tiguan. The Kia and Hyundai are very attractive cars, so there had to be something intangible that made us select the VW over the well-supported Korean counterparts.
For us, it was about the small things that were extremely nice touches. Yes, those flocked door bins that reviewers mention are lovely. The leather wheel is a highlight to the driving experience. The various cubbies around the cabin felt smart and have been used frequently.
We understand that a lot of 'feeling' about a car is subjective, and I often sneer at people who cite 'feeling' as a reason for their choices in, say, buying Apple products, but the Tiguan just 'felt' more suited to us. It just had that extra feeling of polish and solidity that both justified its premium and outweighed the others' (admittedly very plentiful) strengths.
As for the curse? Well, I tested it out by visiting my local Coles at 7am for a milk run. I found a perfectly abandoned corner of the lot to keep away from others. I ran my errand, hopeful that upon my return I would have found a good workaround to anyone in a large SUV blocking my view for when I tried to back out the park. I came back to the car after fetching the milk and a couple coffees... and what do I find? No, not a larger SUV next to my spiffy, new, high-ground clearance car. Not a large 4WD with windows that I can now, through virtue of my new height, peer through to see any coming traffic.
A sodding tradies' Toyota HiAce.
You win again, curse.
At least I have rear cross-traffic alert, now.