Volkswagen is desperately hoping bigger proves better for the 2017 Tiguan, super-sizing its all-new SUV in an attempt to super-size sales.
For a start, it's bigger. So much so that it's outgrown the "small SUV" segment of its predecessor, and now battles Mazda CX-5-sized competitors in the medium-sized category. And it arrives with a bigger suite of safety features and in-car technology, too, along with a wider range of engines.
But biggest of all is the weight of expectation that's been placed on its metallic shoulders by VW's management. This new SUV has been eight long years in the making, and its tardy arrival had left VW woefully underdone in the crowded, ever-changing and hugely important urban SUV category. Plus, its arrival is the first in a rapid-fire game of catch-up for VW, with another four SUVs of varying sizes due for launch over the next few years. And as the Tiguan is the first cab of the rank, it's hugely important that this one works.
So then, we know that the new Tiguan is bigger than its predecessor. But the question is, is it better, too?
Volkswagen calls them the "one-percenters", the tiny little design elements that might take an owner months to discover, if at all. In the Tiguan, they're referring to things like the storage net in the passenger footwell, the felt-lined box on top of the dash or the fact the buttons controlling the eight-inch multimedia unit are integrated into the screen, only appearing when you move your hand toward it. It's an attention to detail that VW says elevates the Tiguan above the mainstream pack, and pushes it toward its more premium competition.
There's a satisfying solidity to the way the interior is put together.
"This is a car that will sit in its own territory, between the Asian and the luxury brands. That's where VW will sit, and it's where this car will sit," says VW Managing Director, Michael Bartsch.
"It's premium for the people."
And the VW Tiguan does feel a more premium offering than some of its competitors from the driver's seat. The front-seat passengers are surrounded by soft touch points no matter the trim level, and there's a satisfying solidity to the way the interior is put together. But the "for the people" part of that sentence arrives in the backseat, where the luxury feel begins to dissipate and you'll start to find some hard plastics and cheaper feeling touch-points, even in the top-flight models.
Outside, the Volkswagen's growth is noticeable. It no longer looks like a city-sized SUV, but still adopts the vaguely wagon-shaped style of its predecessor. And it's handsome - all muscular body creases and wide road stance - whether it's sitting on the 17-inch alloys of the entry-level Trendline or the 18-inch alloys of the top-spec Highline.
Engines and transmissions
The new Tiguan arrives with two petrol and two diesel engine options. The range kicks off with the entry-level 1.4-litre 110TSI petrol engine, paired with a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG gearbox, which will put out 110kW and 250Nm - pushing the cheapest Tiguan to 100km/h in 9.2secs.
Next is the 2.0-litre 132TSI petrol, which generates 132kW and 320Nm and will knock off the sprint in a more sprightly 7.7secs. The range-topping petrol, a 162kW power plant nabbed from the current Golf GTI, won't arrive down under until early next year.
There are two diesel variants on offer, both powered by a 2.0-litre engine tuned for 110kW and 340Nm or 140kW and 400Nm, depending on your budget. And all but the entry-level petrol engine are paired with a seven-speed DSG automatic.
Price and features
The Tiguan Trendline ($31,990 manual, $34,990 auto) is paired exclusively with the 110TSI engine and arrives with a hugely commendable suite of standard safety tech (more on that in a moment), along with an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-equipped eight-inch multimedia screen and 17-inch alloys. You'll also get automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control and LED tail-lights as standard fare.
Step up to the Comfortline trim level ($36,990 for the 110TSI, $41,490 for the 132TSI and $42,990 for the 110 diesel) and you'll add three-zone climate control, sat-nav and some chromed niceties throughout the cabin. You'll also get on-demand all-wheel drive on everything but the 110TSI.
Spring for the top-spec Highline trim ($48,490 for the 162TSI and $49,990 for the 140TDI) and your wheels increase to 18-inch alloys and your seats arrive wrapped in Vienna leather, and heated for front seat passengers. You get proximity entry and a power-operated boot lid, too, along with a power-adjustable front seat, chrome-tipped exhaust and dynamic, LED headlights.
VW has simplified the options list into a series of bolt-on packs. The $5,000 Luxury pack is available on the Comfortline trim level, and essentially adds the niceties of the Highline, like leather seats. Both the Comfortline and Highline trim levels can be optioned with a $2,000 Driver Assistance Pack, which adds adaptive cruise, side assist (which monitors not just the blind spot, but the area 50-metres behind it, too) and power-folding mirrors, along with the VW Group's very cool Active Info Display - a virtual and fully configurable dash display which spans the length of the instrument binnacle.
Finally, there's the R-Line pack, which adds 20-inch alloys, adaptive dampers and progressive steering (designed to allow sharper turning into corners). That one will set you back $4,000.
The Tiguan's new dimensions are all about increasing interior space and cargo room, which was one of the main complaints about the outgoing model. As a result, the wheelbase has grown by 76mm while the car's width has grown by 30mm. And you can feel it in the cabin, with plenty of space for second-row passengers, along with thought-out features like a rear seat that slides on rails, so you can prioritise space in the back seat or boot.
There's plenty of room in the boot, too. Storage space has grown from 395L with the rear seats up to a massive 615L, helped by being able to slide the rear seats forward. Drop the rear seats, and you'll get 1655L, up 145L on the outgoing car. That's a lot of numbers, but the point is this: there is now a huge amount of room in the boot.
Tiguan offers among the most comprehensive standard safety packages available.
The Comfortline and Highline trim levels both get six cupholders, two in the front, two in the pull down divider that separates the back seat and another one in each of the fold-down plastic tables that are attached to the back of the front seats. The entry-level Trendline, however, misses out on cupholders for rear-seat passengers, but there's room for bottles in the door pockets.
Finally, each rear window seat gets an ISOFIX attachment point.
The Tiguan genuinely excels on the standard safety front, with every trim level arriving with AEB, Lane Assist, fatigue detection, a rear-view camera and park assist - which will take over the steering and guide your car into a parking spot. Add to that seven airbags (two in the front, two on the side for front-row passengers, two curtain airbags and a knee airbag for the driver) and a maximum five-star ANCAP Safety rating, and the Tiguan offers among the most comprehensive standard safety packages available.
The 110TSI will sip a claimed/combined 6.0L/100km in manual guise, which jumps to 6.3 when you opt for the DSG. It's also the only Tiguan engine equipped with a cylinder-deactivation system, dropping imperceptibly from four to two cylinders when it can to save fuel. The bigger petrol engine will need 7.5 litres, while both diesels require 5.9 litres to travel the same distance.
The Tiguan is the first VW Group SUV to be built using the Golf's MQB platform, and the result is an SUV that feels less like a high-riding people mover and more like a bigger Golf. And that's no bad thing; Its engines feel refined regardless of whether you're driving a petrol or diesel, the suspension absorbs all but the harshest of bumps and there's a real quietness to the cabin.
All models feel nicely composed, even on more challenging roads.
None of the engines currently available offer all the much outright performance - though that will improve with the 162kW petrol next year, but all models feel nicely composed, even on more challenging roads. Our brief test route took in everything from highways to twisty tarmac to hard-packed gravel, and the Tiguan disposed of it all with ease.
While we'll wait to spend more time in each for a definitive verdict, the 132TSI petrol engine feels the most suited to the job at hand, with the extra grunt helping push the Tiguan along with ease. The smallest 110TSI petrol engine, while undeniably clever with its fuel-saving technology, does suffer from a considerable lag in the power delivery, with moments of nothingness before the turbo delivers all of its power in a rush. The power of the 140kW and 400Nm diesel, on the other hand, is mitigated by its extra weight (1450kg in the 110TSI vs 1691kg in the 140TDI), so it doesn't actually feel much faster.
The Tiguan range is covered by Volkswagen's three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and require servicing every 12 months or 15,000kms. The Tiguan is included in VW's capped-price servicing program, and the three required services over the warranty period will set you back a total $1,350 for the 110TSI, $1,705 for the 132TSI, and $1,513 for both the 110TDI and 140TDI.