Mahindra XUV500 VS Volkswagen Tiguan
- Cheap way into seven seats
- Petrol/auto combination a winner
- Hugely spacious third row
- Underwhelming safety
- Steering that requires plenty of guesswork
- Cheap-feeling interior
- High tech overhaul
- Subtle, refined looks
- Spacious and practical
- Getting pricey
- Minimal drivetrain enhancements
- Touch interfaces won't be for everyone
Just in case attacking Australia's crowded SUV market with a virtually unheard of Indian brand wasn't a high enough hurdle to leap over, Mahindra had made its task even harder - think a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible - by launching its XUV500 SUV here with a diesel engine (which nobody wanted) and a manual gearbox (which few could even remember how to use).
Fortunately, it fixed one of those issues late in 2016, finally adding an automatic transmission to the line-up. And now, at long last, it's fixed the other.
For one, it's a ferociously cheap way into a new seven-seat SUV. For another, it's pretty well equipped, even from the base level. There's a long warranty, an equally long roadside assistance offering, and there's capped-price servicing, too.
So, should the mainstream SUV players be looking over their shoulders?
Spoiler alert: no.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
First there was the Beetle, then there was the Golf. Now for the first time in history, Volkswagen is most associated with its mid-size SUV, the Tiguan.
It’s high stakes, but Volkswagen hopes rolling updates will keep it fresh for at least a few years to come, as it (globally) marches towards electrification.
There’s no electrification for Australia this time around, but has VW done enough to keep such an important model in the fight? We’ve taken a look at the whole Tiguan range to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
This petrol-powered and well-priced XUV500 W6 might mark Mahindra's most convincing effort at cracking Australia's congested SUV market, but we're still not completely convinced.
That said, it's certainly cheap, the ownership credentials stack up and it's a very comfortable way to transport seven people.
Will this Mahindra's low price and upgraded spec win your SUV vote? Tell us in the comments below.
The Tiguan moves a smidge further upmarket with this facelift, now with an entry cost higher than ever, and while that might rule it out for some buyers, no matter which one you pick you’d still be getting the full experience when it comes to safety, cabin comfort, and convenience.
It's up to you to choose how you want it to look and drive, which are ultimately subjective areas anyway. On that basis I have no doubt this Tiguan will keep its buyers happy for years to come.
There's no getting away from the fact the XUV500 is not the sleekest, prettiest SUV in the pack. But it's not ugly, either. More that it looks like it's doing its best with a design philosophy hatched a generation or two ago.
Its best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated (read: a little weird) headlight clusters all add some road presence to Mahindra's only SUV.
A side-on viewing, however, is less satisfying, where a combination of strangely placed and super-sharp body creases (including one over the rear wheelarch, which adds a Harbour Bridge-style crescent to the otherwise-straight window line) and serious rear overhang give the XUV500 an inescapable awkwardness.
Inside, expect a vast collection of rock-hard (though nicely patterned) plastics, with the ambiance rescued somewhat by the clean-looking and vertical central control unit, which is home to the media screen and air-con controls.
Ready for some hashtag real talk? There are better-looking and better-feeling seven-seat SUVs out there. But there aren't many that start at $25,990 drive-away. And I think that's Mahindra's point.
The Tiguan was already an attractive car, with many subtle angular elements which added up to something suitably sophisticated for a European SUV.
For the update, VW has mainly made changes to the Tiguan’s face to keep it in line with the incoming Golf 8’s tweaked design language.
I think it has only served to make this car look better, with more integrated light fittings swooping out of its now more gentle grille treatment. There was a pugnacious toughness about the outgoing model’s flat face that I will miss, though.
The side profile is near identical, the new car only identifiable by subtle chrome touches and new wheel choices, while the rear is freshened up with a new lower bumper treatment, contemporary Tiguan lettering across the rear, and in the case of the Elegance and R-Line, impressive LED light clusters.
The inside, which has had a significant digital overhaul is what will get buyers salivating. Even the base car scores the amazing digital dash, but the larger multimedia screens and sleek touch panels will be sure to impress.
It’s important to note that while pretty much any car can have massive screens today, not all have the processing power to match, but I’m glad to say everything in the VW is as slick and fast as it should be.
The new wheel is a really nice touch with the embedded VW logo and cool looking surrounds. It feels a bit more substantial than the outgoing unit, too, and all the functions on it are nicely laid out and ergonomic to use.
I will say that the colour scheme, no matter which variant you pick, is pretty safe. The dash, while nicely finished, is just one big slate of grey, detracting from the flashy digital overhaul.
Even the inserts are plain and subtle, perhaps a missed opportunity for VW to make the interior of its pricey mid-sizer feel a bit more special.
Pretty damn practical, actually, regardless of whether you want to carry people or cargo. Carrying both at the same time, however, is tricky.
But let's start with people. There is a huge amount of room in the third row of the XUV500, a space with enough head and legroom to put plenty of its competition to shame.
Thanks to second-row seat backs that fold flat, before the the entire seat lifts up and pushes forward, climbing into seats six and seven isn't too big a drama, either.
We rarely say this about seven-seat cars, but at 175cm, I'd feel plenty comfortable back there on a longer drive. There are two air vents in the third row, too, along with bottle storage and side-seat storage for thin items.
The space in the middle row is ample as well, and you'll find three ISOFIX attachment points, one for each of the three seats. There's also a door pocket in each rear door and storage nets on the rear of the two front seats. A pull-down divider that separates the back seat is home to two cupholders, matching the two for front seat riders.
The only downside to all this people-lugging happiness is that, with the third row of seats in place, there is absolutely no room for luggage. Mahindra doesn't quote a litre storage figure when seven are seated (mostly because it would probably be embarrassing to write "one litre"), but trust us, you'll be lucky to squeeze a soft backpack in the boot with all seats in place.
Things improve considerably when you drop the third row of seats, though, which unlocks 702 litres of storage, and that number climbs to 1512 litres with the second and third row folded down.
Refined and digitised it may have been, but is this update still practical? One of my big worries when hopping in was that the abundance of touch elements would make it distracting to operate while driving.
The touch panel climate unit from the previous car was starting to look and feel a little old, but there’s still a part of me that will miss how easy to use it was.
But the new touch climate panel not only looks good, it’s pretty easy to use too. It just takes a few days of getting used to it.
What I really missed was a volume dial and tactile shortcut buttons on the R-Line’s massive 9.2-inch touch-only screen. It’s a little usability gripe that will get on some people’s nerves.
The same goes for the touch elements on the R-Line’s wheel. They look and feel super cool with odd vibrating feedback, although at times I did fumble things that should be simple like cruise functions and volume. Sometimes the old ways are the best.
It sounds like I’m complaining about the Tiguan’s digital overhaul, but most of it is for the best. The instrument cluster (once an Audi exclusive feature) is one of the best on the market in terms of its look and usability, and the large multimedia screens make it really easy to jab at what function you’re looking for while remaining concentrated on the road.
The cabin is also excellent, with a tall but suitable driving position, big storage bins in the doors, big cupholders and cutaways in the tidy centre console, as well as a small centre console box and odd little pop-open tray atop the dash.
The new Tiguan is USB-C only in terms of connectivity, so bring a converter.
The back seat offers excellent amounts of room for my 182cm (6'0") frame, behind my own driving position. It’s super practical back there, too, with even the base car scoring a third adjustable climate zone with movable vents, USB-C outlet, and a 12V outlet.
There are pockets on the back of the front seats, big bottle holders in the door and drop-down armrest, and weird little pockets atop the seats, too. It’s one of the best rear seats in the mid-size SUV class in terms of amenities for passengers.
The boot is a large 615L VDA regardless of variant. This is also great for the mid-size SUV class, and it fit our entire CarsGuide luggage set with space to spare.
Every Tiguan variant also has a space saver spare under the boot floor, and little cutaways behind the rear wheel arches to maximise storage space.
The power tailgate is a boost, too, although it remains odd that the R-Line misses out on the gesture control.
Price and features
Make no mistake, this Mahindra kills the competition on price. The entry-level W6 version will cost you a lean $25,990, while the fruited-up W8 version will set you back $29,990. You can even have an AWD W8 for $32,990. The best part? All of those are drive-away prices.
Go for the W6, and you can expect 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, air-con with vents (powered by a second compressor) in the second and third row, cornering headlights with DRLs, front and rear fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 6.0-inch multimedia screen linked with a six-speaker stereo.
The updated Tiguan doesn’t look wildly different from the outside. We’ll get to design in a second, but don’t underestimate it based on looks alone, there are a lot of significant changes under this mid-sizer's skin which will be key to its ongoing appeal.
For a start, VW has dumped its corporate titles of old. Names like Trendline have been dumped in favour of more friendly titles, with the Tiguan range now consisting of just three variants, the base Life, mid-grade Elegance, and top-spec R-Line.
To make it more simple, the Life is the only grade available as a front-wheel drive, while the Elegance and R-Line are all-wheel drive only.
As with the pre-facelift model, the updated Tiguan range will become more expansive in 2022 with the stretched seven-seat Allspace variant returning, and for the first time the brand will also introduce a go-fast Tiguan R performance variant.
In terms of the three variants which arrive for now, though, the Tiguan has notably taken a price hike, now technically more expensive than ever before, even if it is only by $200 over the outgoing Comfortline.
The base Life can either be chosen as a 110TSI 2WD with an MSRP of $39,690, or as a 132TSI AWD with an MSRP of $43,690.
While the price has increased, VW notes that with the tech onboard the current car, it would represent at least a $1400 discount on the Comfortline with the required option pack to meet it like-for-like.
Standard equipment on the base Life includes an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch fully digital instrument cluster, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-start ignition, full auto LED headlights, cloth interior trim, a new leather bound wheel with the brand’s updated aesthetic touches, dual-zone climate control (now with a fully touch interface), and a powered tailgate with gesture control.
It’s a tech heavy package, and feels nothing like a base model. A pricey $5000 'Luxury Pack' can upgrade the Life to include leather seats, a heated steering wheel, power seat adjust for the driver, and a panoramic sunroof.
It’s a significant price-jump from the Life, and adds adaptive chassis control, 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior styling touches, interior ambient lighting, upgraded ‘Matrix’ LED headlights and LED tail-lights, standard ‘Vienna’ leather interior trim with power adjustable front seats, a 9.2-inch touch-only multimedia interface, heated steering wheel and front seats, and privacy tint on the rear windows.
Finally, the top-spec R-Line is available with the same 162 TSI ($53,790) and 147 TDI ($55,290) all-wheel drive powertrain options, and includes massive 20-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressive body kit with blacked-out R touches, bespoke R-Line leather seat trim, sports pedals, black interior headliner, variable ratio steering, as well as a sportier steering wheel design with haptic feedback touch control panels. Interestingly the R-Line loses the gesture control tailgate, making do only with a powered one.
The only options on the Elegance and R-Line aside from premium paints ($850) is the panoramic sunroof which will set you back an additional $2000, or the ‘Sound and Vision’ package, which adds a 360-degree parking camera, head up display, and harman/kardon nine-speaker audio system.
Every variant also comes with the full array of active safety features, which is a huge boost to value for buyers, so make sure to take a look at that later in this review.
Regardless, the entry-level Life now competes with mid-grades of rivals like the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4, the latter of which has a key fuel-sipping hybrid variant, which many buyers are searching for.
Engine & trans
There's a diesel engine currently available, but the clock is ticking - Mahindra expects it to be phased out within six months. But the big news here is the new petrol engine, a turbocharged 2.2-litre unit good for 103kW/320Nm. It's paired exclusively with an Aisin-developed six-speed automatic transmission, and will send it's power to the front or all four wheels.
Mahindra doesn't quote official performance figures, but those engine outputs hardly scream excitement, do they?
The Tiguan maintains a relatively complex engine line-up for the class.
The entry level Life can be chosen with its own set of engines. The cheapest of which is the 110 TSI. It’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 110kW/250Nm driving the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 110 TSI is the only front-drive option left in the Tiguan range.
Next up is the 132 TSI. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol producing 132kW/320Nm driving all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Elegance and R-Line are available with the same two higher-powered engine choices. This includes the 162 TSI 2.0-litre turbo-petrol which produces 162kW/350Nm, or the 147 TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel which produces 147kW/400Nm. Either engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and drives all four wheels.
Missing from the picture for this update is the word seemingly on every buyer’s lips at the moment – hybrid.
There are hybrid variants available overseas, but due to ongoing issues with Australia’s relatively poor fuel quality, VW has been unable to launch them here. Things could change in the near future, however…
Whiz-bang dual-clutch automatics are meant to make for lower fuel numbers, and it certainly seems to be the case for the Tiguan, at least on its official figures.
The 110 TSI Life we tested for this range review has an official/combined consumption figure of 7.7L/100km, while our test car saw around 8.5L/100km.
Meanwhile the 162 TSI R-Line also sampled has an official figure of 8.5L/100km, and our car returned a dash-reported 8.9L/100km.
Keep in mind these tests took place over only a handful of days rather than our usual weekly test, so take our numbers with a grain of salt.
Either way, they are impressive for mid-size SUVs, particularly in the case of the all-wheel drive 162 TSI.
On the downside, all Tiguans require a minimum of 95RON as the engines are incompatible with our cheapest entry-level 91.
This is due to our particularly poor fuel quality standards, which look set to clean up if our fuel refineries get an upgrade in 2024.
About as old school as rocking a pair of button-up tracksuit pants with a Run-DMC cassette stuffed into your Walkman.
On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500. The engine, while gruff under heavy acceleration, doesn't feel too wheezy when you're not asking a great deal of it, and nor is the cabin overly loud at suburban speeds. It's a comfortable space for driver and passengers, too, and the gearbox performed seamlessly on our short test drive.
But that's about where the good news ends. There's an unshakeable agricultural feel to the way this Mahindra SUV goes about its business, and nowhere is that more obvious than through the steering wheel, which has only a vague and difficult relationship with the the front tyres, making it seriously tricky to approach twisting roads with anything approaching confidence.
The steering is slow and cumbersome - light when you first begin turning the wheel, with a ton of weight appearing by surprise midway through the cornering process - and it has a tendency to fight back should the front wheels find a bump or corrugation in the road, too.
The body lolls about when challenged, too, and the tyres are quick to give up their grip on tighter corners. All of which would give it a certain retro charm if it wasn't so very new, and I must admit I was cackling maniacally on some of the more twisting roads.
But it's simply not a car I could live with.
Given that so much is similar across the Tiguan range in terms of its spec and fitment, which variant you choose primarily influences the experience behind the wheel.
It’s a shame, for example, that the entry-level 110 TSI hasn’t been tweaked for this facelift, as our gripes with this variant still stand.
The 1.4-litre turbo is efficient and reasonably punchy for its size, but has an annoying power lull when it comes to a stop which can work with the dual-clutch to make for some laggy, glitchy moments.
Where the base car shines, though, is its ride. Like the Golf below it, the 110 TSI Life strikes a fine balance between ride quality and comfort, proving to insulate the cabin well from bumps and road impurities, while giving it enough driver engagement in the corners to feel a little like a giant hatch.
If you want to read more about the 110 Life, we have a variant review of the new one here.
We weren’t able to test the mid-grade Elegance, nor did we sample the 147 TDI diesel for this test, but we did have a chance to drive the top-spec 162 TSI R-Line.
Straight away it’s evident there's a strong case for paying the extra for more grunt. This engine is excellent in terms of the power on offer, and the way it's delivered.
The big boost in these raw figures helps it deal with the extra weight of an all-wheel drive system, and the extra low-down torque makes it an even better match for the snappy dual-clutch automatic.
This has the effect of removing most of the annoying jerky moments from stop-start traffic, while allowing the driver to make the most of the benefits of the instantaneous dual-clutch shifts when accelerating in a straight line.
The all-wheel drive system, more aggressive tyres, and a sharper steering tune in the R-Line make it an absolute pleasure to turn into corners at speed, offering a handling prowess that betrays its shape and relative heft.
Certainly then, there’s something to be said for splashing out on the larger engine, but the R-Line isn’t without its downsides.
The huge wheels conspire to make the ride a tad harsh when bouncing off suburban road imperfections, so if you’re primarily plodding around town and not seeking thrills on the weekend it may be worth considering the Elegance with its smaller 19-inch alloys.
Stay tuned for a future variant review with driving impressions for the 147 TDI, and of course the Allspace and full-fat R when they become available next year.
Expect dual front, front-side and curtain airbags (though the latter don't extend to the third row of seats), along with rear parking sensors and ESP. Stepping up to the W8 trim adds a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines. The XUV500 was awarded a four-star (out of five) ANCAP assessment when tested in 2012.
Great news here. For this update, the entire VW safety suite (now branded 'IQ Drive') is available even on the base Life 110 TSI.
Included is freeway-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver attention alert, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
The Tiguan will carry across its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as awarded in 2016. The Tiguan has a total of seven airbags (the standard six plus a driver’s knee) and the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
All XUV500s are covered by a five year/100,000km warranty (though the final two years apply only to the drivetrain), along with five years of complimentary roadside assistance.
The XUV500 is also covered by Mahindra's capped-price servicing program for the first three years of ownership, and will require servicing every six months or 10,000km.
Volkswagen continues with a competitive five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, the industry standard when it comes to its primarily Japanese rivals.
Servicing is covered by a capped price program, but the best way to keep the cost down is to purchase the pre-paid service packs which cover you for three years at $1200, or five years at $2400, regardless of variant.
Doing so brings the cost down to very competitive levels, although not to the absurd lows of Toyota.