Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Volkswagen Tiguan
- Better in every way than the A45
- Terrific front seats
- Relatively restrained looks
- Expensive servicing
- Some interior bits are cheap
- Getting old
- Spacious cabin
- Big boot
- Feels plush
- Safety pack still optional on base car
- Expensive servicing
- Low speed hesitancy
Buuuuuuuur, parp, buuuuuuuuuuuur, parp. Anyone who knows anything about cars immediately recognises the sound of a 45-engined A-class derivative. It's the sound you hear in a tunnel as old mate blasts past with a giant carbon-fibre wing atop his hatchback. It's the sound you hear at 3:00am on a summer morning (if your suburb has no speed bumps, of course).
Sure, the GLA compact SUV is probably a slightly unexpected source of all that noise. But then, Merc's Ingolstadt rivals stuffed Audi's stupendous five-cylinder engine into a Q3 to make the hugely improbable RSQ3, so why not do the same with their skirts-lifted A-Class?
To be honest, my expectations for this car were low. So do I owe Mercedes a grovelling apology? Or can I still claim the moral high ground after a week of GLA 45 "ownership"?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The lower grades of the Volkswagen Tiguan range have been removed, with the German brand deciding to focus on high-end customers in the mid-size SUV segment with a petrol-only, all-wheel-drive-only line-up.
The five-seat Tiguan model range was pared back to just two models for 2019 - the 132TSI Comfortline and the 162TSI Highline, which were the best-sellers though 2017 and 2018 anyway. And then there’s the special-edition Wolfsburg version, which we have here.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
My wonderful wife, who is not really into this kind of car, admitted to me in a quiet voice that she really liked the GLA45 as long as it was in Sport + mode. And I have to agree. While I'm very fond of the ridiculous Audi RSQ3 (that turbo five-cylinder sounds amazing), I think I'd stump up the extra for the GLA.
Importantly, it can be comfortable, it can be quiet and it's a better fit for most humans than the A or CLA. It is getting on a bit and could do with a further clean-out of the poor ergonomics, but in what is likely its final year on sale, it's still a belter.
Has Peter finally lost it? Can the GLA45 be the best of the A-side 45 trio? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Volkswagen Tiguan 2019 may be more expensive than in previous years, but that better reflects its standing as one of the best mid-sized SUVs in the segment.
If you splurge on the 162TSI you’ll be getting a quicker family hauler, but it may not be essential to your needs. The value on offer in the 132TSI Comfortline is hard to ignore, too. But if you want the best-looking version, you really ought to get in quick to snap up one of the 500 Wolfsburg Edition versions.
Do you think VW has made the right move by dumping base models and diesels? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The GLA45 isn't a looker, but then, none of the GLAs are. There's a certain blobbiness to it. A bit of Teletubby mixed with...um, another Teletubby. It's not ugly, it's just not particularly attractive. The 20-inch wheels do much to lift the appearance and negate the effect of the raised ride height compared to the A45/CLA45.
The body kit stops just short of lairy, which is heartening. So if you want to stand out, venture out into the aftermarket world.
Inside was a mild surprise. The last time I drove a CLA 45 I used the word "gaudy". While the GLA isn't amazingly better, the texture of the Alcantara replacing the brushed metal-look plastic, or the carbon of the option pack, was much more pleasant. The brightwork in the cabin is still a bit odd looking, and it's still overcooked with its red detailing, but it is an otherwise beautifully built and well-detailed interior.
The 2019 Tiguan range does away with one of the most disappointing elements it had since launch - halogen headlights. Now, with only two grades permanently available, LED headlights and daytime running lights are standard. Thank you, VW.
The exterior design of the Tiguan line-up is largely unchanged compared with when this generation launched in Australia back in 2016, so it’s probably due for a mid-life facelift soon. But even so, it still looks pretty fresh, and in Wolfsburg spec it gets people’s attention.
I’ve always been partial to the R-Line package on the Tiguan, which essentially adds a lower body kit to it. Admittedly there’s no outlandish rear spoiler or rear diffuser, and with ground clearance of 201mm you won’t need side steps. VW Australia has previously offered the more off-road focused Adventure model with underbody protection, if that’s your persuasion.
It manages to look sporty but still be smart, with a big glasshouse that doesn’t taper up like some - meaning better vision for the driver and rear occupants. The piano-black exterior trim highlights look terrific… if you can keep the car clean.
In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is 4486mm long on a 2681mm wheelbase, 1839mm wide and 1658mm tall. The length extends by 4mm and the width by 20mm for the R-Line pack, because of the body kit, and the track is 10mm wider front and rear, too.
Remember, if you need more size, there’s always the Tiguan Allspace, which has a seven-seat layout but is a bit longer and taller to allow for more generous interior dimensions.
Check out the images to see if you like the R-Line leather trim of the Wolfsburg, or would prefer cloth.
The front seats are utterly brilliant and feel as good as they look. On first acquaintance they may feel under-padded, but once you've adjusted them to your liking, you never want to leave. The AMG cars also feature one vast improvement over a normal GLA - the ergonomic disaster of a column-mounted shifter is removed, with a console-mounted shifter added where a small cubby once lived. It's so much better, although the Park button is oddly difficult to press.
When luxuriating in those snug front seats, you'll have access to two cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders, as well as a console bin (where the USB ports are) and a tray under the climate controls. Rear seat passengers will find legroom tight but headroom good, even with the huge sunroof.
The GLA's boot holds an entirely reasonable 421 litres, rising to 1235 when you drop both rear seats.
The VW Tiguan is one of the most practical SUVs in its segment, with tremendous use of the space available.
The cabin is comfortable and considered, with good storage throughout: there are big lined pockets with bottle holders for all four doors, map pockets in the back, a spot for your phone/wallet/keys in front of the gear shifter, and the cup holder count is good: two (plus a bit of extra space) up front, and two in the back in the fold-down armrest.
The media screen in the high-spec model lacks a volume knob, which can be annoying for passengers (the driver has controls on the steering wheel), but otherwise the system is pretty good. Our car had no issues with Bluetooth phone pairing or audio streaming, the nav system was pretty simple to use, and the phone mirroring (Apple CarPlay / Android Auto) worked great. The sound system is pretty good, too.
The presentation of the cabin is classy and simple, with a nice mix of materials across the high part of the dashboard, predictable placement of intuitive controls, and, with that bigger media screen, it looks plush enough.
The seats offer a decent range of adjustment and are reasonably comfortable, if a little flat when it comes to side bolsters. In the back, there is more than enough space for someone my size (182cm) to sit behind a similarly sized occupant up front, with good knee and foot room, while headroom is superb. And yes, you can fit three adults across if you need to.
The boot space is excellent, with up to 615 litres (VDA) of luggage capacity available with five seats up, and 1655L with them folded down.
The boot dimensions are also flexible in size because the second row slides fore and aft, meaning if you have tall backseat occupants you can shrink the boot space a little to improve legroom - and even in that setup the boot is bigger than a Mazda CX-5’s. There’s a cargo cover blind and you can get a boot liner if you need it, and there’s a space-saver spare wheel under the floor, too.
Of course, if all that isn’t enough storage space you can fit roof racks and a cargo box to the roof rails.
Price and features
The GLA 45 lightens your wallet by no less than $89,211 - more than double the GLA 180 front-wheel drive, and about $5000 more than the bonkers (and ancient) RS Q3.
Packed into the GLA's kit bag are 20-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, comprehensive safety gear, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), auto parking, powered and heated folding mirrors, a massive sunroof and dynamic dampers. There's no spare tyre, just a tyre-repair kit.
The multimedia system is Mercedes' COMAND unit and it is as user-unfriendly as ever. It does, however, power a very decent stereo, and also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Thankfully our car was bereft of both the carbon-fibre package ($990) and the aerodynamics package ($1990).
The lack of any entry-grade models means the price list and RRP range for the VW Tiguan 2019 line-up is higher than many competitor SUVs, like the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. So, how much does it cost?
The model comparison is simple enough - it’s the 132TSI Comfortline vs the 162TSI Highline. Well, for the ‘regular' range, anyway.
The 132TSI lists at $42,490, and it has a lengthy standard features list, including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights (yep, no bi-xenon headlights here!), front fog lights, a power tailgate, keyless entry and push-button start, three-zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, auto headlights and auto wipers, electric folding side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth seat trim and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
Multimedia needs are met through an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with GPS sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - so you can plug your iPhone or other device in to mirror its screen - three USB ports, and of course there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming as well. No Tiguan has digital DAB radio capability, nor a DVD player, but there is a CD player to pump the tunes through eight speakers.
If you want, there’s a sort of comfort pack that VW calls the 'Luxury Package', which adds leather trim, electric seat adjustment, heated front seats and a sunroof ($4000).
Stepping up to the 162TSI means a price increase to $49,490, but this improves the standard-gadgets list.
Highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights, leather seats, heated front seats with electric adjustment and memory settings, heated outboard rear seats, a bigger screen (9.2-inch) for the navigation system, ambient interior lighting, the convenience of auto high-beam lighting with anti-dazzle function (Dynamic Light Assist), adaptive cruise control and adaptive chassis control.
For a limited time there’s also the Wolfsburg Edition 162TSI, with 500 examples offered. It costs $55,490 and adds plenty of additional desirable equipment.
The Wolfsburg adds the high-tech Sound & Vision Package (with the digital instrument cluster that VW calls Active Info Display, a surround-view camera, Dynaudio sound system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, and ambient interior lighting), the R-Line Package (R-Line body styling and interior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels in black, and VW’s ‘progressive steering’ system), plus further black exterior trim elements, dark window tint, and a head-up display. There’s a Wolfsburg badge at the back, and the choice of Oryx White Pearlescent, Deep Black Pearl or Indium Grey Metallic for your paint colours.
The regular 2019 Tiguan range has six colours to choose from: Pure White, Tungsten Silver Metallic, Indium Grey Metallic, Atlantic Blue Metallic and Ruby Red Metallic. There’s no gold to be seen, and the orange that was offered earlier on has been axed, too.
Both trim levels get floor mats as standard, so there’s no need to look at the accessories list for those - and while there are heat insulating tinted windows, you can get dark tint on the high-grade. Other options include 19-inch rims, a towbar kit, roof bars with a roof box (there are roof rails as stand on both grades). You’ll need to shop around the aftermarket for a light bar, bull bar or nudge bar.
How many seats does a Tiguan have? Five… unless you choose the Tiguan Allspace, which has third-row seating. There’s a space-saver spare with tool kit under the boot floor of all Tiguans.
No model comes with a heated steering wheel, but you can option a panoramic sunroof ($2000).
Safety goes beyond lane assist and ESP - read the section below for the full breakdown.
Engine & trans
AMG's fabled 2.0-litre turbo four lurks under that higher bonnet, still kicking out an improbable 280kW and 475Nm. Drive reaches the road via Merc's own seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four of its wheels.
All that power and grip translates to a 4.4-second dash to 100km/h for the slightly tubby (over 1600kg) GLA, but just between you and me, anything under five seconds feels scorchingly quick.
Engine specs are easily dealt with this time around, because the 2019 Tiguan range has two turbocharged petrol powerplants, both with the same engine size (2.0-litre) but different horsepower tunes.
The entry-grade 132TSI sits at the bottom of the specifications tree, with ratings of 132kW of power an 320Nm of torque, and you don’t need to think about whether to choose a manual transmission or automatic transmission, because it only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) auto.
The next model up is much the same: the 162TSI has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, seven-speed DSG auto, AWD. But as the name suggests, it has 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Wondering if each has a timing belt or chain? The answer is a chain.
If you really have a hankering for a 4x2 or front-wheel-drive version of the Tiguan, you’ll need to look for a 2017 or 2018 model, likewise if you have a desire for a turbo diesel or a manual gearbox. Maybe have a look at the seven-seat VW Tiguan Allspace?
At this stage there’s still no plug-in hybrid Tiguan on sale, and there won’t be an LPG version. And while the diesel models were better for consumption, the fuel-tank capacity is a decent size for these petrol models at 60 litres.
The gross vehicle weight isn’t specified by VW, but we can tell you the towing capacity if you plan to fit a towbar: it’s 750kg for an un-braked trailer and 2500kg for a braked trailer - decent pulling power, but this isn’t a towing review.
Check our Volkswagen Tiguan problems page for any historical diesel problems (including diesel particulate filter), automatic gearbox problems/4x4 transmission issues, or any well-known concerns with the turbo, battery, clutch, suspension, engine (even injector issues!). You will even find concerns relating to the existing model’s engine with a turbo and supercharger. And be sure to check your owner’s manual for info like oil type and capacity . If you think there’s excessive oil consumption, consult your VW dealership.
The official combined-cycle figure suggests the GLA45 will consume 7.5L/100km. Obviously that figure is largely irrelevant, and not just for the usual reasons, but because you don't buy a GLA45 to potter about in. I got, uh, 12.5L/100km, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying it.
As you might expect, you'll need to feed it 98RON.
Neither of these two petrol models can quite match the existing diesel fuel economy and mileage, but both offer good fuel consumption.
The 132TSI has a claimed consumption figure of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the higher-output 162TSI uses 8.1L/100km (claimed). Both require 95RON premium unleaded. There’s no eco-mode button, but there are different drive modes - we’ll get to that in a sec.
On test in the 162TSI Wolfsburg model, we saw 8.4L/100km over a week of mixed driving. I’d be very happy with that if I bought one.
When the 45-badged cars first launched, they were something of a revelation. BMW's turbo six-cylinder fans sniffed at the 2.0-litre's staggering outputs and all-wheel-drive chassis, but this car really captured the imagination. The GLA45 might be slightly unexpected, but it's better in almost every way as a daily driver than the A or CLA.
For a start, its higher ride height seems to translate to a much better ride quality. Anything on 20-inch wheels should have an appalling ride, but the GLA45 manages to be firm yet comfortable. Put the other two in Race mode and you'll need to up your private health insurance extras to include osteo, physio and whatever "o"-ending specialist fixes your back.
The improved ride quality meant I was far happier to chuck this car around. While it doesn't have the same ultimate overall performance of the lower cars, it's far more comfortable whether you're on it or just driving around. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the steering is excellent.
As for the engine...well, it still farts like toddler during a moment of silence at a funeral, but you can't deny its technical brilliance and huge power outputs. I remember the CLA45's engine as being a bit highly strung. Perhaps I couldn't separate the overall high-strung nature of the car from the engine, but I felt the same engine in this car wasn't as jumpy.
The way it propels this car into triple figures is tremendous fun. It's not as charismatic as the Audi five-cylinder, perhaps, but that doesn't matter in the end - it's properly fast, attached to a better chassis and offers a cabin with a driving position fit for humans.
Having driven the 132TSI model previously, I can tell you that it has enough go to get the job done for the vast majority of families. It has strong response in-gear, although there’s some low-speed hesitation from the transmission.
That might mean you find it hard to justify the extra expense to get into the 162TSI model. If you forget the extra spec, the additional 30kW/30Nm probably isn’t worth $6500 to most people.
But if money isn’t that big of a concern for you, the 162TSI Highline - or, better yet, the Wolfsburg Edition - is worth spending up on.
It’s not just the power and torque from the 2.0-litre engine, which revs a little more freely and has noticeably more gusto when you push it hard - you also get adaptive dampers, which allow you to tailor the drive experience a little more, including a Sport mode that stiffens things up for twisty sections.
In most situations the ride is well sorted - even in the most aggressive setting it doesn’t feel crashy or harsh, but don’t expect it to be too cushy, either. I spent the majority of my time in Normal mode, but there’s also Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.
In Comfort there’s a marked softness to things, even on the 20-inch wheels around city streets, although the front suspension is a little more prone to thumping into bumps than the rear suspension.
There’s also Snow and Ice mode - great for the cooler months, as it adapts the throttle response and transmission behaviour to ensure better traction. Plus there’s Off-Road and Off-Road Individual, and the off-road capability in the 2018 Tiguan 132TSI Adventure model I tested was pretty good - even with a ground-clearance figure (201mm) that is less than some of its competitors.
But an off-road review wasn’t the focus this time around. If I were interested in using a Tiguan for more extending driving off the beaten track, I’d be fitting some smaller wheels (maybe 17 inch alloys), some off-road tyres and wheel-arch extensions. Maybe even a lift kit?
And in Wolfsburg guise, you also get the progressive steering system, which is both more involving at higher speeds and easier at lower speeds.
For the geeks out there, this variable-ratio system allows you to apply 101 degrees less lock for the same outcome as a car without it. It is super easy to pivot the car when parking, and because it has a bit more assistance than a regular Tiguan at speed, it feels more direct in the bends. The steering weight is hefty in Sport mode, but easier to manipulate in Eco or Comfort.
There is a cost beyond the initial expense; you’ll use a touch more fuel, and you’ll have to pay a little extra in servicing. But if you value a really nice drive experience, the Wolfsburg could be worth your money.
The GLA comes with nine airbags (including driver's knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and mitigation and driver-attention detection.
The Tiguan safety rating according to ANCAP is five stars. It was tested in September 2016 but that score remains intact for this model year, too.
What about features? The two-tier Tiguan range comes with a standard-fit reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain coverage).
Other equipment includes auto emergency braking (AEB), manoeuvre braking (where the car can brake if the rear sensors detect an obstacle), self parking (parallel and perpendicular bay park assist), driver fatigue detection, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assistance (the car will steer you into your lane if it needs to), and multi-collision brake (a system that applies the brakes if you have an accident, lessening the chance of further damage).
For the 132TSI there’s a 'Driver Assistance' pack for $1400, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-changing assistant, a system called 'Emergency Assist' that can stop the car if the driver is unresponsive, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 162TSI has all of that as standard.
There are dual ISOFIX baby seat anchors and three top-tether points for child seats.
Where is the VW Tiguan built? Germany is the answer.
The Mercedes standard warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist to match. Service intervals are a very reasonable 12 months/20,000km.
The company also offers capped-price servicing - first service is $576 but the second and third are a whopping $1152 each. Three years will set you back $2880.
Volkswagen has joined the mainstream fray in offering five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all models - not only is that good for current owners, but because the warranty is transferable, resale value might be a little better, too.
On top of that, the average service cost is high for the Tiguan. We did the maths on maintenance costs, with the 132TSI averaging out at $635.60 per visit over the first five years, and the 162TSI a little dearer again, at $646.80. Intervals are every 12 months/15,000km.
Concerned about common problems, faults, issues, waiting time, complaints, reliability issues? It could be of value to read out VW Tiguan problems page before you sign on the dotted line.