Volkswagen Tiguan VS Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
- Spacious cabin
- Big boot
- Feels plush
- Safety pack still optional on base car
- Expensive servicing
- Low speed hesitancy
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
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|
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
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.
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
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.
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
Price and features
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.
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
Engine & trans
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 GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
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.
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.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
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 GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
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.
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.