Volkswagen Tiguan VS Mini Countryman
- Spacious cabin
- Big boot
- Feels plush
- Safety pack still optional on base car
- Expensive servicing
- Low speed hesitancy
- More mature looks
- Safety overhaul
- Still fun to drive
- Ride can feel overly firm on standard suspension
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Inevitable price hikes
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|
Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Mini Countryman Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper S and Cooper SD All4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Canberra.
Mini's new Countryman is officially the least mini Mini ever made. So un-Mini, in fact, it now stretches over 4 metres in length for the first time ever. It's also taller and wider than the car it replaces, making it the biggest Mini ever produced by the brand.
But there's method to Mini's super-sizing madness, with the brand desperate to make sure its new Countryman isn't just big, but is also a big deal for the first time in its brief history.
The outgoing model makes up about 15 per cent of Mini's sales in Australia - despite playing in the most popular segment - and the brand's bosses reckon they know the problem. Internal surveys reveal more than 30 per cent of people who were considering a Countryman, but ended up buying something else, did so because it was too small and impractical to be used as a family car.
And so it's grown in every direction. Its now 20cm longer, 1.5cm taller and 3.3cm wider, and it sits on a 7.5cm longer wheelbase. And while those numbers might not sound massive, it makes a difference in the cabin, and adds an extra 100 litres of boot space.
So is a maximised Mini a good thing?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
Bigger is better for Mini's Countryman. More space, more technology and with a more mature styling treatment, the Countryman finally offers the right ingredients to appear on family shopping lists.
2017 Mini Countryman range specifications
Price: From $39,900
Fuel consumption: 6.0L/100km (Cooper), 4.8L/100km (Cooper D) 6.5L/100km (Cooper S), 5.2L/100km (Cooper SD)
Tank: 51 litres
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited
Service Interval: Condition based
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol, 100kW/220Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 110kW/330Nm, 2.0-litre petrol, 141kW/280Nm, 2.0-litre diesel, 140kW/400Nm.
Transmission: 6-sp auto/8-spd auto
Spare: Run flats
Turning circle: 11.4m diameter
Dimensions: 4,299mm (L), 1,822mm (W), 1,557mm (H)
Would you prefer a Countryman to an X1 or a Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Like an old-school Mini that's been stung by something flying and horrible, the Countryman has swollen in every direction, with Mini also smoothing out some of the design quirks of the outgoing model.
A redesigned grille and bonnet give the front end a calmer, more mature look, while the higher roof line and the fact the 18-inch alloy wheels have been positioned at the furthest corners of the car make the Countryman seem bigger but more well-proportioned than the car it replaces.
Inside, there's a half-premium, half-techy air to the cabin. All models get well-bolstered, leather-trim seats, a meaty steering wheel and some genuinely cool touchpoints including the bright-red switch that fires up the engine. The dash is still dominated by a huge and light-ringed (part of a more extensive illumination set up that also shines ambient lighting in the footwell) circular display that houses the multimedia screen, while the air-vents have now been placed vertically.
There's a new-found maturity to the cabin. Nicer materials, less in-your-face dials and a genuine sense of premium. The cabin lighting is hit and miss though, but the little Mini dial that lights up on the sidewalk as you approach and unlock the car will surely put a smile on some owner's faces.
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.
Growth is good for Countryman buyers, with more room for passengers and luggage. Shoulder room and leg room have both grown (albeit by about 5cm), and the interior never feels cramped no matter whether you're sitting in the front or the back.
Boot space has increased, too, growing from 350 litres to 450 litres with the 40:20:40 rear seat in place, and from 1,170 to 1,390 when it is folded flat.
Standard fit includes two cup holders for front seat passengers, plus room in the doors for bottles, but both the S and SD models also get a pull-down divider in the rear seat that houses another two. There's two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
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.
The bad news first: there's pricing pain right across the streamlined Countryman line-up, with the like-for-like cost of entry into an automatic model climbing by $3,400, and the cheaper still manual option banished from the line up altogether.
The range now kicks off with the entry-level Cooper, now starting from $39,900, sitting below the Cooper D at $43,900. The first of the fun-flavoured variants arrives next, the $46,500 Cooper S, with the 2017 line-up topping out with the $51,500 Cooper SD (Sport Diesel) All4 - the only model to get all-wheel drive.
You do get a heap more kit for your money, though, even if some of the items really should have been included on the outgoing model, too. You get a reversing camera for the first time, for example, but you'll also find front and rear parking sensors, an auto-parking system, cruise control, 18-inch alloys and a powered boot you can open by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
Elsewhere, expect leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a 6.5-inch screen (still not a touchscreen, but you can option one) paired with a six-speaker stereo and an admittedly cool light system that illuminates the Mini logo on the footpath when you unlock the car.
But the big news is the standard safety equipment that makes an appearance even on the entry-level Cooper. But more on that under our Safety heading.
Spring for the Cooper D and you'll find the same kit, but add two gears to your automatic gearbox, now an eight-speed. The Cooper S adds a sports transmission, a rear centre armrest, LED headlights and the steering wheel from the John Cooper Works models. You also get a drive-mode selector, but adjustable dampers are a cost option. The SD model gets the same as the S, only with all-wheel drive.
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.
Things kick off with a less-than-exciting three-cylinder engine housed within the entry-level Cooper. The 1.5-litre power plant produces 100kW at 4,400rpm and 220Nm from 1,400rpm, fed through a six-speed automatic before being sent to the front wheels. It'll squeeze a 9.6sec zero-to-100km/h sprint out of the cheapest Countryman.
Step up to the Cooper D and you'll find a 2.0-litre diesel under the bonnet producing 110kW at 4,000Nm and 330Nm from 1,750rpm. It will reduce the sprint time to 8.8secs, using the first of the eight-speed automatics in the Countryman line up.
The sporty Cooper S squeezes 141kW at 5,000rpm and 280Nm from 1,350rpm from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, channeled to the front wheels via an eight-speed sports automatic, which is enough to produce a 7.4sec sprint to 100km/h.
Finally, the Cooper SD All4 gets a 2.0-litre diesel donk producing 140kW at 4,000rpm and an impressive 400Nm from 1,750rpm, fed to all four wheels through an eight-speed sports automatic. The 100km/h sprint takes an identical 7.4 seconds, however.
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.
The entry-level Cooper will sip a claimed/combined 6.0 litres per hundred kilometres and produce 138g per kilometre of C02. The Cooper D is the most miserly of the Countryman family, returning 4.8 litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, and will produce a 126g per kilometre of CO2.
The sportier models will predictably cost you more at the pump, with the Cooper S drinking 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined) and emitting 149 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the Cooper SD need 5.2 litres on the same cycle, while emitting 138 grams of C02 per kilometres.
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.
There's s reason F1 cars don't offer much boot space, and that's because bigger is rarely better in the slippery world of aerodynamics and performance. So the model we were most excited about driving - the overgrown Cooper S - was also the one we approached with the most trepidation.
Happily, it still feels the most urgent of the current crop (a JCW version is still en route) with a zero-to-100km/h time that doesn't set the world on fire, but equally doesn't feel anything resembling slow. The optional variable dampers ($700) make a different on rougher road surfaces, with the harsh and jarring ride of old banished in favour of something a little more smooth, but no less connected.
Equally important, though, is that its weight gain hasn't hurt it in backroad hillclimbs. While the tired old "like a go-kart" description can't be applied to something now the the genuine size of a small SUV, it still feels constantly planted to the road, with direct steering and plenty of feedback fed through the meaty steering wheel.
Step up to the range topper, the diesel-powered SD All4 and things take a turn for the weirder. On paper, the all-wheel-drive model should kill it. A mere kilowatt less power than the Cooper S, but a bucketload more torque, along with the ability to channel that power though a clever all-wheel-drive system should see it devour the sprint. But with that extra kit comes extra kilos (1530kg versus 1460kg), and so the offical time is bang-on that of the petrol-powered S.
But it never feels as quick in the real world. It lacks some of the free-revving fun of the petrol, instead choosing the next gear early in the rev range in automatic mode, and flat-out refusing to shift down a gear as you approach a corner should you take over the shifting via the manual paddles. It feel no less planted than the Cooper S, and it grips and sits beautifully on the twister stuff, but the fun factor just isn't the same.
While we didn't sample the Cooper D, we spent some time in the fun and frugal Cooper. Its three-cylinder engine offers enough power to keep you entertained in the city, but things get a little less fun out on the open road where the climb from 80km/h to 100km/h can feel eternal. The ride, too, feels rougher, with the suspension set to a sportier ride which allows harsher bumps into the cabin.
But all of that stuff will fade into obscurity when you're off the twisting roads and back in the city - and let's face it, that's where the Countryman will spend the bulk of its time. And it's here where Mini's changes make the most sense. The cabin feels light and airy, you can fit more stuff in the boot, the interior treatment is first-class and the addition of crucial driving aids will make day-to-day driving so much easier.
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 Countryman has gone from one of the worst in show (no reversing camera?) to one of the strongest standard safety performers. The now-standard reversing camera joins front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parking system that will take over the steering for you when manoeuvring into a tight spot.
But you'll now also find Mini's Driver Assistant Package, which includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and AEB, and street-sign recognition that reads the signs as you pass them and displays that info on the in-car screen. You can add to that active cruise that will come to a complete stop with traffic before accelerating to speed again, and five airbags (dual front airbags, a side airbag for the driver and two curtain airbags covering both rows of seats).
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.
The Mini Countryman is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires what BMW calls "condition-based servicing", meaning your car is serviced when it needs to be, rather than after a predetermined amount of kilometres. Owners can prepay their maintenance costs for five years or 80,000km for $1,240.