Car reviews - Volkswagen - Tiguan - 110TSI Comfortline
Thoughtful features, interior space, big boot, big windows, confident handling, standard equipment, ease of use, efficiency, performance
Room for improvement
Noisy and jiggly on some roads, uncomfortable front seats, occasional transmission clunks
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1 Dec 2016
Price and equipment
WE TESTED the Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline, its $36,990 plus on-road costs sticker making it second-cheapest automatic variant of the range (base Trendline spec is $2500 cheaper with an automatic transmission). Comfortline is also available with a more powerful petrol engine, all-wheel-drive system, an extra gear ratio and drive mode selector function for $41,490 plus on-road costs.
The whole Tiguan line-up is strong on standard safety equipment, comprising autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, an active bonnet, multi-collision braking, driver fatigue detection, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automated parking, LED tail-lights and a ‘fish-eye’ reversing camera with obstacle proximity visuals for the front and rear parking sensors.
Comfortline trim has a 8.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation and VW’s App-Connect USB interface providing smartphone connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, colour multi-function trip computer display, cruise control, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and quilted fabric upholstery.
Storage drawers under the front seats, a cooled glovebox, ceiling-mounted storage hatches and fold-down tray tables with slide-out cup-holders and an angled setting for resting iPads are also standard in the Comfortline, which is identified by additional chrome trim, front foglights and smart 17-inch alloys with 215/65 R17 Michelin tyres.
A $5000 Luxury option pack adds Vienna leather-appointed upholstery, electrical driver’s seat adjustment, heated front seats, power folding door mirrors, keyless entry, an automatic tailgate and an electric panoramic glass sunroof.
The $2250 Driver Assistance Package comprises a customisable fully digital instrument panel (similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit), adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, power folding door mirrors and area view camera.
Our test car was option-free, save for $700 worth of Caribbean Blue metallic paint.
We didn’t feel short-changed on equipment for the price, but a couple of omissions are decidedly old-school considering the Tiguan is newest kid on the block right now.
The lack of keyless entry and the use of noticeably dim and yellowy halogen headlights felt odd in a market where push-button go and projector, Xenon or even LED headlights are increasingly the norm.
If you are the kind of person for whom standard five-pocket jeans just don’t provide enough space for stuff, the Tiguan interior is the automotive equivalent of cargo pants. It has so many storage options that items are bound to be seemingly irretrievably lost, until a cleverly concealed compartment is rediscovered.
Probably, like the cargo pants, after it’s washed.
Huge flocked door bins all round, a big glovebox supplemented by another next to the driver’s knee, a hatch on top of the dashboard, drawers beneath each front seat, a device-sized gully in front of the gear selector replete with 12V, USB and audio input sockets, excellent pincer-like cupholders, a box under the adjustable central armrest, two map pockets, two generous overhead hatches, oddment trays at the edges of the rear bench, more cupholders in the rear central armrest and another pair in the fold-down rear tray tables that also serve as somewhere to prop a tablet for entertaining bored passengers. They’ll have to fight over the single rear 12V socket, although there is another in the boot.
The boot is also full of handy tie-down points, shopping bag hooks and a false floor feature while a cargo net is stowed beneath the false floor that hides a space-saver spare tyre. Deep, plastic-lined recesses at each edge of the boot are ideal for stashing muddy shoes or rolled-up towels. Interestingly the Tiguan has a hatchback-style hard parcel shelf instead of the roller blind favoured in SUV land.
With the 40:20:40 split-fold rear bench in its rearmost, reclined position there is an impressive 520-litre cargo capacity, expanding to a class-leading 1655L with the seats folded (a generous 615L is also available with the seats up but slid forward). Remote handles within the boot, or fabric pulls on the seats themselves release and initiate the folding process and they lock into place, almost completely flat with no step where they meet the boot floor (provided the variable-height floor is placed in its highest position).
The bench slides in 60:40 split, with the smaller side behind the driver. Slid forward and the backrest positioned more upright, there is precisely enough space for a small suitcase of the type allowed for airline hand luggage to fit.
We learned this because we packed one too many bags for our long weekend away.
Speaking of which, the Tiguan happily swallowed a large-ish stroller, long-weekend luggage for two adults and an infant, an Esky and various other odds and ends required for a semi-self-catered trip.
Isofix child seat anchorages may have to meet certain standards, but not all are created equal. Happily those in the Tiguan are the easiest to use we have encountered so far, with an ideal angle, depth and use of plastic guides contributing to right-first-time satisfaction and simple adjustment. All three top tethers are sensibly located on the seat-backs too.
Up front, ample steering and seat adjustment made it quick and easy for drivers at each end of the height spectrum to get comfy behind the wheel, but unfortunately that comfort didn’t last.
The seats are more like perches and could do with tilt adjustment to overcome this. They lack thigh support for the long of leg and the location of the backrest pivot causes a hard section of its leading edge to dig into your lower back.
It’s a shame because the Tiguan has a pretty inviting interior with its quilted upholstery, clean lines and austere form-follows-function styling. Everything falls easily to hand in typical Volkswagen Group style, the technology is mostly logical to use with attractive, crisp graphics and the switchgear satisfyingly tactile. Only the lack of obvious way to return to Apple CarPlay from other touchscreen functions rubbed us up the wrong way.
Everything feels solidly put together and we detected no cabin rattles or squeaks, despite some surfaces we drove on trying their best to unseat things (more on that later). Said surfaces also introduced intrusive levels of road noise, too, and there is a fair bit of wind noise from the windscreen.
Talking of wind, the tri-zone climate control worked a treat and is a great inclusion at this price point, where some competitors don’t even fit rear air vents. The rear bench is more comfortable than the font, provided the backrest isn’t reclined all the way, and the amount of space back there is astonishing for anyone who has driven the original Tiguan, or most competitors for that matter.
With the driver’s seat set for someone of above-average height, the same-sized person had heaps of legroom, headroom and shoulder room. Even the central rear position is liveable for adults. Few cars achieve that these days.
Apart from the storage and space, the best Tiguan trait is the large, deep windows that make it easy for children to see out and providing heaps of visibility for the driver. It also makes the Tiguan feel light and airy like a Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V, without having to tolerate the naff interiors of those cars. A back window you can properly see out of is a rare delight these days, and for the first time in years of testing new cars, we found the windscreen pillars pretty unobtrusive, too.
If it had better front seats, the Tiguan would be almost a perfect ten for interior.
Engine and transmission
The Tiguan Comfortline 110TSI is propelled by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine developing 110kW (hence the name) at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1500 and 3500rpm. It drives the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
It might not sound like much, but this engine only has to haul a hatchback-like 1450kg plus passengers and luggage, such are the weight-saving qualities of Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform architecture shared with the Golf and many other models across the German giant’s multi-brand empire.
We enjoyed the engine’s free-breathing, lag-free nature and even climbing laden to a summit one kilometre above sea level, it never felt underpowered. Nippy round town and relaxed on the motorway, it is a flexible unit that remained smooth and refined no matter what we asked of it and emitted a characterful throaty roar when we asked a lot.
The transmission was less consistent, sometimes slamming between first and second gears with a jolt and a lurch. For urban and mountain driving, selecting Sport mode on the transmission was less frustrating than Drive, which is slow to kick down and often tries to hang onto higher ratios for longer than is ideal for point-and-squirt urban cut-and-thrust.
On the other hand, the willing engine overcomes most transmission-related frustrations and we experienced less low-speed hesitation or incline indecisiveness with the Tiguan than other dual-clutch Volkswagens we have driven recently.
The ratios are also perfectly spaced for some fun back-road blasting in manual mode, another Tiguan talent. But for general SUV use, we prefer a slick torque-converter automatic such as used in the Mazda CX-5 and some Hyundai Tucson variants.
During our week-long test, which involved plenty of long-distance work but a long, slow, twisty mountain road, urban and suburban driving and dynamic testing, we averaged fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The Tiguan requires pricier 95 RON Premium Unleaded, but almost 800km on a 58L tank under a broad range of driving scenarios is pretty good going, especially as the official combined cycle figure is 6.3L/100km.
Our suburban, country and dynamic thrash route returned 10.4L/100km, while we got 5.7L/100km on a mix of 110km/h and 100km/h motorway, which is exactly the same as the official highway cycle figure. Official city cycle consumption is 7.6L/100km.
Ride and handling
Even on relatively small 17-inch wheels and chunky tyres, the Tiguan rides a little too firmly at low speeds and occupants are rattled about if a poorly maintained road is negotiated at less than 80km/h. Big hits send thumps through the cabin and as mentioned earlier, coarse-chip bitumen results in too much road roar.
That said, none of the Tiguan’s competitors are perfect when it comes to road noise on Australian country roads.
Our weekend retreat was at the end of a long, slow, twisty mountain road with a surface damaged by rock falls, extremes of weather, tree roots and the fact its existence was seemingly forgotten by any maintenance authority. The Tiguan’s suspension did not cope well at all, and we suffered at the hands of many years’ neglect over this broken bitumen.
We couldn’t help thinking how much more comfortable the same climb would have been in a Hyundai Tucson with its excellent Australian-tuned undercarriage suited for roads just like the one described above. The Tucson takes the initial edge off bumps that much better, and recovers more quickly from each hit so that the next one is dealt with that much better than the VW, which seemed to store up the energy of each impact and get progressively worse.
Hyundai somehow also isolates occupants better from the pitch and roll of negotiating a twisty road.
Even the closely related Golf Alltrack driven on the same roads some months earlier coped much better. But at higher speeds, as is generally the way with German cars, the Tiguan settles down and soaks up or shrugs off pretty much anything thrown at it, feeling reassuringly planted.
Reassuring is a word we could level at the Tiguan’s high-speed handling, too.
The excellent forward vision – those discrete windscreen pillars coming to the fore again – and accurate steering provide heaps of confidence when zipping along a curvaceous 100km/h country road. It feels just like a big hatchback, really.
The firm ride starts to make sense here, too, because the Tiguan has superb body control and resists roll well despite its high centre of gravity. The Michelin tyres hung on well, too, getting on with the job quietly unless under very hard braking – another area in which the Tiguan performed confidently.
Even with the least powerful Tiguan engine on board, we detected a little scrabbling from the front wheels when pushing hard through quick corners and a quick bit of intervention from the electronics to bring it under control without slowing us down.
So it can be driven quickly with ease, but we would not go so far as to call the Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline engaging, entertaining or playful. For that you need a more powerful variant with all-wheel-drive. The front-drivers are clearly and understandably tuned for safe, effective and efficient progress when pressing on.
Safety and servicing
All-wheel-drive Tiguan variants achieved a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 84 per cent for child occupant protection and 68 per cent for safety assist technology.
Front-drivers like the 110TSI Comfortline reviewed here are unrated.
Dual frontal, side chest, side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee bag are standard, as are anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control and autonomous emergency braking.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, with VW’s capped-price servicing website not yet quoting on the new Tiguan model.
Volkswagen’s new-car warranty lasts three years with unlimited kilometres.
Volkswagen has obviously looked hard at its rivals and cherry-picked the best attributes from all of them to come up with a product that is class-leading, or close enough, in almost every area. The new Tiguan really is a benchmark-setter.
Unfortunately the similarly uncomfortable Mazda CX-5 inspired the Tiguan’s front seats and it could have taken more from the Australian suspension tuning lavished on the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage to perfect the rough-road ride.
These are minor drawbacks when everything good and great about the Tiguan is considered.
Volkswagens that are this good prompt us to question why people pay more for the equivalent Audi – which itself could learn a lot here when it comes to SUV practicality and cohesiveness.
A depth of engineering and thoroughness of thought has gone into the Tiguan, and it feels a cut above its rivals as a result. That’s something you can’t measure in a spec-sheet comparison.
We didn’t find it quite as easy going as a Tucson or as engaging as a CX-5 but for everyday life and beyond, the latest VW is a truly impressive package.
Hyundai Tucson Elite 2.0 GDi from $36,750 plus on-road costs
Apart from a frustratingly gutless engine, the super-smooth Tucson is great to drive, easy to use and comes with plenty of standard equipment. Alternatively pay slightly less for sparser equipment but a better engine with the diesel Tucson ActiveX 2.0 CRDi AWD.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.5 AWD from $35,790 plus on-road costs
The upmarket interior, excellent drivetrains and fun handling mean the thousands of CX-5 buyers are not wrong. Definitely go for the punchier 2.5-litre petrol engine.
Subaru Forester 2.0D-L from $35,490 plus on-road costs
Not the sales force it once was in this segment but the Forester remains a worthy contender for its spacious, airy cabin, tough go-anywhere credentials, value-for-money and a combination of drivetrain and handling charm.
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