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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Tiguan - Petrol 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Sweet, smooth engine with plenty of low-rpm response and high-rpm power, ride and handling compromise
Room for improvement
Requires 98-octane premium unleaded fuel

11 Dec 2008

LIKE them or not, the compact SUV is here to stay. The 20 different models and 19 per cent growth in sales in 2007 (when 90,330 vehicles were sold) suggests that this type of vehicle is going to be a mainstay of the market for a while.

How long, who knows, but if you’re a car-maker and don’t have a compact SUV, then there’s a gaping hole in your market coverage.

So Volkswagen has entered the market this year with its Tiguan, a fictional name that interestingly was inspired in a way that is familiar if you consider the way its Japanese competitors name cars.

The name Tiguan, Volkswagen says, is a combination of the word ‘tiger’ and ‘iguana’, both symbolic of the Tiguan’s inherent qualities.

Sorry, I didn’t eagerly note the exact reasons down, but ask a Volkswagen salesperson and I’m sure he or she will tell you it is something as nonsensical as the resilience of an iguana and the big paws of a tiger.

The Tiguan feels like the typical compact tall SUV to climb into, but then seems to shrink-wrap around you. The cabin feels light and airy but not big, and its fit and finish has a sense of cohesive quality that is missing in some of the Tiguan’s competitors.

Vision out of the cabin is quite good, with the bluff dashboard making the interior seem a little claustrophobic for some but it’s something you get used to. There is nothing mystifying about the control set-up and the buttons are all usefully large and well marked so you have a chance of stabbing at the right one when on the go.

The real treat is in store when you fire up the 125TSI which, with its 125kW petrol engine, may turn out to be the pick of the Tiguan model line-up. Alas, it was the only new petrol variant we drove at the this week's petrol range launch, with the more powerful 147TSI being unavailable.

A smooth and refined four-cylinder sparks into life, and its charms only continue to impress you as you begin to drive. There is nothing like the turbo lag that is the bane of every turbo-diesel - instead there's a crisp response to throttle pressure and turbine-like smoothness all the way to the 6500rpm redline.

This engine is one of the better 2.0-litre petrol engines you will find, even though its demand for 98RON fuel is one problem that might deter country buyers (or simply those on a shoe-string running budget), as will the use of a space-saver spare wheel.

We averaged 8.5L/100km on the freeway and 12.0L/100km in urban conditions, which was recorded over relatively short distances with a factory-fresh car, so these figures might be improved on.

The transmission is a six-speed electronically supervised hydraulic unit and is as competent and smooth as you might hope a modern transmission might be.

The ratios seem to suit the engine (but then, this engine feels like it could adapt to almost any set of gear ratios), but there is a sense that it could be just a little more refined in its changes. Put it this way, it’s no competition for a Mercedes-Benz seven-speed - but then that’s probably not a fair comparison.

The chassis tuning is very good for such a design and so the Tiguan is one of the better handling compact SUVs. It has very good grip, steering response and feel, and the ride is firm but composed.

Even on the rough tracks we sampled large holes were blotted out with surprising ease, and there was a great deal of stability when thumping over big bumps at speed, too. The Tiguan feels planted.

The Tiguan is around $2000 more expensive than its key competitors but then you can’t help but think that with its feature-laden specifications list and appealing dynamics, ride quality and - above all - syrupy-smooth and tractable engine, that maybe it is a premium worth paying.

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