Car reviews - Volkswagen - Tiguan - range
Car-like handling, handsome looks, excellent ride comfort, versatile diesel engine
Room for improvement
Rough surface rack-rattle, price, no diesel R-Line variant
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12 Nov 2014
SINCE its introduction in 2008, Volkswagen's Tiguan small SUV has established itself as a decent all-rounder with competitive practicality, respectable road-manners and styling to set it apart from an, at times, androgynous segment.
But despite the obvious references to outdoor pursuits and leisure possibilities, the little VW has never pertained to be very sporty.
With only a tiny proportion of small SUVs ever encountering terrain more challenging than a soccer field or speed-bump, car makers are focussing more on producing small SUVs that fare better on-road, and Volkswagen is following suit.
The most recent model refresh has retained the somewhat breathless 1.4-litre 118kW and 2.0-litre 132kW variants as well as the more effervescent 155kW version of the 2.0-litre and a promising output-boosted 130kW diesel.
At the launch of the fettled Tiguan range, we focussed on the latter of the two variants on a short hack through Victoria's Yarra Valley.
Middle of the range 132TSI and 130TDI variants are now available with a dusting of sporty features if specified with a $2500 R-Line pack but we drove a standard $39,990 130TDI to focus on its updated 2.0-litre diesel engine.
The previous version was no firecracker with 103kW and 320Nm but with a significant hop-up of 27kW and 60Nm the update is instantly noticeable.
Acceleration off the mark is impressive with almost negligible lag with the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission complementing the substantial torque with intuitive clutch-slip and slick gear-changes.
Its 4Motion four-wheel drive system dealt with the diesel torque efficiently preventing wheel-slip no matter how bashful we were with the fun-pedal.
Even when driving hard, the double-clutch automatic has a tendency to upshift early in the rev range, which is perfect for an engine that produces a majority of its useful torque between 1750rpm and 2500rpm.
At idle and cruising speeds, the pumped-up diesel is eerily quiet with no characteristic rattles and only produces a more customary, but not unpleasant, diesel sound when wrung-out to the governor.
Getting up to speed was effortless in the 130TDI Tiguan which allowed an enthusiastic blast up a twisty hill bringing another pleasant surprise.
Underneath its pleasing SUV facade is the previous-generation Golf platform and its connection to the fine handling hatchback is very apparent when negotiating winding roads.
Even in standard trim, the diesel Tiguan is very light on its feet responding quickly to instructions from the nicely weighted and communicative steering with only minimal body roll.
With a newly enhanced XDL differential, understeer is virtually eliminated unless deliberately provoked and rapid progress was made with confidence – and a smile.
As the road-surface deteriorated to unsealed dust and gravel, the Tiguan continued to make decent sure-footed pace with a very compliant ride and a very well-tuned ESC system that took a back seat until absolutely necessary.
At the limit of loose surface traction, the Tiguan showed initial wash-out understeer followed by a little oversteer, but the kids would have to be very late for the game if you were to explore those ragged fringes of adhesion.
Steering feel was surprisingly good but at the cost of some transmitted vibration and even a touch of rack-rattle when cornering on rough surfaces.
When back on the straighter tarmac stretches, the diesel Tiguan settled down to a placid, comfortable ride offering an excellent seating position and good view of the pretty surroundings for our 188cm tester.
The latter part of the afternoon was spent at the wheel of the Tiguan 155TSI R-Line which shares the same 155kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine as the outgoing version but adds a modicum of 'performance inspired dynamics'.
We liked the chic interior with beautifully ergonomic R-Line steering wheel, classy black roof-lining and matching sports seats, that contrasted the white paintwork perfectly, but priced at $44,990 it is edging towards some prestige offerings.
Following the same route as the diesel drive, the 155TSI took the car-connection handling to an almost uncompromised level with negligible roll in corners, excellent directional handling and turn-in.
As part of the R-Line equipment, the top-of-the-range Tiguan has three Adaptive Chassis Control settings allowing a choice of Normal, Comfort or Sport modes.
We couldn't tell much difference between the programs but that need not be a criticism because despite the impeccable road manner, the R-Line still manages a silky ride when cruising.
It is a little choppier on unsealed roads and the rack rattle of the softer-riding diesel variant is still there too, but it would be very easy to live with.
The 2.0-litre turbo engine was just a little underwhelming and although its zero to 100km/h dash of 7.3 seconds is certainly not sluggish, acceleration is best described as steady if not explosive.
We would have liked a little more exhaust note to match the more athletic appearance too.
R-Line versions also get 4Motion four-wheel drive grip which way exceeded the ability of the engine for a confidence inspiring drive, and shifting gears with the steering-wheel mounted paddles got the very best out of the four-cylinder.
Blasting through twisty country roads with just one person aboard and no luggage was a frivolous experience, but the Tiguan would take a more realistic exercise of lugging a family, kit or a trailer in its stride.
The excellent refined diesel would obviously lend itself better to harder work and load-lugging duties but still has enjoyable real-world performance, which is why we are disappointed to see only the petrol engine available in R-Line guise.
The 155kW spark-ignition engine is a sweet unit but can't match the versatility of the compression ignition 2.0-litre, and while the Tiguan has impressive car-like handling it is still a high-riding off-road pretender.
You can however, stump up the $2500 and dress a 130TDI in the optional R-Line package. It won't have quite the on-road performance of the R-Line variant but it would combine the excellent diesel with a more sporty edge.
The refreshed Tiguan range with attention-seeking R-Line flagship should be enough to keep shoppers interested, but our pick is certainly the more affordable and versatile 130TDI.
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