Test drive: Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI

Volkswagen stirs the Japanese-dominated SUV market with a new Tiguan that’s priced just below the hallowed RM150k mark. We try it out to validate its value…

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The sub-RM180k SUV segment hasn’t experienced much turbulence since the Mazda CX-5 first interfered with the dominance frequently exchanged between the Honda CR-V and the Nissan X-Trail some years back. The Koreans have tried. And while the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage aren’t exactly rare sights on our roads, buyer sentiment is exceptionally difficult to change in this part of the world. But maybe Volkswagen is onto something with the second-generation Tiguan.

Named after a man-eating cat and a tubby reptilian, the Tiguan always felt like a stretch to SUV lovers who were already maxing out their credits on the usual suspects of the east. Local assembly of the first generation closed the gap a bit, but its RM178,888 price tag never really concerned its Japanese competitors.

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However, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has done its homework, some serious math included. And its strategy of pricing the MQB-based second-gen Tiguan from just RM148,990 might just turn the ripples created by its predecessor into waves strong enough to rock this SUV-frenzied boat.

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The entry fee to Tiguan ownership is tempting but not unbelievable. Price cuts do not come without compromise, and the ComfortLine lacks niceties such as 18-inch alloys, an electric tailgate and LED headlamps with daytime-running lights and Dynamic Cornering Assist, all of which are fitted to the HighLine. The disparity grows inside with items such as leather seats, a 12.3-inch Active Info Display (Volkswagen lingo for Audi’s Virtual Cockpit), three-zone climate control, Park Assist 3.0, sat-nav and a reverse camera. If owning these features is paramount, be prepared to fork out the RM20k premium commanded by the HighLine.

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Should your bank account rebel, there’s comfort in the knowledge that both variants are powered by the same 1.4-litre TSI engine that sends 148bhp and 250Nm to the front wheels via a 6-speed wet-clutch gearbox – the latter often lauded as one of Volkswagen’s more robust DSG offerings to date.

On capacity alone, this may sound underwhelming considering the Tiguan has grown by 60mm and 30mm in length and width respectively. But maximum torque is accessible early on, between 1,500 to 3,500rpm to be precise, to allow effortless mobility while keeping fuel consumption levels down to 6.7L/100km, on paper at least.

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Bury the throttle deeper into the floor when the horizon clears and the lack of top-end grunt will eventually be exposed, especially to those familiar with the naturally aspirated performance of the Tiguan’s 2.5-litre rivals. That said, the peppiness of the TSI mill still puts it one rung above the 2.0s. The DSG is even more uncontested, with shifts that parade just the right balance between smoothness and urgency. This 6-speeder is often paired with Volkswagen’s feistier offerings such as the Golf GTI, but its taller ratios (compared to the 7-speed DSG) are a great match for a car of the Tiguan’s nature.

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You know a gearbox is good when you can’t fault it for gear-hunting along windy roads. But the DSG’s slickness is outdone by the Golf-like agility of the Tiguan when presented with a succession of bends. They’re both built on the same modular platform after all, hence the Tiguan’s ability to point and shoot in and out of corners. Its extended wheelbase (up 77mm from the first-gen) adds a touch of surefootedness for when the going gets tough. But you’re not going to run away from bodyroll in a car measuring over five feet tall. In this respect, the HighLine leans into corners a little less because of its lower profile Hankook tyres. But the Falken-wrapped 17-inchers on the base model live up to the ComfortLine label by being just a touch more pliant on rough surfaces.

From a passenger’s point of view, the Tiguan is very welcoming even if it isn’t the biggest or most spacious SUV in its class. Unlike cars like the Renault Koleos, this isn’t an SUV which gets you wondering if the cabin can swallow an extra row of seats. It’s cosier than segment benchmarks, but comfort is upheld by seat ergonomics and variety of cubbyholes, including those embedded into the airline-inspired tray tables for the backbenchers. They’re among the things that highlight a difference in priorities between European and Asian makes, but it’s all in very good taste.

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VPCM is confident the Tiguan’s continental charisma and wealth of tech will absolve it of its shortcomings versus segment mainstays in its unspoken quest to reignite the Wolfsburg brand’s fortunes in Malaysia. Initial bookings and showroom crowds have been encouraging. But there will always be doubters among us, some haters even.

VPCM’s answer to that is a five-year warranty undertaken by the factory which all new Volkswagen models now get. There’s even five years of roadside assistance to quell all concerns about the car being left stranded by the road for whatever reason. So there’s little reason to worry, for five years at least.

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With Honda and Mazda expected to refurbish their line-ups with the new CR-V and the CX-5 before 2017 comes to a close, the Tiguan is penetrating the market in what could be a very defining period for the SUV segment. There is no better time for an outsider to rise to the occasion and get noticed. We certainly want the Tiguan to put up a fight that would give VPCM some sales momentum because we want to see cars like the Volkswagen Arteon and new Golf GTI ply our roads. Don’t you?

SPECS
Price: From RM148,990
Engine: 1,395cc, 4-cylinder turbo, 148bhp, 250Nm
Transmission: 6-speed DSG (wet-clutch), FWD
Economy: 6.7L/100km, 148g/km CO2
Performance: 0-100kph in 8.9 secs

Author: Daryl Loy

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