2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Road Test
$31,090 (plus on-roads)
(4 / 5)
Volkswagen’s mid-size SUV packs a decent punch with its GTI-derived engine. But is the latest Tiguan more than the sum of its parts?
With the medium SUV market currently the fastest growing segment worldwide, we thought we’d take the opportunity to put one of Veedub’s most popular SUVs to the test.
With the Mazda CX-5 leading the segment, the Tiguan’s update in 2016 saw it move forward in both quality, size and presentation – the CX-5 clearly in its sights.
The Tiguan is impeccably built, has tonnes of up-to-date technology and is rated five stars in ANCAP safety testing. Sounds like it’s ready to topple its Japanese rival, right?
Well, after a week of running around in the highest spec model, we found some interesting results.
Let’s start with the outside
The Tiguan is less dopey looking than its predecessor (thank goodness for that) with a more angular design, featuring bold, blocky headlamps, sharp crease-lines and a bluffer front end.
The build is solid, with a nice thunk when the doors shut and looking down the length, all the panel gaps are even and the doors are nice and level.
In fact, it’s a very handsome and very Germanic looking SUV. Looks like that box is ticked.
And then there’s the interior
Inside, the Teutonic theme is continued, but that’s no bad thing. The quality of the materials is excellent, however, the CX-5’s plastics are fractionally nicer to the touch.
The Tiguan receives a very nicely textured dashtop, and there’s more focus on showcasing the technology with digital instruments instead of conventional dials (included as part of a $4000 driver assistance package).
The infotainment screen is crisp and clear, but the reliance on screens means in bright sunlight the old-fashioned dials are still easier to see.
It’s not perfect, however. Things like the speaker grille on the Tiguan’s dash holds dust more easily than it should, while the VW’s grained dash captures dirt. Wear some polarised sunglasses and the effect is even more magnified.
If you’re a clean-freak, then you’ll want to keep some microfibre cloths handy.
The Tiguan has liberated a heap of space compared with the previous model, easily feeling larger than the CX-5. In fact, the same platform is used for the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq – that fact alone tells you there is a lot of room.
For children sitting in the back, it feels very roomy thanks to its high roofline and low beltline, creating a spacious and airy feel, even with an all-black interior.
The boot is absolutely huge for this segment, at 615 litres. But the numbers aren’t all that they seem. That figure does drop down when the sliding rear seat is pushed back to its rearmost position.
What do you get as standard?
The Tiguan has a stack of inclusions, but then, it should for $47,990 – not the cheapest mid-sized SUV around.
You get leather seats (which are heated), a three-zone climate control system, a clear 8.0-inch infotainment screen that comes with two SD card slots, USB, sat-nav, keyless entry and start as well.
As you’d expect in 2018, Apple Car Play and Android Auto are included as standard, as are the aforementioned sliding rear seats and a powered tailgate.
Our test car was the R-Line pack, which also gives you 19-inch wheels, and a Driver Assistance Pack (DAP), which brings with its the fancy 12.3-inch instrument screen (you’ll notice that the same screen is used in everything from the Audi SQ7 to the Lamborghini Urus).
The pack also gives you radar-based cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, electrically foldable mirrors and lane change assistant. Both the R-Line and DAP bumped the price of the Tiguan to a smidge under $55K. Suddenly, the initial price starts to seem reasonable.
Safety on the Tiguan is comprehensive, including autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assistance (which is annoying – you’ll turn it off), and brakes which will hold the car stationary after a crash, preventing you rolling forward further.
There’s also a pedestrian-safe bonnet which pops up, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a heap of airbags.
Yes, it’s a five-star safety-rated car, both in ANCAP and EuroNCAP.
How it drives
Volkswagen has done something quite cool with the Tiguan 162TSI. The three numbers signify the engine’s power – and there’s plenty of it.
Having taken the engine out of the Golf GTI and stuck it into the Tiguan, it may lose a few kilowatts compared with the Golf, but that’s still 217bhp in the old money. Not bad for a family bus.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder makes a great noise, too, and with 350Nm on tap, it gives the Tiguan plenty of punch when called for. Interestingly, it does lose out on the Golf’s excellent six-speed DSG and replaces it with a much slower-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch.
The Tiguan engine is very quiet when you aren’t gunning it, but its initial response isn’t as brisk as you may expect – the combination of turbo lag, DSG and a fair lug of weight do add up.
However, when in sports mode the Tiguan’s gearbox holds onto the gears, revs higher and on the boil, it can be very rapid for a medium SUV. In fact, it will get from 0-100kmh in just 6.5 seconds. Yep – it’s quick.
That also translates to higher fuel consumption. The Tiguan is rated at 8.1L/100km but when hustled along, the Tiguan will drink a lot more, hitting the tens (and beyond) quite often.
While the steering can be a bit remote at times (especially further into the lock), in R-line spec, the Tiguan definitely handles very well. But that does mean the ride (especially on 19s) can be a bit firm, for some tastes. If you enjoy driving, though, you won’t care.
Drive it hard and it feels excellent, with the Tiguan happiest at seven-tenths and above. The real question is how hard are you going to be driving most of the time?
Here’s the deal
Every car has its strengths and weaknesses. The Tiguan’s engine and handling are absolutely brilliant and there’s a heap of room but you also pay a lot more for the features that come standard with its competitors.
But with a solid build, a cracking engine, great handling and good looks, it’s definitely worth putting on your shopping list.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Specifications
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 1500-4400rpm
0-100kmh: 6.5 seconds
Fuel use: 8.1L/100km