2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Road Test Review
(4.5 / 5)
Volkswagen has hit the sweet spot with its cheapest small SUV, the Tiguan. But will being front wheel drive only deter customers?
When you build a new SUV you have to get it right. If you don’t, it will quickly get lost in a sea of competitors. And with so many vehicles vying for your attention, there are a bazillion factors to consider.
Warranty, resale, service costs, safety features, comfort, space, fuel economy, blah, blah, blah…
It doesn’t take much to become overwhelmed. Which is why Volkswagen has done something very clever with its Tiguan 110TSI – it has gone back to the basics.
Sure, it has all the things listed above, but it presents them in such a simple and logical fashion that there are no hidden surprises. This is a WYSIWYG car – what you see is what you get.
Take the design, for example. This isn’t styled to be a head-turner, but it isn’t boring either. Rather, the two-box design has been carefully crafted to stay within a customer’s comfort zone and give the kind of practicality people look for in a crossover.
But what is even more impressive is the fact that it has a five star safety rating, yet has the best visibility of any SUV currently on sale.
You can see literally everywhere out of it, with thin A-pillars that have the glass right into the corner of the door. The rear view mirror is wide enough, and a glance over the shoulder reveals minimal blind spots. It’s very cleverly done, and goes back to yesteryear when we actually used our eyes to see around us instead of relying on blind-spot monitoring.
Open the doors and you’ll find a cabin that is simple in presentation but is top notch in quality. Very few cars in this price range have the same soft-touch materials and easy-to-clean surfaces – the Mazda CX-5 being the exception.
The seats may be cloth, but the material presents well, and the shaping and padding is excellent. Of course, it is only manual adjustment, being an entry level car, but finding an ideal driving position only takes a few seconds.
With its massive glass house, it feels light and airy, even with a mostly dark grey interior. But more important is the fact there is actual room instead of the impression of it.
The front seats can be put right back without impeding rear legroom, and if the front seat passengers are seated normally, there is heaps of space for rear passengers. The width is also good for a small SUV, with three adults across the back seat being possible, though it would probably be best for only short time.
Open the tailgate and you’re greeted with 615 liters of luggage space – absolutely huge – and then if you drop down the back seats that grows to 1655 liters. Again, plenty to recommend it.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol motor, with the optional direct-shift gearbox (DSG) mated to it.
It may seem like a small motor, but there’s plenty of grunt where it counts. Producing 110kW (82hp) – hence the model designation – and 250Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque, the Tiguan isn’t the quickest small SUV around, but it’s not that slow either.
Instead, it offers a smooth, relaxed drive experience, with enough punch to overtake on country roads when required. The seven-speed DSG does a good job of keeping the small engine on the boil, however it can be hesitant off the line when it comes straight off a stop-start cycle. Easy way to fix that – deactivate it.
Volkswagen says it takes 9.2 seconds to reach 100km (62mph) but because of how smooth it is, it does feel a little quicker than that.
One thing VW does well is steering and suspension, and in the Tiguan 110TSI, it’s no exception. The weighting is just right, giving enough heft to feel more natural than many electric steering systems, and it turns in crisply enough so that even keen drivers won’t feel bored.
Likewise, the suspension has been tuned to suit these slightly smaller wheels, giving an excellent balance of both ride comfort and handling. In fact, it rides better than a lot of the higher grade Tiguan models.
But the most impressive part is that it never suffers because it’s just front wheel drive. While models further up the ladder get Volswagen’s 4Motion system, the base model Tiguan powers just those two front wheels which could corrupt the steering. However, there’s no torque steer – mainly because there’s not a lot of torque – and it doesn’t scrabble or snatch in the wet like some FWD crossovers.
What you get is a comfortable, easy to drive machine that has decent dynamics and feels good on the road.
The Tiguan is equipped with a suite of active and passive safety systems, with seven airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, brake-force distribution and a differential lock which helps keep the power on the road. In crash testing, the Tiguan scored the maximum five-star rating.
With its cheapest Tiguan, Volkswagen has actually created the best Tiguan. It has the best ride comfort, the same high safety spec as all the other models, a high-quality build, plenty of space and a smooth drive with good fuel economy.
And thanks to its brilliant visibility and ease of drive, it’s very easy to recommend. Make sure you have this one high on your shopping list.