Volkswagen Tiguan: First Drive Review
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Does the new Tiguan finally announce the arrival of Volkswagen in the Indian SUV space? We find out.
Two years ago when Volkswagen announced plans to get the Tiguan to India, it revived hopes for anyone who desperately wanted a Volkswagen SUV. Remember the only other SUV from the German carmaker in India had been the immensely capable and expensive Touareg, but it was discontinued in 2014 owing to poor sales. The good news is that the Tiguan is finally here and priced between Rs 27 lakh and Rs 31 lakh, it's taking a shot at luring buyers from luxury car brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But can it? We are back with answers from Bengaluru where we had the chance to take the Volkswagen Tiguan for a spin for a few hundred kilometres.
Aesthetically, the design can be summed up in a single word: simple. But it should not be confused with boring. The Tiguan is a case study in straight lines and purposeful design, with the wheel arches being the only curved surfaces on the outside. The wide front grille with its wide slats and subtle chrome treatment is complemented well by the big VW insignia that is housed in the middle. The grille is flanked by rectangular LED headlamps underlined by LED turn indicators. In the lower half of the bumper sits the LED fog lamps flanking the trapezoidal radiator grille, with a chrome strip running between them. The bonnet features four sharp creases which add muscle to the simplistic design. All the elements combined gives the car a face that’s purposeful and confident.
Moving to the side, the car starts to look more like a wagon than a full blown SUV. The sharp and prominent shoulder line stretches from the front fender and blends seamlessly into the tail lamps. The tail lamps look sharp and spill over well into the tailgate, giving the rear an air of simplicity and elegance. The chrome strip on the rear bumper however does rob the car a bit of its elegance. There is plastic cladding all round which reaffirms its SUV status. The whole car sits on 18-inch cut alloys shod with Hankook self sealing tyres.
On the whole, the design looks timeless and should age well.
The cabin of the Tiguan is typical Volkswagen but now features an edgier design. Still, any prior owners of the brand’s cars will feel right at home. It feels well-built and from good quality materials. Also, though the interior is all-black it looks far from staid and carries over an air of elegance like a well-tailored suit. There is liberal use of soft-feel plastics on the dash, door side panels and even the door armrests. The seats are upholstered in Vienna leather all round and the flat-bottom steering wheel is wrapped in leather as well. Cubby holes are aplenty and door pockets can house a large bottle and knick-knacks with ease and are also carpeted to keep stuff from rattling against pocket walls.
The centre arm rest too houses a large stowage space for phones and wallets. Even the glovebox has magnetic slots to hold loose change. These little things shed light on the attention to detail given to the interior while designing the car. The dash houses the new 8-inch infotainment touchscreen system which comes with app connect and also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The resolution could have been better and the navigation can only be used via CarPlay and Android Auto. Having said that, the system does provide options to tailor the settings of the vehicle to personal preferences. The ambient and backlighting on control switches is adjustable for intensity.
You can access the driver’s settings from the screen and it even has a Blue Score system that awards you points on how frugal you have been with your driving. Below the screen sit the controls for the three-zone climate control and heated seats. All buttons and controls feel of high quality and work with a purposeful click. There are a lot of buttons on the steering wheel but they’re easy to get used to. The design of the clocks is typical Volkswagen, which means the design is simple, easy to read and the central TFT screen displays all the information you could need on the move.
The driver’s perch feels comfortable as the seat envelopes you well, though people with wider frames could feel a little constrained for space. The adjustable headrest, electrically adjustable seat and the tilt and telescopic steering wheel make finding the perfect seating position a breeze. The passenger seat too is height-adjustable, albeit only manually. The rear too is spacious and comfortable with oodles of knee and head room. In addition, the massive panoramic sunroof only adds to the airiness of the car. You can even seat three in the back provided the middle passenger is willing to tackle the high transmission tunnel. The seats are split 60:40 and can be reclined or slid forwards and backwards with ease.
There are ratcheted picnic trays in the rear and rear passengers get their own climate control zone as well. The tailgate features an auto-powered tailgate which reveals a massive 615-litre boot with the rear row up and though you can fold the seats down completely and increase the luggage capacity to 1,655 litres you will seldom need it. Nor will you need the space saver in the back until you really destroy a tyre as the Hankooks come with a self-sealing gel which automatically fills up all small punctures.
Other markets get multiple diesel and petrol drivetrain options but in India, the Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-litre TDI engine which makes 143PS of max power at 4,000rpm and 340Nm of peak torque between 1,750rpm and 2,750rpm. The engine is mated to a 7-speed DSG transmission with paddle shifters and also comes with 4MOTION four-wheel-drive. Unlike conventional SUVs, the Tiguan doesn’t have permanent 4WD but an on-demand system. The car stays in FWD mode so long as you are driving on tarmac and sends power to the rear wheels only if required. It works similar to the system on the BMW X1, the segment VW is vying for. Getting off the line is fairly easy and the Tiguan does gather speed rather quickly.
The shifts are quick and precise when you have a heavy right foot and rather relaxed and aimed towards frugality when you are feathering the throttle. When the tachometer hits the 1,750rpm mark you do get a slight jolt as the torque is transferred to the front wheels but past that the acceleration and power delivery is linear and smooth. The engine too is incredibly refined. Even at idle, the diesel clatter, though audible, doesn’t feel or sound jarring. And as the revs climb, the engine note gets sweeter. At higher revs it sounds nothing short of sporty and does feel like from a segment above.
The gearbox on the other hand feels like it’s geared more for frugality than outright performance. It responds well and feels quick in manual mode but left to its own devices it does try to stick to a higher gear to keep the revs in check, which can be a hassle on single carriageways and especially when you’re trying to overtake a slow-moving truck quickly.
The cabin is well-insulated, quiet and comfortable. Even at speeds north of 120kmph, there is barely any wind noise and road noise is absent altogether.
Drive and handling
As we mentioned earlier, the Tiguan feels more like a large car than a full blown SUV, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, you do miss the higher perch of a traditional SUV but the Tiguan is not your traditional SUV. To begin with you get two driving modes: Road and Off-road, which further have sub-modes. The Road mode has Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual, where you can change the settings of the steering, drivetrain and even the air conditioning according to your preferences. The Off-road mode features an individual mode as well, which again lets you customise the setting for the steering (normal or sport), drivetrain (normal or off-road) and the four-wheel-drive system (normal or off-road).
The suspension setup is on the stiffer side which means you do hear a loud thud over rumble strips and larger undulations but you rarely feel the impact. The overall ride however is quite pliant. The smaller bumps and potholes are tackled with ease and the car feels planted at all times. The stiffer suspension also means great driving dynamics. The Tiguan handles itself really well in the corners. There is minimal body roll even at faster turn-ins; the car stays planted and never feels out of shape even in the bumpy ones. Its ability to devour the faster corners tends to contradict its size.
The steering too feels good to hold, and though a bit vague in feel, is far from being dead. It feels light at low speeds and weighs up nicely as the speeds climb. The 235/55 R18 Hankook tyres provide plenty of grip as there is virtually no tyre squeal even when carrying 80kmph out of corners. Plus, the high speed stability is on par with the cars from the entry-level luxury SUV segment. The brakes provide plenty of bite but do tend to fall short in feel, which does result in a few misjudged speed breakers, especially under heavy braking.
The Tiguan boasts of a 5-star rating in the EuroNCAP crash tests and features six airbags, ABS, traction control or ESC, hill descent and hill hold assist functions. It also features Active Hood for pedestrian safety which raises the bonnet by 3 inches when the car detects an imminent crash with a pedestrian. In addition, the Tiguan also comes with parking sensors at the front and rear, along with a reversing camera as well.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is available in India in two variants: Comfortline, which is priced at Rs 27.98 lakh; and Highline, which is priced at Rs 31.38 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. Most features like six airbags, 4WD, LED headlamps and 3-zone climate control are standard across the range. The differences between the two variants are that the Comfortline doesn’t get LED tail lamps, panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, button start, self sealing tyres and reversing camera. Also, the Comfortline comes with 17-inch alloys shod with 215/65 R17 tyres.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is a very well packaged SUV with an extensive equipment list and superb driving dynamics. Yes, it isn’t an SUV in the traditional sense of the word but then again it isn’t gunning the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour anyway. Volkswagen has set its sights higher and is pitting the Tiguan against entry-level luxury models such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Taking on the luxury giants won’t be an easy task because of their strong brand pull, however, what could work against them is their significantly higher price and that’s what Volkswagen hopes to capitalise on. In fact, the most affordable of that lot is the BMW X1 sDrive 20d, which costs nearly Rs 32 lakh before taxes. The Tiguan, on the other hand, feels like a premium SUV, is phenomenally well equipped and offers most of its features as standard, including 4WD and LED headlamps. Plus, it drives well, looks good, is much more affordable than its rivals and will have lower running costs as well. Keeping these factors in mind, the Tiguan is a viable option for anyone looking for a premium and well-built German SUV.
Author: Kshitij Sharma
Photography: Vikrant Date