Tiguan (pronounced Tee-Gwan). Sounds quite interesting doesn’t it? Like some exotic place in South America. Sorry to burst your bubble but the name is a portmanteau of Tiger and Leguan (which is Iguana in German). Why did Volkswagen choose this name for their crossover? Tigers are fearless carnivores. Iguanas are, well, herbivorous lizards.
Volkswagen is no stranger to weird names. The original Touareg large SUV was derived from that of a nomadic tribe. While some names like Golf and Beetle are simple to understand, other names like CC (which stands for Comfort Coupe) and Eos are less so. Then again, car manufacturers have their own myriad of reasons for tongue-twisting names (non-car people can find Koenigsegg surprisingly tricky to roll of the tongue so let’s see what this VW is all about.
The VW Tiguan is brought to our shores by Ideal Automobile who also handle the Skoda Karoq and Seat Arona which we have tested in previous months, as well as several other more exotic cars. There was a stunning Aston Martin DB11 Volante in the showroom on the day I went which took my attention away for several minutes before returning to the Tiguan. Focus!
The Tiguan is based on the Audi Q3 platform but you’d be hard-pressed to find any similarities that extend to the surface of the skin. In seven-seat Allspace guise it looks smart and well proportioned. The Volkswagen corporate face prevails here with rising beltline and generously proportioned glasshouse all the way to the rear where it is again, fuss-free. Volkswagen designs tend to be quite “businesslike” and “functional”, and the Tiguan is no exception. The ten-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels are similar.
There’s some tech here as well; the LED headlamps pack dynamic cornering lamps within their enclosures (which means the light turns with the steering), while the front foglamps also double as static (fixed) cornering lamps.
I see Myuran of Ideal reversing our test car out of the showroom and point out to him that only one reverse lamp is working. He tells me that this is the way the VW comes from factory; even though there are two white reverse lamp enclosures, only the left one is functional with a bulb, while the right one is a “dummy” – with no place for a bulb. German quirks.
The Tiguan is that person at a wedding who wears a well-fitting, sober-coloured suit with matching belt, shoes and accessories and hair smartly combed, well dressed and blending in, not sticking out like a sore thumb. Could be a crack financial analyst or top-of-the-field Ph.D holder but you wouldn’t know on first glance. Contrast that with some other vehicles in the segment that have curves, creases and chrome all over the place, much like the guy with the Mohawk hairdo, bright coloured suit and white shoes who tries too hard to be the life of the party but doesn’t always succeed.
Mech & Tech
The Tiguan we get here is the Australian market variant and packs the lowest powered drivetrain spec. So we get a 150bhp and 250Nm 1.4litre turbo engine (shared with the Q3) driving the front wheels through a six-speed DSG gearbox. There is also a higher-powered 200bhp 2.0L turbo petrol and a 2.0L turbodiesel on offer, and all-wheel-drive is available too. Of course, it is our brilliantly formulated duty structure that denies us these higher specs at a competitive price.
The aforementioned six-speed DSG has normal and Sport modes plus a manual mode in which it will offer you tips on when to shift to get the optimal economy. Braking is by discs all round with the requisite ABS and stability control systems while the steering is an electric rack. Suspension is multi-link as is the norm for Euro vehicles these days.
Electrically adjustable driver seats are always nice as they allow you to fine-tune your driving position. The Tiguan is no exception here. While your passenger has to exert some muscle strength on levers, the driver can get that ideal position and the seat range of movement is good too, with three memory settings for three different drivers to set their preferred position. These are called the Comfort Sport seats. Thumb the starter and the engine settles to a smooth and quiet idle. This is a four-pot after all and its nice to get into a small-ish SUV with a four pot after figuring a raft of three-pots.
Getting going is equally fuss-free. The Tiguan’s glasshouse affords good visibility all-round, the four-way cameras are a boon to maneuverability and the gearbox is quite smart, even in our hap-hazard traffic. I only managed to fox it rarely in stop-go situations where it shifted into second only for me to be on the brake, causing a slight jerk. Recall that a DSG pre-selects shifts and therefore it can get confused when faced with our traffic. No fuss.
Put your foot down and…this feels more like it than the three-pots. It revs cleanly and smoothly, and is audible above 3000rpm but doesn’t get noisy. It seems to run out of puff when chasing the last few hundred RPM before redline, but you don’t need to do so to get a good turn of speed. Let the DSG do the shifting and just put your foot down. Overtaking will be a breeze in this, right up to three figures. We didn’t go beyond of course, but it felt stable.
The Tiguan is a family comfort conveyance, that isn’t really meant for sporty driving. The Sport Mode on the gearlever only delays upshifts to higher in the rev range, there are no paddles behind the steering wheel and the handling is comfort oriented, soaking up speed humps, sunken manholes and the spine-jarring potholes caused by wayward digging just fine. Push the Tiguan enthusiastically round a corner and you will get noticeably body roll. Braking is good of course, and we didn’t find it lacking under the general demands of our roads that sometimes see you needing to go from 50 to nought in a matter of blinks.
Living with the Tiguan
This is where the Tiguan really scores brownie points. The Vienna leather-trimmed cabin is large and airy (in the first and second rows at least) with a full-length panoramic glass roof of which the front part can be opened – approx. 50% of the roof can be opened in my estimation. Dual-zone climate controls are present for the front occupants with a separate third zone for the second row – consisting of two vents and temperature adjustment with display. Heated front seats are present too.
The sound system is by Dynaudio and we counted nine speakers dotted around the cabin plus a subwoofer placed within the spare wheel well – typical Audi / Volkswagen characteristic. The media system is controlled by a 7-inch touchscreen. Media choices include Radio, Bluetooth (with Android Auto / Apple Carplay support), SD card and, what’s this, a CD player! Pop the passenger cubby open and there’s the slot! The sound quality can be customized with SUB/BASS/MID/TREBLE sliders and sounded quite nice to me. You can adjust it to be quite bass-heavy too, if that is your thing.
Oh, I almost forgot, the instrument cluster is fully electronic, al-la-Audi style. The basic layout is two large dials (revs and speed) plus displays for economical driving and fuel level. These are not customizable but what is shown in the centres of the dials and you have many choices – from speed and gear selected, to an off-road-esque compass and tyre angle display. Or you can have the cluster become “minimalistic” by showing pseudo needle-centres. Between the dials is the main info display which shows media information, car status, eco driving, driver assist tech, parking system info (the Tiguan has auto-parking) and service information. All this is controlled via the button-heavy steering wheel that will take an owner a good afternoon at least to figure all the functions. Expect to spend some time on this.
Other features include automatic headlamps and wipers, electrically opening and closing tailgate, the aforementioned 4-way camera system that gives a 360-degree view around the vehicle. There is also a very neat boot light that can be detached and used as a rechargeable torch – a feature we saw in the Skoda Karoq too.
The second row of seats can be slid forwards and backwards and their backrest angles can be adjusted too – in a 60-40 split. The second row is quite comfortable; you have a centre armrest and tables that fold down from the backs of the front seats too. A six-footer would have no trouble here behind his or her own driving position.
Enter the third row and…this is strictly for kids or that annoying person who always tries to crib a ride with you even when you aren’t really going their way. An average-sized adult will be able to contort here but it will be a “knees touching your chin” experience. Two adults in there is really going to be a squeeze, although one could make it a little more bearable by sitting sideways. The floor is so high because below it is a spare wheel (albeit a temporary-use speed-limited one) and the aforementioned subwoofer. Basically this is a stretched Q3 platform so it’s quite amazing that they were able to create a seven-seater. Pre-teens will fit here just fine.
The Tiguan scores well here. It’s got six airbags to begin with, ISOFIX mountings in the second row for your child seat, keyless entry with immobilizer, seat belt indicators, adaptive cruise control that dynamically monitors the car in front and adjusts speed accordingly, auto braking and collision avoidance, pedestrian monitoring, blind spot alert in the door mirrors, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, traffic jam assist, child locks in the rear doors and a driver fatigue alert system. Truly a comprehensive suite of safety gizmos!
Fuel Economy & Price
The Tiguan is rated to do between 8 and 10 km/l in the city depending on traffic conditions and with smooth, conscious driving. If you tap into the engine’s power reserves more frequently and spend your time stuck in stop-go traffic where it is more stop than go, expect to see those figures tumble. Of course outstation and highway will net you better figures, possibly in the 15+ km/l range. The larger 1.4L engine also means that it will be less stressed under load than the smaller 1.0L engines.
Price? Under the permit scheme this car was priced at just under 11 million. That’s a whole lot of car for the money. Without a permit, the price is closer to 15 million which places it in an interesting segment, where you can get some tasty cars from rival German manufacturers, but of a smaller size and lesser practicality and family features (and no seven seats of course).
I feel that the Tiguan is for the savvy family man or woman who needs the extra space and appreciates the practicality that it offers. Most likely it will be driven by the family driver but even if the Nona or Mahatthaya get behind the wheel they will find it nice to drive (once they get used to the dimensions of course – I have seen Sorentos and Rav4s being driven on weekends by the aforementioned Nonas and Mahatthayas and it is apparent from their nervousness that they do not drive more than a couple of times a month)!
In summary, the Tiguan is the wearer of that smart, understated yet well-fitting suit that I mentioned at the top. It will do all that is expected of it in family conveyance duties and more. It will impress those who ride in it and will do so without being shouty. This is not a car to get if your sole purpose to purchase one is to impress the Pereras and Silvas next door. This is a car to get purely for your family. After all, Volkswagen means “People’s Car”.
150bhp @ 5,000-6,000rpm
240Nm @ 1,500-3,500rpm
Six speed DSG
Front – Disc
Rear – Disc
Wheels & Tyres
235/55 R18 all round
0-100km/h in 9.5s
Top speed 200km/h
Kerb Weight: 1,570kg
Fuel Tank: 58L
Boot Space: 700-1775L