All-new VW Tiguan goes to the top of the class and proves that bigger really is better.
WHAT IS IT?
Arguably the most important car Volkswagen will launch in Australia this year. It's the second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, which is all-new and lands in SUV-mad Australia spoiling for a fight with the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson sales juggernauts.
WHY WE'RE DRIVING IT
Because when we say all-new, we really mean it. Tiguan is the first SUV built on VW's excellent MQB platform, shared by cars including the Golf VII, so there's a good chance it will have polished dynamics and address the packaging shortfalls of its predecessor, which had a boot the size of a thimble.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Not the cheapest mid-size SUV around, but Tiguan 2.0 is instantly one of the best thanks to polished dynamics, impressive equipment levels and a roomy, well-built cabin.
PLUS: Dynamics; packaging; refinement; equipment; interior quality and design
MINUS: High starting price; snoozy design
THE WHEELS REVIEW
WE FIRST sampled this all-new, second-generation Tiguan a few months ago in Belgium, and we liked it. A lot. We praised its packaging improvements, its slick, upmarket interior, refined engines and overall polish, all of which shot it straight to the pointy end of the booming mid-size SUV segment.
However, while all this was lovely, there was a big, gaping hole in our assessment: how it drove. Volkswagen's European drive route lacked the mix of roads, speeds and surfaces we needed to make a definitive dynamic call, so this Aussie drive is our first chance to dig beneath the Tiguan's polished surface and see if it has the talent to rival the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.
And the news is good. On lumpy, pockmarked roads around Byron Bay, Tiguan 2.0 asserted itself with aplomb and delivered handling that is not only composed and light on its feet, but fun too, which is rare for this segment.
Key to this dynamic prowess is the Tiguan's MQB underpants. It's the first SUV to ride on VW's modular transverse architecture shared with the Golf VII and new Passat, and the family resemblance is obvious.
The electric steering is accurate and well weighted, the handling progressive and precise, bodyroll is kept tightly in check despite the taller ride-height, and the ride is nicely judged across the range. Wheel sizes span 17 inches up to 20 on models fitted with the optional R-Line package (which also adds adaptive dampers).
MQB also allowed VW to address the original Tiguan's packaging shortfalls. Where Tiguan 1.0 had a tight interior and small boot, this new model muscles into mid-size SUV territory with larger dimensions all round and a 77mm-longer wheelbase.
The cabin ambience is class-leading, with every variant scoring a beautiful leather steering wheel, comfortable seats and excellent vision courtesy of low window sills. The build quality is top-notch, as are the ergonomics and the rich mix of materials and textures, even in the entry-level 110TSI that starts at $31,990 in front-drive, six-speed manual spec. And there's oodles of interior space, plus a class-leading 615-litre boot (with the sliding second row all the way forward), which extends to 1655L with the back seats folded flat.
There's plenty of equipment, too. Three trim grades are offered – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline – and all score an 8.0-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear air vents, cruise control, and auto wipers and headlights.
Safety is best in class, headlined by standard AEB, lane-departure warning, a pedestrian-friendly active bonnet, seven airbags and fatigue detection.
As for engines, Aussie buyers are spoilt for choice. Five donks are available – three turbo-petrols and two turbo-diesels – starting with a gutsy and spirited 1.4L 110kW/250Nm petrol in the entry-level 110TSI. Two tunes of VW’s EA888 2.0-litre follow, beginning with the 132kW/320Nm unit in the 132TSI (which at $41,490 with a DSG and standard 4Motion is tipped to be the volume seller). A GTI-spec 162TSI with 162kW/350Nm will join the line-up in early 2017.
The pair of 2.0-litre diesels (110kW/340Nm and 140kW/400Nm) are smooth and impressively quiet, though the 140TDI is more responsive and has a stronger mid-range.
All up, it's a convincing and comprehensive suite of engines with no obvious weak point, a fact that adds to the Tiguan's overall feeling of engineering prowess.
The only real area of complaint goes to the conservative exterior styling. While handsome in Highline spec, especially with the R-Line package, the new Tiguan is boxy and appliance-like in base variants on 17-inch wheels.
Buyers could also be put off by the higher entry price given some Asian rivals start below $30K. But the Tiguan is still good value with its refinement, classy engines, polished dynamics and class-leading equipment. VW's smallest Aussie SUV has grown up, literally, and is arguably the best offering in its class.
Model: Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI Highline
Engine: 1968cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 140kW @ 3500-4000rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1900-3300rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 7.9sec (claimed)
On sale: Now