Test Drives

Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 Highline Review: Clever Tig

32607729042 b9fefdc9d5 zVolkswagen’s Tiguan gives rivals a clawing, with a full bag of evolutionary tricks and advantages

SINGAPORE – With the world gone crossover mad, it’s now a pretty tough SUV-wilderness out there. It’s all a buyer can do to not rush out, waving his or her chequebook at sales engineers, frothing at the mouth while shouting ‘High-riding seating position! More family utility! Off-road influenced styling!’

At least it seems that way to us. But there is another way to SUV ownership that won’t have you appearing unflatteringly trend-ist – the Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s always been a bit of an oddball, since VW has always straddled the ‘better than mainstream but cheaper than German luxury’ line.

But that also meansthe Tiguan needs to be convincing in its own realm or risk being overtaken by price on one end, and brand elitism on the other. Luckily, it is.

As covered in our First Drive of the Tiguan’s international debut on CarBuyer.com.sg, the new machine looks as if it’s been doing its time in the jungle gym. While height seems to be the defining factor for SUVs now, too much is ridiculous, and the Tiguan opts for the much more impactful method of going lower, wider and gaining space where it counts.
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The tyres have been pushed outwards ala Mini, so while the car is 60mm longer than before, at 4,486mm, it gains a 77mm boost to wheelbase, measuring 2,861mm. All that would make no difference if the car looked old, but it’s obviously shed the anonymous design that plagued it before and gone with the much more technical, modern-looking VW design language, presenting a wide, horizontal face that ‘stacks’ the grille and headlights above a bigger, bolder front end.

There are also more figure lines in the body – a sort of show-off engineering ‘because we can’ feat – the Tiguan’s much more interesting to look at now, although it might not be the look-at-me cup of tea the Mercedes-Benz GLA is. It’s more sensible than swinging, and that goes with the car’s actual nature quite nicely.

The car’s sold here in two variants, the 1.4-litre Highline and the 2.0-litre R-Line (we review it in the following story), and as is often the case, the 1.4 is the more fascinating model of the two. It’s the first VW Group 1.4 to pack active cylinder technology (ACT), which is another name for cylinder deactivation where partial banks of cylinders are shut off during certain low-load periods to reduce fuel consumption.

Audi’s had the tech around for some time here in its 4.0-litre turbo V8, but ACT versions of its smaller engines didn’t make it here before the Tiguan.

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We only had a short test drive in the Highline, so our efficiency figures (close to 8.0L/100km) were perhaps not an accurate indicator of the car’s true frugality, with photography and other slow-speed shenanigans.

Like the latest Touran MPV, the 150bhp 1.4-litre engine means there’s no Category A model for now, but at least drivers will enjoy the meaty performance of the turbocharged engine, with the sort of instant go we’ve come to know and love from all DSG-turbo-equipped VWs.

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The Tiguan’s never been one to set a driver’s world alight with pleasure, and that characteristic continues here. It’s not boring but predictable, measured and capable, and like almost all new MQB cars, extremely refined.

But the larger size can be felt from the cabin, especially if you look at/drive the old and new models back to back. Where previously the Tiguan would be Qashqai-sized, now it rivals something a size up, like the BMW X3 or Volvo XC60 for interior space. To wit, boot space has been upped by 145-litres, for 615-litres which expands to 1,655-litres with the seats folded. Impressive, considering the larger Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 both have space for 550-1,600-litres.

Along with this though, comes a newly firmed-up ride that delivers the occasional lump and bump into the cabin, though the Highline has a much comfier time of it than the R-Line. To be fair, few compact SUVs ride as well as larger ones do, so the Tiguan’s ride isn’t notably bad for this type of vehicle. Both cars are also limited, dynamics-wise, by the Pirelli Scorpion Verde mixed tyres, though they’re fine for daily driving.

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It’s a good thing, then, that the aforementioned cabin has much in it to distract you from that. The full-length sunroof merely accentuates the already plentiful room, which will accommodate five adults comfortably. The thinner, flatter seats and adjustable second-row, plus three-zone aircon and integrated tables will make easy work of carrying the family around.

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That it’s well-built in the clean, horizontal VW fashion is one plus, while the plentiful features are another: It has a significantly populated standard equipment list, especially compared to more expensive luxury brand offerings. It includes a panoramic sunroof, infotainment system with navigation and Dynaudio surround sound system, keyless entry and start, automatic tailgate, LED headlamps and 18-inch wheels. Like other VWs of late, smartphone connectivity exists in the form of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Mirrorlink. There’s even a heads-up display and active 12.3-inch instrument panel for the driver.

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Active instrument display first seen in the Audi TT and VW Passat 

Cars like the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro are going big on safety, and it makes upper-crust brands with fewer safety features to shame, but the Tiguan stands proud here even amongst SUVs costing north of $150k. It packs a reassuring loadout of six airbags, there’s the new ‘Front Assist’ which warns you of impending collisions and brakes to mitigate them automatically, much like Volvo’s City Safety.

By offering lots of space and more features than ‘true’ luxury, small SUVs like the BMW X1 the Tiguan should easily claw out its own niche by appealing to the thinking SUV owner.

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Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 Highline
Engine 1,395cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 150bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 280Nm at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 200km/h
0-100km/h 9.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.2L/100km
CO2 143g/km
Price $162,900 with COE
Availability Now

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong