Before I was handed the keys to the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan, I had high expectations from this car. After all, I grew up with the impression that Volkswagens are solid and robust, if a little conservative on the design front. The first generation Tiguan was a competent car despite its advancing age by the time it was launched here. Now, with an all-new platform, the second-generation model has to step up its game if it wants to stand out from the smorgasbord of crossovers in the country.
Volkswagen played it safe with the new Tiguan's looks. It ditches the rounded shape of the old and went for a more angular design. Again, it's a little conservative, but there are a subtle design details that make it distinctly German. At the front, there's the squared-off headlights complemented by trapezoidal air intakes and foglights. There are character lines of the hood to break the monotony of flat sheetmetal.
More of the serious undertones can be seen on the side with just a single character line that runs by the window line. There's also the door-mounted side mirror just to give it a bit more flair but overall, it's a clean design that some might find either classy or boring. The rear section of the Tiguan is just as simple (and effective) as the front. You get tail lights that are similar to the current-generation Golf's and a rear license plate holder exactly where you expect it; at the middle. If one were to base it on style alone, the Tiguan is perhaps the vehicular embodiment of subtle class. While this striking shade of Habanero Orange brings out the lines of the car, it's still a subdued-looking car. Also, this particularly bright hue is not available in the local lineup.
That no-nonsense theme continues on the inside. There are a lot of rectangular shapes inside while the silver trim and interesting seat pattern try to liven up the cabin. In contrast to the Peugeot 308 I tested a week ago, all the buttons, dials and knobs are logically located and easily in line of sight. As one would expect in a German car, there is a lot of soft padding and high-grade materials strewn all over in the interior. Like its exterior, there is no fuss, no drama with a design that's dictated by pure logic.
The Tiguan also comes with a clever cargo area. It's a modular floor that one can adjust for either taller items or a flatter loading bay. There are hooks on the side to place the cargo floor for easier access to the spare tire too. Plus, one can fold the rear seats with a pull of a lever by the rear pillar. As for infotainment, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's an easy system to use too thanks to crisp graphics, a clean layout and simplified menus and sub-menus.
It may not look it but the Tiguan also offers plenty of space inside. Despite the roof being lower than the previous model, the current one offers better legroom, headroom and shoulder room for three at the back. The rear seats can also recline for a more relaxed seating position while a dedicated rear climate control system makes for a chillier ride for the rear passengers. It even comes with a picnic tray at the back for those quick snacks on the road. With all that room, there are no complaints when seated at the front either.
Under the hood of the Tiguan is NOT a TDI engine. For this generation, Volkswagen Philippines opted to go for a gas engine. The lone option is a 1.4-liter TSI mill with 150 PS and 250 Nm of torque. In Volkswagen-speak, TSI means Turbocharged Stratified Injection and in lay-man's terms, it allows the small 1.4-liter mill to produce 2.0-liter power figures. It then shifts via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
So how does the Tiguan fare on the road? Let me start by saying that it's a comfortable experience. The moment you close the doors, this crossover's sound isolation blocks out the noise of the outside world. It's also quiet on startups but there is a hint of tappet clatter because of the direct injection. As for the seats, they offer a lot of support for the back and sides. I did note that the seat bolstering around the thigh area is perhaps too thick for shorter drivers. Otherwise, it offers the right amount of firmness that won't get tedious on a long drive.
With the comfy seats and smooth ride, the Tiguan is a car you'd prefer to drive at a calmer pace. Even with those 18-inch alloy wheels, the car stays composed and settled even on undulating roads and potholes. Tire noise is kept at a minimum, so is wind noise which makes cruising at 60 km/h a serene experience. Then, when you're stuck in traffic, you can relax with those well-bolstered seats and enjoy the sounds channeled through the eight speakers. Granted, it's no luxury barge but it does its best impression to imitate one.
That brings me to the Tiguan's steering. It won't inspire you to be the next World Rally Champion but it's direct, if a touch on the light side. This meant it does bit offer a lot of feel and feedback when the going gets twisty. On the flipside, just because the car isn't as involving does not mean it's outright boring. Even with the soft suspension, the Tiguan takes on corners with confidence. So, it does not have the most engaging steering, but accept the fact that the Tiguan is really built for comfort, it's a crossover one will enjoy on long treks.
As for performance, the 1.4-liter TSI mill delivers a fair amount of pep once past 1,700 rpm. Beyond that, it felt more than the 150 PS listed in the brochure. It's also well-matched with the dual-clutch transmission with its smooth upshifts and quick downshifts. Even though it's not a diesel, the Tiguan still posted an impressive fuel economy figure.
In heavy traffic (16 km/h average), the Tiguan returned 8.4 kilometers per liter. What makes that feat more impressive is the fact that it was done with no stop-start assist. Helping fuel economy is the car's two-cylinder mode when cruising. With lighter traffic conditions, that figure moves well up to 13.3 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 27 km/h. While I was unable to test it on the highway, one can expect an even more impressive number at higher cruising speeds. Maybe the ThinkBlue Eco coach in the car helped me conserve that bit more fuel.
At this point, you may be wondering how much is this stepping stone to German crossover goodness. It starts at PhP 2,259,000 which makes it more expensive than its rivals. There's also a lack of convenience features such as power seats, a power tailgate and a rear-view camera. I was also surprised that it does not have all-wheel drive either. It does make up for it by having a comprehensive safety suite, impressive infotainment system and loads of refinement.
To wrap it all up, the Tiguan may not be that loaded on equipment, but the premium price you pay for is in the intangibles. It feels more polished and upmarket compared to its contemporaries. You can even call it a baby Audi. Like the car we tested last week, the Tiguan sits in between mainstream and luxury and it's reflected on the price. Yes, it's expensive but if you're willing to cough up the cash, then by all means, the Tiguan is worth it.