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Thursday - 28 October 2021

Nip and Tuck: Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line Review

When it comes to a mid-sized SUV with a premium feel, the Volkswagen Tiguan has been a crowd favourite. Peel back the pages of Tiguan history to as far as 2007, and you will find that pretty much every generation of this car has been lapped up by the punters. In fact, it wasn’t until 2016 that Volkswagen decided a second generation was needed.

While one could argue the Tiguan is somewhat devoid of character, it was and is a well-rounded and solid performer in this segment. The current Tiguan has been given a dose of automotive Botox and sports some extra kit for 2021. Let’s see what this facelift has done to one of Volkswagen’s biggest cash cows.

Sitting in the same platform as the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca, the new Tiguan consist of entry level and high-grade models in either 2WD or AWD. The family kicks off with the TSi Life 2WD at $46,990 and the R-Line Spec at $56,990. The AWD variants retail at $60,990 for the TSi Style and $69,990 for the car I tested, the range topping R-Line. Overseas markets also get a PHEV version but Kiwi buyers will have to make do without, well for now anyway.

Every Tiguan gives you a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Depending on whether you opt for 2WD or AWD will dictate how much power and displacement you get. All 2WD models get Volkswagen’s proven 1.4L turbo four pot with 110kW and 250Nm of torque. Step up to the Style 4WD and that is boosted to 2.0L and 132kW/320Nm respectively.

My R-Line AWD was the most powerful at 162kW/350Nm. Oddly though, despite the extra grunt, the R-Line AWD is actually more economical than the Style at 8.3L/100km over the Style’s 8.6L/100km. Fancy that. All models get the same seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

In terms of looks, the facelifted Tiguan is pretty much just that, a facelift. The biggest tell-tale sign of automotive nip tuck are the new LED headlights which mimic that of the new Golf 8 and a wider front grill. Round the back nothing much has really changed apart from revised taillights and rear bumper.

Inside, the changes are more considerable. For the current car, Volkswagen have done away with conventional switchgear in favour of a barrage of touch buttons adorning the centre console and R-Line steering wheel. While modern and contemporary, they can be infuriating at times. The most difficult of these were the controls for the climate control. You have to apply exactly the right amount of pressure from your index finger each time. Leave it for a microsecond too long and it will default to HI or LO. The wheel mounted controls are much better though.

With the new Tiguan, Volkswagen say that “you will never want to leave” and to a certain extent, I can see what they mean. There is a tonne of room to get comfy, plus oodles of head and legroom. There is plenty of seating and wheel adjustment allowing you to find your optimum driving position and thanks to un-intrusive A-pillars, forward visibility is good.

Another aspect which is good is the new MIB-3 touchscreen infotainment system. The entry point models get an 8.0-inch system while my R-Line gets a bigger 9.2-inch set up. Every menu is easy enough to get your head around and on the whole, it’s a great system. My only gripe was the reversing cameras image wasn’t as clear as it could have been.

You still get a lot of fruit as standard kit like adaptive cruise, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, lane keep assist, park assist, 3-zone climate control, electric tailgate, 2x USB ports, push button start, LED daytime running lights, pedestrian monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and parking sensors front and rear.

My R-Line gets stuff like a heated steering wheel, side airbags, hill descent control for AWD, matrix LED headlights, privacy glass, heated leather seats, ambient lighting and a head up display.  Each Tiguan gets 615L of boot space which is more than adequate. This increases to a fairly hefty 1655L with the rear seats folded flat.

On the move, the 2.0L turbo four pot does need a coaxing from your right clod to get going initially. However, once up to speed, the pressure builds and the power is never far away. Steering feedback is somewhat lacking but the responsiveness is still there.

Despite those 20-inch R-Line alloys and R-Line sports suspension, the Tiguan actually rides really well. Sure, its not a floater, but it’s certainly a lot more comfortable than its sporty exterior styling cues would otherwise suggest. The seven speed DSG box does its job well, but it does feel a bit last week compared to other systems.

Having a play with the drive modes, I found it took some time for selecting the particular mode I wanted and it actually engaging. You can do this via the circular dial below the gear lever or on the touchscreen. The best option is the former, just be prepared to wait a moment for the message to be registered.

In Sport mode, it really is sport. Sometimes selecting a Sport setting in a new car gives you a rise in revs and that’s about it. This is not so with the Tiguan R-Line. Plant boot and those numbers on the right quickly reach the more expensive side of 100km/h sooner than first expected. Torque is delivered on a very linear band and, dare I say, it even sounds half decent up in the rev range too.

In the corners the Tiguan could be likened to its Golf sibling on the handling front. Thanks to the 4Motion AWD giving good traction regardless of the conditions and those sporty springs keeping body roll to a minimum, slicing and dicing through the bends becomes sort of easy.

Where the Tiguan really shines is when you take it out of Sport, flick over to Normal or Comfort and take a leisurely jaunt along State Highway One. Road noise is very subdued and despite the faintest murmur from its turbo four pot when pulling out to overtake, everything from a motorway commute to a day long road trip is incredibly refined.

In summary, the new Volkswagen Tiguan is not without its drawbacks, like those touch buttons for example. Despite this, the refreshed Tiguan is still a compelling premium package, giving buyers even more reason to keep this crowd favourite on their shortlist.

RATING: 7.5/10

Ben Selby
I have been scribbling about cars in New Zealand since the age of 17. When not doing this, I am usually found with my family, going on walks, or binging some Star Trek or classic British comedy. Yeah, I am a geek at heart.

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