Road Test Neil Vorano is impressed with the quality of technology as standard in this German crossover.
Quality makes Volkswagen Tiguan a small crossover with a big appeal
Everybody likes getting good value for their money. Okay, maybe it's a better feeling when you get a great deal, but still, knowing you got full worth from your cash makes one feel content. And we all need more contentment in our lives.
So maybe you should wander down to a Volkswagen dealership sometime in the near future, especially if you're looking for a new car. You might start to get an inkling of that feeling when you sit inside one of the new Tiguan crossovers.
The mid-sized soft-roaders are slightly refreshed for this year, though there wasn't much wrong with them in the first place. You'll barely notice the change to the headlights (with LED running lights), tail lights and grille; whereas the previous model had an aggressive front, this one looks far more refined, and much more in line with the design of the other models sitting on the showroom floor. But it's still got the clean, crisp, overall look you would recognise from before, and that's not a bad thing.
It's a little pricier than other smaller crossovers, but with the Tiguan, you feel where your money went when you sit inside. Quality leather and plastics fill the cabin, and everything even feels solid. There's even a panoramic sunroof to lighten up the place. This is approaching the quality of an Audi and it makes me question whether I'd pony up the added money for the Q5 at all. Though there is ample room for five people, the cargo area is a bit smaller than what you'd find in other small crossovers; if you're constantly carrying a lot of stuff, you may want for more space.
The new Tiguan keeps the same well-mannered driving characteristics as its predecessor, as I found on a recent drive in the hills of southern Germany and Austria. The 200hp, 2.0L turbocharged engine is, quite simply, one of the best in the segment. Not only is it smooth under acceleration, but it has more power than you'd expect, especially around town and overtaking on the motorway. It's not scintillating, but certainly more than adequate. It really feels more like a small V6, but the good part is you get four-cylinder economy when you fill up.
And that's coupled with a six-speed automatic gearbox with a sport selection; the sport gives a bit of a livelier performance by holding the gears longer, but it works so well normally in everyday driving. There is no shift lag and it seems to be in the right gear at the right time, all the time.
The drive itself is a pleasurable one. Though it's got all the comfort you'd expect from a mid-level crossover from Volkswagen, it also handles itself nicely in the corners and on tight country roads. Its suspension is forgiving yet tight at the same time, and adjusts well to whatever road conditions you may find.
But here is where the value part comes in. The Tiguan keeps all of its good bits from the previous iteration but also adds some really interesting stuff and, according to the managing director of VW Middle East, Stefan Mecha, the price will stay the same.
For example, an improved stereo and navigation system using a combination of buttons and a large touch screen with clear graphics is one of the easier-to-use systems out there, and one that is also utilised in other VW cars. Of course, you can hook your iPod to it and your playlists and songs come up on the screen. You can also get a parking assist system that drives the car itself into a parking spot.
And the most eye-opening piece of technology is the lane warning system. It's not even a warning, really. If you drift out of your lane, the electric steering will gently bring you back between the white lines on its own. You may or may not like this kind of intrusion from your car, but it's still a feature usually only found on high-end cars such as the Mercedes S-Class, and I was shocked to find it on a mid-level crossover.
For the Middle East, the two models offered - 170hp and 200hp versions - will only have the 4Motion all-wheel drive. And though you can get a Track and Field version, with higher bumpers for better ground clearance, I wouldn't be doing any serious off-roading with the Tiguan; it may be able to handle some rough ground and an occasional dune, but these are designed more for comfort around town.
The quality, technology and smooth ride all add up to make the Tiguan worth a look if you're in the market for a smaller crossover. And you'll feel like you've got your money's worth out of it, despite paying more than for one of its rivals.
You'll have to wait a bit, though; the 2012 Tiguan won't be in UAE showrooms until later this year.
Base prices Dh96,276 / Dh100,182
Engine 2.0L turbocharged inline four cylinder
Gearbox Six-speed automatic
Power 170hp @ 5,100rpm, 200hp @ 5,100rpm
Torque 280Nm @ 1,700rpm
Fuel economy, combined 9.4L/100km