THIS decade may end up being the decade of the SUV. After great popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s followed by a decline which was inverse with petrol prices, the SUV has now come back with a vengeance.
Manufacturers have invented numerous products to fit into this segment. The SUV used to be commonly four-wheel-drive, but not now, with many two-wheel-drive iterations. There are so many types and variants of SUVs today that almost anything with a raised ride height seems to qualify.
Of course Honda’s BRV is a recent example. But even Mercedes-Benz have been in this game, with a jacked up A-Class that was reinvented as a compact SUV in the form of the GLA.
Last year, after a closely contested fight with Toyota, Volkswagen became the top selling automobile maker in the world, with global sales amounting to 10.2million. Their popular SUV, the Tiguan contributed to this sales feat. A total of 519,843 Tiguans rolled off VW assembly lines during this period, making it the 21st best-selling car in the world.
Volkswagen will be officially releasing the compact SUV in Malaysia soon, and as a precursor to the release, we were given the opportunity to sample it on a media drive to Ipoh last week.
The second generation Tiguan was unveiled in 2015 at IAA in Frankfurt. Built on the modular ‘Modularer Querbaukasten’ or MQB platform, which it shares with many VW cars including the Golf, the MQB platform has given the Tiguan dimensions that are slightly longer and wider than before, and it now sits lower. Interestingly, despite its increase in girth, the new model is 50kg lighter than the previous iteration.
In the metal, the Tiguan is a handsome car. The usually boring VW design language from their sedan seems to translate well on an SUV. The bold straight lines and the greenhouse are reminiscent of the BMW X5.
The Malaysian release Tiguan will come in Highline and Comfortline specifications, both powered by a 1.4 TSI engine producing 150hp and 250Nmof torque from 1,500 to 3,500 rpm. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed DSG dual-clutch auto box with a wet clutch.
With fuel consumption figure of 6.7L/100 km, the Tiguan is certified as an Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV).
In terms of exterior differences, the Comfortline comes with 17 inch ‘Montana’ alloys (Volkswagen has names for its rims), black roof rails and LED tail lamps.
Inside, the Comfortline has a fabric interior, 8-inch Discover Media infotainment system with Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system. Features include automatic rain and light sensors and park distance control.
The Highline on the other hand, gets 18 inch ‘Kingston’ rims and full LED headlamps with DRL lights. Inside, there is a leather interior with three zone climatronic air conditioning and 12.3 inch active info display with 1,440 x 540 pixels high resolution screen.The Highline also comes with ambient lighting, a navigation system, rear view camera and an electric tailgate. Driving aids include Park Assist 3.0, which will help park your car for you.
Both variants come with paddle shift as standard. The new Tiguan comes in five colours; Pure White, Deep Black, Atlantic Blue, Tungsten Silver and Indium Grey.
Pricing for the Tiguan has not been finalised, but Volkswagen has indicated a tentative price of about RM149,000 to RM169,000.
From the moment you sit behind the wheel, you immediately realise that the Tiguan drives sharper than almost any other SUV in its segment currently in the Malaysian market.
It shares some of the precise handling attributes of the Golf, no doubt a result of the common MQB derivation that they both share.
Our drive included a closed slalom course in Ipoh where the Tiguan’s talent around bends was demonstrated remarkably. With a combination of low-end grunt, sharp handling, precise steering and taut body control, the Tiguan slingshot round the course in record time. Volkswagen provided a handful of the Tiguan’s competitors as comparison during the course, and they felt positively lethargic in comparison. So in parking lots at least, it was one up for the Tiguan.
Earlier, on our drive from Bangsar, it was already apparent that the Tiguan was a spirited performer, with punchy power delivery from its tiny single turbocharged engine (the new TSi no longer has twin-charging).
As we entered the North South Highway, the 1.4 engine felt a little overwhelmed on the rightmost lane of the expressway. It has adequate power for its purpose, but of course it lacks the long-leggedness of a larger capacity engine.
The Tiguan behaves well on the expressway at speed. There is a little bit of wind noise that emanates from somewhere near the side-mirrors at speed, but overall the ride is quiet, composed and reassuring.
The steering feels nicely weighted, precise and gives a decent amount of feedback. It handles those long NSE corners easily, sitting taut on the bitumen with minimal body roll.
It is only when you push the Tiguan to silly speeds that it ever loses its composure. Otherwise, the Tiguan handles almost like a car.
In town, the Tiguan is easy to steer around. Vision outside is very good, with a tall seat and wide expanse of glass area, and of course, wing mirrors big enough to help you see everything behind you.
The cabin is a nice place to be in. Fit and finish are good. Materials are of excellent quality with soft touch plastics and controls that click reassuringly. The digital display that acts as both speedometer and tachometer is pleasant to look at, and gives it a futuristic taste without being tacky.
Everything is understated, but nonetheless, the Tiguan has one of the classiest interiors of any of the small SUVs currently in the market.
It may not look too big on the outside, but the Tiguan is spacious enough to be comfortable, at least for five average sized adults, even on long journeys.
In all, the Tiguan is an impressive package at the price point. Well-designed, built and realistically priced, the only way Volkswagen could have pulled off a better coup would be to bring in the Tiguan Allspace, which is reported to be available only from next year. With 112mm more wheelbase, and seven seats, it could be the perfect silver bullet to disrupt the local SUV market. But that’s a story for another day.