Driven: Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Highline – redemption at long last?

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One long weekend, we were handed the keys to the all-new Volkswagen Tiguan. Here’s what we didn’t expect – we never thought we’d like the car so much. I mean, this is after all, a mid-size SUV and not a blistering hot-hatch that we’re more accustomed to.

The Malaysian market will get the second-generation Tiguan in two variants – Comfortline and Highline. Both are powered by a 1.4 litre turbocharged motor that makes 150PS and 250Nm. This engine is mated to a wet-clutch six-speed dual-clutch gearbox which sends power to the front rubbers. In case you were wondering, yes – the same ‘box used in the Golf GTI, for customer’s peace of mind.

All of this sits upon VW’s MQB platform – the same base exoskeleton shared across the group and used in other cars such as the Mk7 Golf and the current Audi A3 and TT. The new Tiguan is locally assembled at VW’s Pekan Assembly Plant in Pahang and wears the EEV (energy efficient vehicle) badge which helps to keep its pricing competitive against its rivals – RM150k for the Comfortline and a further RM20k premium for the Highline.

Our test car was the better spec’d Highline and we know what you’re thinking already – is the extra moolah worth it? In short, yes – you get some useful extra kit: LED headlights with daytime running lights, rear view camera with park assist, larger 18” alloys, 12-way adjustable seat for the driver, a large 12.3” Active Info Display (replacing the conventional instrument cluster and similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit) as well as an electric tailgate. Have these done aftermarket and you’d quickly punch past the RM20k value.

Compared against its predecessor, the new Tiguan is longer, wider and has a lower roofline, giving it a sleeker look. There’s no doubt this looks much better than the car it replaces. However, the real magic is how they have reworked the interior, giving extra space where it matters the most. In real world scenarios, the few millimetres here and there ends up feeling mega in the cockpit, especially when filled up with five large sized adults.

Most of the interior is standard VW fare; trim quality, fit and finish are all top notch and doesn’t feel cheap. There are also plenty of cubby holes and a massive center armrest available – good for stashing all sorts of junk: sunglasses, Smart Tags, keys, pens, wet-wipes; certainly, something the family-oriented person will appreciate. Also nice to have are the rear seat trays; good for resting iPads or iPhones to keep the little ones occupied.

Now here is where it gets interesting – how the new Tiguan drives. Gone is the 2.0 litre lump that powered the first-gen Tiguan, now replaced by the familiar 1.4 TSI lump. You’re wondering if this is sufficient for a mid-size SUV that weighs on the heavy side of 1,400kgs. The quick answer is yes. This is surprising to even yours truly, who expected this to be a pretty vanilla car in the driving department. Outright performance shouldn’t matter, but we took the liberty to explore further and can safely say that there’s good performance in fourth up to about 140km/h before it starts to falter.

Even with four adults on board, the new Tiguan managed to pull respectably, but more importantly provided good stopping power. There’s no fighting the laws of physics, so acceleration and braking prowess are sure to decline when fully loaded. We stress this point because we’ve been in cars that brake fine with single occupants, but struggle to stop when filled with 3-4 occupants. Despite its SUV namesake, the Tiguan will likely be used by families in the urban jungle, so this really is a huge plus.

Have I also mentioned just how much space there is in here? With two stocky adults in the front, I was surprised at just how much shoulder-to-shoulder space was available. There’s good legroom in the rear as well. And that boot space is fantastic and best in class; 615 litres by default, but fold those rear seats (which have a 40:20:40 fold option) and you can increase this up to a massive 1,665 litres!

Ride quality in the Tiguan was pliant with some firmness. Good for long highway cruises, but not as great when you encounter bumpy tarmac – a complaint I received quite a bit from my rear passengers.

What was surprising for me, was just how good the car drove when I was alone. This won’t make sense – but I drove the Tiguan up Ulu Yam and honestly enjoyed myself. Despite being a bigger car with a smaller displacement engine, the new Tiguan weighs some 50kg less than the car it replaces and in the performance department, feels a step above the older 2.0 TSI unit.

There isn’t much in terms of steering feel and weight, somewhat a norm with most modern VWs, but makes up for in terms of steering precision. Given this is a tall vehicle, the Tiguan manages body roll well, gifting its driver the ability to corner flatly and confidently. Do bear in mind that you don’t get sports seats, so if you’re a big guy like yours truly, your body probably won’t deal with cutting corners anywhere near as well as the car.

So what don’t I like about the new Tiguan? Very little, if I have to be honest. I still think that the 280TSI badge on the rump is silly; it isn’t an indication of how much power or torque or even engine capacity, instead  it simply denotes where the car sits in the Tiguan hierarchy. Our neighbours in the south have a 2.0 TSI R-Line variant, which wears the 380TSI badge.

There’s no doubt the new Tiguan is a good car; good enough that I am actually considering adding one to my garage (with the impending year-end discounts). Perhaps the only big question mark left lingering for most is Volkswagen’s somewhat tattered image after the engine/clutch/mechatronic/resale price/diesel-gate scandals. Reputation and customer confidence are difficult to rebuild, especially in Asian countries. But I do think this Tiguan is a step in the right direction for the brand. All new VWs sold now come with a five-year factory warranty (as opposed to the previous 3+2 years extended warranty), along with five years roadside assist.

Redemption for Volkswagen in Malaysia? Yes, I do hope so.

To download the full VW Tiguan brochure, click here.

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About Author

mm

From supercar spotting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Won has moved onto the realms of motoring journalism since 2011. He has a keen eye for automotive photography, a penchant for fast cars, and the occasional hunger for munching corners.

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