JOHANNESBURG - Technically what you see here is the Volkswagen Tiguan, in its latest iteration. But what you’re actually seeing is the new Golf, Jetta and Passat all rolled into one.
Gone are the days when sedans and hatchbacks lined the streets of Mzansi. Volkswagen was a popular brand even back then, and the aforementioned products were a common sight. But following the market’s mass migration to SUVs, you can’t even buy a Jetta or a non-performance Golf in South Africa anymore, and the Passat is something of a distant memory.
Although the Volkswagen Polo and Polo Vivo are still the brand’s best sellers on local shores, given that our market still has an affinity with affordable hatchbacks, the Tiguan is a strong seller on local turf and it’s also the brand’s most popular model internationally.
That means a lot is riding on the recently facelifted Volkswagen Tiguan, which went on sale in South Africa recently.
On test here is the 2.0 TSI 4Motion DSG R-Line model, which comes in at R710 000. With its taut lines and R Line exterior styling package it looks really purposeful and it certainly commands respect out on the street. This sporty flagship trim comes with 19-inch Valencia alloy wheels as standard, but buyers can also opt for a set of 20-inch Suzuki alloys, but why mess with the ride quality?
With an EA888 2-litre turbopetrol motor beating beneath the bonnet you might be tempted to think of this as something of a Golf GTI on stilts. But given the extra weight, all-wheel drive hardware and the fact that it’s in a relatively low state of tune with 162kW and 350Nm, it’s more of an eager performer than an outright performance model. In fact if the latter is what you’re after then it might be better to wait for the 235kW Tiguan R that’s expected to arrive later this year.
But the Tiguan 2.0 TSI R-Line is probably more balanced as an all-round package, and while it might not have hot-hatch equalling performance it’s certainly more entertaining to drive than your average mid-size SUV package, and here I’ve got fingers pointed at your Rav4s and the like. And that, as far as I’m concerned is the Tiguan’s biggest USP. It feels taut, sporty and agile for a family-sized SUV, and while there are no major thrills to be had here, it is still fun to drive. It’s not going to push you back in your seat, and admittedly there is a bit of lag to contend with at pull-off, but performance is satisfyingly brisk and overtaking is effortless. The 6.5-second 0-100km/h sprint time that Volkswagen claims is certainly respectable in this league.
The seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox pairs nicely with the engine, swapping cogs swiftly and timeously. There are a few driving modes that you can play around with on the centre console, including a Sport set-up that keeps it in gear for longer, but I found that the normal mode worked best for this Tiguan. You can also choose to change gears yourself via the snazzy looking steering-mounted paddles, although the vehicle is perfectly satisfying left to its own devices.
As I mentioned, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI R-Line handles well for an SUV, but that doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality. Even despite the fitment of rather large 19” rims, the Tiguan absorbs road imperfections very well, although you do feel a bit of firmness over large speed bumps.
But what’s it like inside?
Volkswagen hasn’t changed too much in the way of cabin furniture, and that’s a good thing because the Tiguan has a classy look and feel, unlike the newer T-Roc crossover that seems to have slipped in this area. Build quality is excellent, and the Tiguan feels like an expensive vehicle inside. The R-Line’s sports seats with Vienna leather and R-Line logos also help its eye-pleasing cause.
I wasn’t entirely pleased with the ergonomics, as there is no longer a conventional volume knob, and volume must now be changed via the central touchscreen or steering wheel. Although the ventilation controls have been digitised, they’re still easy to use as they have a separate section below the central screen with dedicated slider touchpoints for the ventilation speed and temperature.
While on the subject of useability, the Tiguan is an impressively practical vehicle. Rear legroom is very generous and passengers will have room to stretch, and the back seat also reclines slightly for road trip snoozing. The boot accommodates 520 litres of luggage, which should be sufficient for a family holiday.
In terms of spec, the Tiguan R-Line comes with a digital instrument cluster, multi-function steering wheel with touch and swiping actions and an R-Line logo, keyless entry and start, digital instrument cluster, 30-colour ambient lighting, climate control and cruise control.
There is a long list of options as well, allowing you to add some seriously high-end items like an eight-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system. The Tiguan is also available with heads-up display, a panoramic sunroof, Matrix LED headlights and Adaptive Cruise Control, among the many options available.
At R710 000, the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI 4Motion is priced at the upper end of its class, but it is also arguably the most satisfying to drive, thanks to its effortless performance, nimble road manners and comfortable ride quality. Throw in a classy and practical interior and you have one seriously desirable, albeit expensive, SUV package. And if the flagship’s price tag is too steep, Volkswagen also offers three 1.4 TSI models with 110kW, starting at R521 000.
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI 4Motion
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl, turbopetrol
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automated
Drive: All-wheel drive
Power: 162kW @ 4500-6200rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm
Fuel use: 8.2 l/100km (claimed)
Warranty: 3-year/120 000km
Service plan: 5-year/90 000km
Price: R710 000
Used data, by AutoTrader
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI 4Motion R-Line:
Average price: R603 942
Average year model: 2019
Average mileage: 41 163