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Three years after discontinuing the Touareg, its first and sole SUV for India, Volkswagen is back for a second crack at the popular segment with the Tiguan.
For now, it is the entry-point into Volkswagen’s SUV line-up in India, until smaller models make it here. However, at Rs 27.98-31.38 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is quite steeply priced – the Tiguan costs as much as bigger 4x4 SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour. Also, unlike its burly, ladder-frame price competitors, it’s a monocoque, front-wheel-drive biased SUV that’s strictly a five-seater and about the size of a Hyundai Tucson. What it is positioned as then is an affordable alternative to luxury SUVs like the Audi Q3, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the BMW X1.
On the outside
The design, typical of German cars, is restrained, neat and clean. It isn’t as stylish as cars from Hyundai, but it is quite appealing in its own right. Blocky proportions and straight lines are the order here and a lot of the SUV’s character comes from the deep shoulder crease that runs along the side of the car.
It’s got smart 18-inch alloy wheels on the Highline variant that you see here, and the overall look is quite hunkered-down, and not like that of a high-riding SUV.
On the inside
The interior is where the Tiguan really impresses with solid build quality and a healthy equipment list. Like the exterior, the dashboard design is quite simple, though the all-black colour scheme makes things a bit dull; a few light-coloured plastic bits would have adequately brightened up the cabin. That said, the cabin looks quite plush at night, with all the back lighting for the buttons and LED accents turned on.
You simply cannot fault with the fit and finish here. The rich soft-touch plastics used all around, the crisp-functioning buttons and the near-perfect panel fitment are proof that the cabin is built to a really high order. The equipment on offer too, is hardly short of what you get in luxury SUVs. Features include rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlamps, cruise control, an electric driver’s seat with memory function (both front seats are heated), three-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors and a rear camera, hill hold control, paddle shifters for the seven-speed automatic gearbox, a big touchscreen bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a powered tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, and driving modes. Safety too has been more than adequately taken care of. There are six airbags, ABS, ESC and pedestrian crash protection (the bonnet rises to reduce the impact on a pedestrian, in the event you crash into one).
The black Vienna leather used on the seats feels quite luxurious too. The front seats may be a touch slim for big frames, but they are adequately accommodating. There’s loads of headroom and legroom at rear, you can recline and even slide the rear bench fore and aft if you want to stretch out more. A slightly higher placement for the seats would have made for better under-thigh support and a better view out though. The seat splits 60:40 and the sliding function even helps open up more space in the already commodious 615-litre boot. And, finally, you do get a space-saver spare tyre, which the carmaker says you’ll rarely need to use. That’s because the Tiguan has another trick up its sleeve – self-sealing tyres. They have a gel inside which seals small cuts and punctures on the go.
From behind the wheel
The Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine that comes coupled to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox; all-wheel drive is standard.
Its outputs of 143hp and 340Nm feel sufficient for an SUV that weighs 1.7 tonne. It starts up with a slight clatter, but settles down into a quiet idle. Let the revs cross 1,800rpm though, and the drone from the motor comes back. Sadly, pulling power is also bunched up post this point, so the mild grumble is inescapable. Over 90-100kph, the wind-noise also becomes apparent.
What’s nice is that the Tiguan sets off smartly, with the gearbox working well with the engine to provide smooth progress. It’s just when you aren’t smooth with the throttle that the gearbox feels a bit reluctant to shift up or down. But press the throttle down confidently and you get a nice surge of power around 2,000rpm. Sport mode also helps liven the driving experience by adding more heft to the steering and keeping the engine in the meat of its powerband.
To drive, the Tiguan feels car-like, like a Jetta on stilts. The steering, although not very communicative, is quick and makes the SUV easy to manoeuvre. For a tall car, there isn’t much leaning and wallowing around corners, unless you drive it briskly around bends. Ride quality is sure to impress too. The Tiguan dispatches bumps well, and you only feel the really big ones. It stays flat and planted on highways, which makes it an ideal family car for a weekend outing.
Is it worth the money?
You may wonder if this Volkswagen can justify its lofty price tag, especially when you can get yourself a bigger, more imposing SUV for the same amount. However, this is quite a niche car that will appeal to those who appreciate the really high standards that the Tiguan comes built to. The interior quality and features on offer are at par with luxury SUVs, and there’s ample space for five people. Plus, comfort and ride quality are impressive and so is the driving experience, save for the slight drone from the engine. Yes, this is a costly SUV, more so because it’s strictly a five-seater, but for those who appreciate what the Tiguan offers, they won’t regret the splurge.
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