An Odd History
There has been an influx of Chinese-built cars in our market. No, I’m not pertaining to the Chinese brands. That has been going on for years now. What I’m talking about are cars from established and well-known brands assembled in China such as this, the Volkswagen Tiguan. This compact crossover has quite an odd history in our market. This first generation model first appeared in the local scene 2013 when the German brand was re-launched in our country. Then, in 2017, the second generation of the Tiguan arrived in the scene. A year later, in 2018, the second generation was oddly axed in favor of this Chinese-built Tiguan. Has Volkswagen gone nuts, or are they going in the right direction? Let’s find out.
Being the resurrection of the first-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t present any “wow” factor whatsoever, but its conservative design is still a class act. Having simple and tidy lines means that while it does not have the seductive shapes and curves of a Mazda CX-5, its simplistic design will age pretty well. It’s a given that all of its rivals present newer and more sophisticated designs, but the Tiguan’s design that dates back from 2011 looks fresher than its peers that came out in the same year. The slim horizontal grille, HID headlights and LED taillights give it a modern look. Now, if the proportions seem different to you, this is actually the long wheelbase version that used to be exclusive to China. All that 80 mm of stretch went towards the wheelbase, eliminating its “in-between” size and going all compact crossover now, and it actually bodes well with the overall design of the Tiguan.
Despite the Chinese origins, the Tiguan still feels teutonic with how everything feels and operates. The doors still provide the satisfying thud you expect from the German brand, while the controls and surfaces have a precise and hefty feel. Plastics feel plush, with plenty of the soft variety scattered all over the interior. There’s just enough chrome and satin finishes that it remains tasteful rather than tacky. Elsewhere, the interior is sturdily and solidly built like a tank. What sort-of detracts from the plush experience though is the integrated radio display and multi-information display, both of which are pixel starved in this day and age. What also sort of detracts from the experience is the lack of passive entry and push-button start system. While it’s no deal-breaker, these are the factors that let drivers feel the vehicle’s age.
Space and Practicality
Drivers can easily get comfortable thanks to a wide range of adjustments for the steering wheel and the 10-way electronically adjustable driver’s seat. The seats are well padded and they do hold you in place well through corners. There’s also plenty of areas to store your items across the interior, plus the cupholders have a neat cover. Elsewhere, there’s plenty of space for the front occupants of the vehicle.
With all that 80 mm stretch dedicated to the wheelbase, the Tiguan has the best legroom in its class. With my usual driving position, I can still stretch out freely like as if I was in a full-size SUV. The seats are quite wide which means that three average-sized people can sit without rubbing their elbows too much. The panoramic sunroof, however, does eat into headroom. The middle passenger has all the headroom, while six-footers that plan to side on the outboard seats may have to slouch a bit.
Trunk space is unchanged from the German-built standard wheelbase model. It still has more than 500 liters of space, which can be increased by moving the second row seats forward.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
The Volkswagen Tiguan 280 TSI is generously equipped for its P1.6 million price tag. It comes with the aforementioned automatic HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, Vienna leather interior, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof, as well as an integrated radio with the garden variety Bluetooth, AUX, USB, and CD. Nothing groundbreaking here, but still a generous list of safety features nonetheless.
It also comes with a generous list of safety kit as well, including six airbags, electronic stability control, rear parking sensors, and hill start assist. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but generous nonetheless.
Under the hood of this Volkswagen Tiguan is a 1.4-liter inline-4 turbocharged petrol engine, producing 150 hp @ 5,000 rpm and 250 Nm of torque @ 1,750-3,000 rpm. Power is sent through the front wheels via a 6-speed DSG dual clutch transmission.
How It Drives
Out in the open road, this Volkswagen Tiguan has commendable road manners. Its 1.4-liter inline-4 turbo petrol engine sounds diminutive on paper, but it does produce a healthy dose of torque. Overtaking is quite easy, thanks to the torque on the low RPM ranges, but it does taper too soon towards the higher rev ranges. The 6-speed DSG responds to your inputs quite well, and when left in manual mode, the transmission delivers lag-free, responsive, and smooth shifts. A Volkswagen trademark is its refinement. Even at triple-digit speeds, this Tiguan is extremely stable and quiet, with only a hint of wind whistle coming from the front pillars.
When driven through twisty roads, the Tiguan responds with stability rather than eagerness. It does not have the agility of the Mazda CX-5. Instead, it turns in with precision and smoothness rather than quick reflexes. The steering wheel is on the slightly heavy side, which further aids the sensation of stability, but is accurate and precise that you exactly know where to point the Tiguan when traversing through a set of corners. A nicely balanced suspension gives a nice compromise between handling and comfort. It is not too firm that the ride becomes too choppy, nor too soft that the body rolls all over the place.
In the confines of a congested city, the Volkswagen Tiguan is a mixed bag. While the aforementioned suspension set-up does a commendable job of ironing out bumps and potholes, the engine and transmission combination need a bit of fine tuning during low-speed maneuvers. Driven with a light foot, the Tiguan accelerates smoothly, if not lethargic. Below 2,000 rpm, the engine feels weak since the turbos are not spinning. Put your foot down slightly for you to gain speed, and the boost from the turbos suddenly kicks in, making the Tiguan hard to drive smoothly in traffic situations. The engine’s on-off attitude is something that took me a day or two to get the hang out of driving this car smoothly in traffic. It is not helped by the transmission that doesn’t feel responsive when you want to nip through gaps in traffic.
Nevertheless, the Tiguan’s powertrain did eke out some good fuel economy numbers. Granted, I live in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where the instances we complain about traffic are during rush hour and whenever Nuvali decides it’s a good idea to set-up those Christmas lights with loud music playing through a set of loudspeakers, 10.5 km/l is excellent for an engine with loads of torque at the low RPM ranges. This is helped by the engine start/stop system that while it aids fuel economy, can be rough at start-up with a second or two of delay from the car’s electronics. Thankfully, this can be turned off.
While the Volkswagen Tiguan has a very odd history in the Philippine market, this new one can be said that is better caters to Filipino buyers. Whereas previous models were priced beyond the P2 million mark, this new one sits at the affordable end of the spectrum at P1,648,000. Yet, it comes with a few features that are not found in many of its rivals such as the turbocharged petrol engine, expansive panoramic sunroof, just to name a few. It does not matter whether it is built in China or in Thailand. In the end, quality will depend on how the car manufacturer handles its quality standards, and in the Tiguan’s case, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the German and this Chinese-built Tiguan.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5