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Quick test drive: VW Tiguan

We conclude our series of quick test drives of the best-selling SUVs in the world in preparation for our upcoming review of the new generation Toyota RAV4. These are in no way exhaustive but just to get a feel of the competition. After the unconvincing Nissan X-Trail and the impressive Honda CR-V, the last stop is at Volkswagen for the Tiguan, which ranked as the 7th best-selling nameplate in the world and #3 best-selling SUV in 2018.

If the Nissan dealership seemed totally uninterested in selling me the X-Trail and in contrast Honda was extremely motivated, Volkswagen was somewhere in the middle but would end up being the most insistent in following-up the test-drive with multiple phone calls trying to close the deal. Can’t fault them for trying, so good on you Volkswagen. Also, VW would be the only ones letting me drive the Tiguan by myself, leaving me to make up my own mind independently. I appreciated their trust.

The model I tested was the Tiguan 2.0 TD 4motion priced at AUD$46.990 (29.050€ or US$32.600). That makes it the dearer of the three (X-Trail AUD$45.900, CR-V AUD$39.000) but I’m expecting it to justify this cost by proving to be the most sophisticated. Let’s see if I’m right. I found the Volkswagens I tried in the past to be grossly uncomfortable due to extremely rigid seats. Not the Tiguan, which is actually quite comfy and smooth.

The 4motion variant comes with four 4×4 modes.

The interior is indeed the most nicely finished of the three, with quality materials, attractive designs, keyless start, a large touch screen and – the cherry on top – a very good sound system. I could get used to this environment. Plus, it’s not just a pretty face: the only one to have different 4×4 modes which, although probably used rarely, is outstanding. I have been trying to find the holy grail of a crossover that can also go comfortably off-road for my personal use and haven’t had much luck, so this is a huge plus for me.

VW Tiguan interior detail

Where the VW Tiguan disappoints is its handling. It feels heavy and wobbly on the road, the accelerator is too soft and not reactive enough which combines to make the car by far the least enjoyable to drive of the three, which is a surprise. A pet hate of mine: the seats are not electric, which for this level of pricing is unacceptable, and don’t even try to redeem yourself with a massage function which, I have to say, remains a nice touch especially for heavy drivers.

To get a comparison point for this surprising lack of oomph, I take a 1.4L VW Golf for a quick ride right after and the handling is night and day even though the engine is markedly less powerful (vs. 2.0L for the Tiguan): the Golf reacts quicker to commands and is a lot zippier, to the point where I could have my arm twisted and choose the Golf instead, even though the Golf’s interior is truly a couple of notches below the Tiguan, notably with analog speedometers.

Why is it successful? The only roomy SUV with a Volkswagen badge that doesn’t break the bank

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