Automobile manufacturers have many problems to deal with, from the time a new car’s design is first put to paper to the moment it rolls off a production line. The easier ones to handle are mechanical and logistical, but what most companies dread is the question of ‘image’. It can be a ridiculously tough task to make consumers think a certain way about a product, and several excellent cars have fallen by the wayside in India (or sold in minuscule numbers), simply because the buying public hasn’t bought into what they represent. I could name a whole host of them, but I’ll restrict myself to Volkswagen products, since that’s what we’re dealing with here.
The German auto major had launched an S-Class rival, the Phaeton, many years ago, and even though it was a staggeringly good car, it simply couldn’t overcome the weight (or lack thereof) of its badge, worldwide. India also saw the Touareg, a fantastic SUV that shared its platform with the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne, but it ran into the same issue – it couldn’t make the case that someone should spend luxury money on a Volkswagen product. Thus, with the Tiguan (I will tell you straightaway that it’s a great car), VW has a bit of a challenge on its hands.
Now, I drive a lot of different cars every month, and I’m not easily impressed (not to blow my own trumpet or anything). The Tiguan, however, is an SUV that I would gladly buy, and never mind its Rs 28 lakh to 31 lakh sticker price, which puts it up against far bigger SUVs (like the Toyota Fortuner) as well as smaller and more expensive ones from luxury brands (like the MercedesBenz GLA); it’s a vehicle that felt right to me from the getgo. It’s resolutely Germanic in its exterior design, with a variety of straight lines and creases forming its principal visual markers. The large LED headlights are a striking accent on the front, and the prominent shoulder crease leading into the tail lamps gives the car a sense of purpose. This is a crisp, classy design language that will age well, keeping the Tiguan looking contemporary a few years down the line.
An SUV should offer a commanding view of the road from the driver’s seat, and the one from the Tiguan is absolutely outstanding – the almost panoramic view gives you a solid sense of confidence at the wheel. The cabin, especially in the top-end Highline variant, is superbly put together (if a little heavy on black), with every surface and component feeling premium to the touch. You won’t feel shortchanged on the features front, because VW has loaded the Tiguan to the gills. An enormous panoramic sunroof headlines a list that includes 3-zone climate control, cruise control, automatic wipers, automatic LED headlights, parking sensors and a rear-camera, tyre pressure monitoring, heated front seats, a full range of safety features, paddle shifters, a large touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay and several more. The leather seats are very comfortable all-round, and there’s plenty of room for four adults (a fifth will be reasonably comfy) and a ton of luggage – the boot has 615 litres of space, which can be expanded if you fold down the rear seats. Practicality, comfort and features? Check.
The only powerplant available in the Tiguan is a 2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel, putting out 143 bhp and 340 Nm respectively, and it’s mated to a 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox, with 4Motion all-wheel drive. While more power would have been welcome (it always is), the engine works fine in its current state, building up revs nicely when you give it gas (and keep it there). It’s quite refined, too, with only a slight rumble at startup – on the go, noise levels are very well controlled, and the cabin is relatively silent. The gearbox works best when you drive the car enthusiastically – more off-and-on driving can cause it to react a little slowly, but that’s not in any way a deal-breaker. Not a bit of it, in fact – I really enjoyed driving the Tiguan on the roads between Bengaluru and Chikmagalur, getting the feeling that I’d like to have it as a companion on a proper cross-country drive.
A significant part of the reason I like this car is because it handles extremely well. The Jetta, VW’s upperpremium sedan, is a superb handler, and it’s not a stretch to claim that the Tiguan comes quite close to it in the handling department, in its own SUV way. The steering wheel is meaty and direct, and you can pilot the Tiguan through a series of quick corners without it losing its composure in the least – body roll is negligible, and the grip on offer is controlled and reassuring, which, along with the razor-sharp brakes, makes for a handling package that is surprising, in a vehicle of this size and weight. The ride quality it offers is top notch, too. All this brings me back to what I’d begun my story with – the fact that VW will have to battle its own image in order to sell the Tiguan. By itself, though, it’s a car that I would recommend to anyone who’s looking for a sharp-looking, well-equipped, comfortable and fun to drive SUV – look beyond the badge, you really won’t regret it.
What we like: A really enjoyable, all-round SUV
What we don’t: Priced out of its league