A mini SUV based on a Golf?

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THE VW Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI is a compact crossover that slots into VW’s lineup beneath the larger Touareg SUV and it gets its name from a combination of German words for “tiger” and “iguana” (strong and nimble?).

Now my first impression of the Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI (Turbocharged Stratified Injection) variant (RM179,608) seen cruising along the New Klang Valley Expressway was that of a small SUV that behaves like a hatchback.

At least that’s what it looked like to me. After driving it, I can say there is no way in which the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI looks or feels like a Golf behind the wheel — though the engines and platform are similar (to that of the Mk6 Golf TSI’s engine).

And the folks at Volkswagen Group Malaysia assure me that the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI has been engineered with the goal of becoming the most capable and satisfying small crossover available.

So, let’s get on with it. Positioned as the Touareg’s combative, smaller sibling, the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI arrived somewhat late to the crossover party.

How does it feel?

This VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI 2WD certainly does strike a more athletic, traditional SUV-style pose — though one could be pushed to perhaps describe it as “mean” looking.

Well-built and very smart with a lofty driving position, the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI has a twin-charged EA111 1.4 litre twin-charged direct petrol injection TSI engine mated to a wet-clutch 6-speed direct shift gearbox for a captivating performance. The wet-clutch bit means there’s almost no lag in between the automatic gear changes.

This combination produces a maximum torque of 240Nm kicking in from a low 1,500rpm, enabling it to accelerate from 0 to 100kph in 8.9 seconds with a top speed of 198kph (electronically timed of course).

It also means that the four-cylinder engine sends 160 PS at 5,800 rpm and 240Nm of torque between 1,500rpm and 4,500rpm to the front wheels.

The engine did struggle out of the toll gate during the test drive, but once above 3,000rpm, it moved the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI more than adequately and was quiet and responsive at higher speeds.

The drive

The VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI proved agile and carlike on the roads around Port Dickson. It retains enough oomph for you to throw it around if the mood takes you. It has a mean tight turning radius and electromechanical steering (quick and light at low speeds).

It steers accurately and controls body movements well, and there’s undoubtably extra traction to push you through corners which makes this VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI one of the smoothest, more comfortable cars in its class (though it isn’t quite like the BMW X3 that costs RM328,800).

Activating the auto-hold button allowed me to take my foot off the brakes while the vehicle was on an incline or decline. The auto-hold allows the Tiguan to resume moving smoothly once you step on the accelerator.

Start/stop and regenerative braking (the VW Tiguan 2.0 TSI doesn’t have them) lets it claim a combined fuel consumption of 7.1 litres per 100km.

Some wind noise did creep in around 110kph during the trip along the highway to Port Dickson, though not much.

When I needed to hit the brakes, this Tiguan’s four-wheel discs with ABS slowed the vehicle down admirably.

The interior

VW-Tiguan-1.4-TSI-InteriorInside, the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI takes a people-first approach to packaging, making it a comfortable around-town car that also provides highway comfort.

There’s a familiar VW vibe in here. The cabin is typically well-designed. Leg, head and shoulder room are all excellent, although it’s a bit tight for three people in the back.

The front seats especially are supportive, offering good visibility from the driver’s seat, while the materials feel solid with a well-built feeling running throughout.

There is a backseat “tray” which you can put to good use for surfing on your smartphone/tablet. The interior features include climatic semi-auto air-con, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold, Radio RCD 310 (MP3, CD, AUX, eight speakers) and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

Rear seats are split 60:40. It features an armrest, and it slides, reclines and folds. There are six airbags and an anti-theft alarm.

Conclusion

The VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI is a pleasure to drive, thanks to its responsive engine and a finely balanced chassis.

There’s nothing shocking here. Consumption and CO2 levels are among the best in its class. It falls into the pricier portion of the market, which is what you would expect given the upmarket badge on the front.

It’s not as cheap as some rivals and the ride is a bit firm. Rear visibility isn’t great, while off-road ability is limited.

The Tiguan 1.4 TSI comes with auto halogen headlamps, front fog lamps with static cornering lamps, plus 17-inch “Boston” five-spoke alloys (Tiguan 2.0 TSI has 17-inch “New Orleans” multi-spoke alloys) wrapped in 235/55 series tyres.

Wait, what’s the bummer? It’s the optional Tech Pack — bi-xenon headlamps with LED DRLs, bluetooth, climatronic auto dual-zone air-con, cruise control, dynamic headlight range adjustment with bending lights, foldable wing mirrors with curb view (when you engage reverse), a “Premium” multi-function display, a multi-function steering wheel, Park Distance Control with reverse camera, Radio RCD 510 (6.5-inch touchscreen) and a USB adaptor cable — (whew!) all in for an extra RM10,000.

I would wish for the Tech Pack to be included into the fully imported (CBU) Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI priced at RM179,608 nett (OTR without insurance).

A five-year warranty with unlimited mileage is offered. The seats are suede which is suitable for our weather.

Anything else? It’s a Volkswagen, so it just gets on with being safe, dependable and a wee bit posh. Your possible alternative would be the Audi Q3 1.4 TFSI at RM216,888.

If you really want the VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI to take off, shift the gear to “S” mode. Road tax is RM70. Enough said. Log on to www.volkswagen.com.my/Das-Auto for a test drive.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on January 29, 2015.