Monday, March 12, 2012

Tiguan I like

When the Volkswagen Tiguan first came to our shores several years ago, I was given the chance to test-drive it for a couple of days.

This sports utility vehicle was not the smartest looker around but it more than made up for its understated appearance with a host of features, impeccable quality inside and outside, and a really smooth ride.

The thing that I really got a big kick out of was the parallel parking assist – basically, you just needed to pull up to the side of the parking bay, hit a button, and an on-board computer would park the car for you.

It was a big thrill, sitting in the driver’s seat watching the steering wheel turn by itself as the car slowly reversed itself into the bay, with you controlling the speed at which it did so with light touches on the brakes.

The new Tiguan introduced here recently has done away with that feature, unfortunately, but you get some new stuff that takes it up a notch or two in the compact SUV sphere.

I took it for a drive over a recent weekend to see if having to rely entirely on myself to parallel park the car would not get in the way of the new Tiguan’s other charms.

The highlights are the seven-speed dual clutch DSG transmission (the old Tiguan was a six-speed automatic), daytime running LED lights and best of all, a price tag that’s RM10,000 cheaper.

The absence of a Parallel Parking Assistant doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

Looks-wise, again, the Tiguan is not for those who prefer their SUVs boxy and muscular – it never was and still isn’t.

The most noticeable change is at the front, with a new bonnet, grille and headlights that come together to provide a much sharper appearance compared with the previous version.

Inside, you get the same attention to quality that makes for a classy fit and finish expected of a Volkswagen.

The Tiguan is not lacking in creature comforts in any way – beautiful leather seats, electronically-adjustable on the driver’s side, dual climate control and a host of other features – make for a pleasant cabin.

Under the bonnet, the Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged engine that gives a gutsy performance. It generates a maximum 200PS from 5,300rpm, with maximum torque kicking in at 1,700rpm.

Coupled with the 4Motion all-wheel drive system, it’s a potent combination that does not leave you wanting when the going gets tough, for instance, when you have to overtake a lorry on a winding road up a hill.

And that was exactly what I did.

It was a hot day. So I decided to take my posse – comprising the wife and kids – up to Cameron Highlands.

The drive along the North-South Expressway proved to be a bit of a challenge that day, with lots of cars travelling northwards. Nonetheless, the Tiguan handled the cruise with aplomb.

At high speeds, it was rock steady, taking in the undulations and unevenness well in its stride, providing a comfortable journey in front and at the back.

The Tiguan is no lightweight that is skittish on the road, instead allowing you to manoeuvre through corners confident in the knowledge that the tyres are firmly planted on the tarmac and concrete.

Some SUVs driven at high speed over rough surfaces give you the feeling that grip is such a fickle thing, but the Tiguan pounds its way through while tracking steadily.

Gear changes are smooth and fast via the seven-speed DSG, which does not let you down when you need some serious oomph quickly to deal with tricky situations, and there were quite few on our jaunt that day to get away from the stifling heat for want of some strawberries and cream.

On the road up to Cameron Highlands, the Tiguan’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive came into its own, acquitting itself admirably in keeping up with wannabe champion hill-climbers. Make no mistake, it was a really enjoyable drive up and down.

Ultimately, the Tiguan presents an interesting proposition if you’re looking for a compact SUV of the German kind.

It’s chock-full of the good things you associate with Volkswagen and comes at a price tag – RM236,888 without insurance and road tax – that’s lower than the previous version, which is why it made my “must test-drive” category.