2021 Volkswagen Tiguan test drive: Observations of a VW Jetta owner

The SUV’s performance on open roads is enjoyable. The TFSI engine is eager to rev & the DSG also plays along perfectly offering seamless upshifts & quick downshifts as & when needed.

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I decided to drop in at the local VW showroom and check out the Tiguan TFSI. Have been hearing a lot of things about the car, but as I have found out of late, the proof lies in the pudding. Here are my observations after a short test drive:

  • Looks a lot better in person than it does in the images. Obviously doesn’t have the street cred of its Czech cousin, but I would say it manages to look a lot better (front especially) as compared to the pre-facelift Tiguan TDI.
  • A large part of this can be attributed to the new IQ LED projector headlamps. Keeping aside all the marketing mumbo-jumbo VW has used for them, I found they looked a lot better than the older headlamps on the Tiguan TDI which had a simple LED diode setup.
  • The only thing I despised was the red reflector strip running at the bottom of the bumper. Seems like an afterthought. The rear looks great otherwise with the reworked tail lamps.
  • On the inside, the cabin largely remains unchanged just like the exterior. The older flat-bottom steering has now been replaced with the one seen in the newer crop of VWs (Taigun etc) as opposed to the one in the Polo/Vento. What I did expect were touch-based steering mounted controls. This gets physical buttons.
  • Although interior quality is largely on par with what one would expect from a car at this price point, the quality of leather used disappointed me. Felt like it belonged to a 17-20L car.
  • Digital cluster looks nice! Volkswagen has mastered the art of making versatile digital clusters and this one is no different. Had a plethora of info on offer with a crisp resolution. It’s good to see they have gone the whole hog and given it the full virtual cluster, not a truncated screen like on the Taigun.
  • Climate control panel will split opinions. Not only do I think its an ergonomic flaw (placed too low and has touch-based buttons), but I also think that the physical dials for the Dual zone climatronic looked far better.
  • Gets a newer gear lever in line with global offerings. The selector markings are on the knob, not on the console below. Though the knob does look classy, you can’t see what mode you are in if you have your hand on it! Beats the purpose of having those markings.
  • HU is very capable as expected, with a huge screen, capacitive buttons on either side for most functions. It still retains a physical knob for the volume and power on/off though.
  • What isn’t up to segment standards is the sound quality. Most competitors, both direct and indirect have moved on to 10 or 12 speaker audio systems. The Tiguan still has to make do with a generic 8-speaker system. A Fender audio system would have been apt for this car (international offering gets it).
  • Does miss out on ventilated seats, though the air con did a surprisingly good job of cooling the cabin off with ambient temps outside soaring to 38 degrees celsius.

Engine, ride quality & driving dynamics

  • Gets the globally revered 2.0 TFSI mated to a 7-speed DQ381 GB. The pre-facelift TDI had a DQ500 GB. The 381 has the ability to accommodate both AWD and FWD setups. As a result, this GB is now standard across all VW/Skodas producing more than 250nm torque here in India. The lesser ones make do with the DQ200.
  • Fire the engine up, and it’s dead silent at idle. Refinement is top-notch. Never does the engine get boomy or unrefined at any point in the rev range.
  • Low-speed behaviour of the tranny is typical of what you would expect from a DSG. The motor has enough torque to keep the Tiguan moving about almost effortlessly at low speeds, but the DSG does tend to act a bit sluggish in the initial two gears.
  • Gear shifts are also perceptible at lower revs. Again, typical DSG trait. The shifts get a lot smoother if they occur at higher revs.
  • Open road performance is enjoyable. The TFSI is eager to rev and one can make very quick progress. The DSG also plays along perfectly, offering seamless upshifts and quick downshifts as and when needed. As with all turbo petrols, the mid-range is the real highlight. Even beyond 5000rpm, there’s only a thrum let out by the engine which is quite a likeable sound.
  • The steering is very light at low speeds, making driving in traffic effortless. At higher speeds though, it was a touch lighter than I would have preferred (definitely lighter than my Jetta). I think this is a trait when it comes to MQB cars. Observed this with the Taigun as well. The steering is pinpoint accurate, though there’s no feedback. Typical VAG behaviour.
  • Ride quality was a bit of a mixed bag. At higher speeds (say above 50 km/h), the car rode flat with no bumps and potholes filtering through. Unfortunately, as the speeds dropped, the suspension did reveal its ugly side. Low-speed ride is stiff and the car does have a tendency to crash through very sharp potholes.
  • Handling was as expected of a VAG SUV. Absolutely flat and composed over expansion joints on flyovers and long sweeping corners even at triple-digit speeds. Body roll did exist on the limit though, and it was a touch higher than I anticipated.
  • The brakes have an excellent bite and the pedal has a great feel. In fact, someone who isn’t used to them might find them too grabby and over-served. However, I found them perfect. The car stopped without any fuss or drama when I slammed on the anchors from 100.

All in all, I think my opinion of the Tiguan remains the same. It’s a great car, but it’s overpriced by at least a couple of lakhs and it is missing out on some key equipment that is expected of a car belonging to this class.

However, if someone is looking for a versatile crossover with good build quality inside out, a cracker of a petrol tranny and brilliant driving dynamics, I don’t see any other credible alternative in this segment.

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