VOLKSWAGEN does luxury differently; it opts for restraint and craftsmanship over posh and opulence. In the case of its Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline, the brand throws in tidy styling to the mix, resulting in a package well-worth the premium it commands over similarly sized Japanese SUVs.

Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI

+ The all-new, second-generation Tiguan that came out in 2016 (introduced in the Philippines in March) carries over the elegant looks of the previous model. But the new car is much sleeker, trading in the slightly pudgy contours of the original for crisper lines, sharper edges and a welcome buttock sculpting job — the Tiguan’s rear end now looks like a proper SUV’s than an oversized hatchback’s. The new wardrobe is totally modern, articulating well the car’s premium vibe.

The story is the same in the cabin. Where the Japanese and Koreans embrace gimmicky furniture and features, those found in the Tiguan are logical and functional. The sundry controls, whether audio, climate or motive-related, are all clearly marked, engage with reassuring heft, and arranged to be as intuitive to see and use. The seats, covered with fabric that is neither plush nor abrasive, evoke an executive chair rather than a La-Z-Boy. Every piece in the Tiguan’s cabin puts function over form.

The resulting look may come across as austere. But this isn’t the case at all; the car has all the connected devices, power-operated gizmos, push-button ignition, auto climate settings, requisite metal trim and other items expected in premium cars. The Tiguan’s brand of luxury is one in which ornamentation is conspicuous because of its absence.

On the road this subtlety also marks the Tiguan’s ride. Underpinned by the VW Group’s new MQB modular platform — the Tiguan and Audi’s Q3 share this — the car is noticeably hushed and cocooning, undoubtedly the result of a rigid structure that can absorb vibrations while barring noise from entering the cabin. This rigidity may have also allowed the Tiguan’s engineers to make the car’s suspension more pliant; if the structure is flaccid a stiffer suspension is needed in order to control the car’s body motions, leading to a jarring ride. The Tiguan, thanks to a rigid structure, is comfortable but still athletic, able to take on nasty pavement and corners with about equal competence.

Now while the 1.4-liter gasoline-fed engine propelling this particular Tiguan variant isn’t exactly potent, it has enough grunt for most occasions. The DSG gearbox that bolts to it is peerless still — it shifts imperceptibly and can choose the ideal gear ratio every time.

Though the Tiguan has adequate room for four people, not to mention a boot best described as cavernous, fitting in five passengers is stretching things a bit. Partly to blame here are air-conditioning vents protruding from the back of the center console, which dictate that the middle passenger in the rear should have no legs, or have very little of them. This is not good for parents unwise enough to spawn more than two children — children who, having grown up, have decided to hang around.

This is a minor annoyance, though. What is disappointing, especially because the car’s suspension is so spot-on, is the Tiguan’s lifeless steering. Fitted with electric power assist, the steering is so light and numb it seems it isn’t connected to the front wheels — a trait which some people may welcome but which is a turn-off for those inclined toward sporty driving.

= A couple of niggles notwithstanding, the Tiguan remains a compelling choice — if not the choice — for compact SUV shoppers. True, it can cost around P700,000 more than Japanese-brand compact SUVs, but the Tiguan’s level of quality, styling and craftsmanship places it above them, and lands this VW alongside its way-pricier European brethren.

The Tiguan’s price tag, when compared to other European models, is lower because of the proletariat VW badge the car wears, not because it is any less competent. — Brian M. Afuang


Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline

Price: P2.259 million

Engine: 1.4-liter, inline-four, turbocharged, gasoline; 148hp @ 7,500rpm, 250Nm @ 3,500rpm

Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

Wheels/Tires: 18 inches, 235/55

Key features: Smart entry with push-button ignition start/stop; touch-screen multimedia; automatic engine start/stop; three-zone automatic air-conditioning; automatic LED head lamps and DRL; electric parking brake