Drive Test – VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI Track & Field

Cold-blooded

Read the magazine article right here, in Drive Magazine.

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One of my very best friends is a real, well, pet person, you know? He used to just get all googly over the giant, lovable Lab which still resides at his parents house, even the typically cranky spaniel they had for many years until a tragic house invasion would receive lavish amounts of love. He just had a great bond with them, especially dogs.

Now he’s moved out, to a townhouse predictably, second floor, so no more dogs for him for the moment. Fortunately he’s managed to fill the void with his fiancés favourites – reptiles! Specifically, bearded dragons (beardies) which they currently have an entire brood of in their spare-room terrarium.

He tries to convince me that they’re a fine subject for err warm-blooded pets now and then. That they show emotions, are somehow cuddly (as long as you avoid the spikes), and offer a similar sort of companionship. But both he and I know he’s, if not lying, well just rationalising a little, a lot, for now. His financial future is so well mapped however that it won’t be long till he’ll be moving into something bigger, with a garden, and undoubtedly return to his canines after all, if lizards help him through well who am I to criticise?

Which is why the most famous car I can think of that’s named for a reptile, is a faintly terrifying, pulsing, throbbing, monstrous 60’s throwback which won a few races thanks mostly to the relationship between engine size (huge) and weight (not so huge). Yes of course it’s the Cobra.

Not anymore though. VW’s Tiguan has already become a fairly common sight on SA roads at this point, although admittedly its name is meant to be a cross between a lizard and a feline and not a pure reptile itself per se.

Of course you can’t judge a car by its name, or any lingering lizardly laments. The 1.4 TSI Tiguan we got in was our second titchy engine for the month, another one of less than a litre and a half, but it does have VWs twincharging kit applied. Put shortly, that means a supercharger for boosting low-end pull, and a turbo for maintaining the power much longer, together boosting this tyke to 110kW, with a whole feast of torque available from low right the way through to high.

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We also got a six-speed manual box transmitting this turboed twist to all four wheels via VWs 4Motion setup, and although the Tiguan does look like a baby SUV it’s really a road system of course. While it works for ensuring the vehicle remains right-footed even in treacherous, wet conditions, and keeping the car on course even under pretty hard cornering, these systems aren’t ideal driving enhancers.

Which isn’t to say sporty 4WD systems can’t be fun, oh no. Properly tuned for enthusiasts they can be brilliant, in Scoobys for instance, or RS4s, even 911s. But “conventional” ones all suffer the same feat when being pushed. Tragic, terminal understeer. And that’s what happens in the Tiguan eventually, although it’s sheer weight that does it more than body-roll which considering the centre of gravity is controlled superbly.

But I suppose compact SUVs aren’t hustling cars really. As is often the case, our press demonstrator came packed with a choice selection of extras taking the base R318K price tag up to near-on R400K. And I can’t stop thinking that that’s a lot of money for a 1.4, although I know all about the clever engineering involved to get that impressive power out of it, and the lavish amounts of luxury equipment the Tiguan comes with, as suits its SUV image. I even suggested to someone at the launch that they rather call them by power outputs rather than engine sizes, so this would be a Tiguan 110kW, and I see that’s exactly the route they’re taking with Golf VI models sporting this engine.

It isn’t even like it’s all that frugal at the pumps, either. Again, due allowance must be given for the amount of weight it lugs and losses in the AWD drivetrain, but well over 10l/100km seems a bit severe for such little cylinders. And yet, for just about the first time ever, our results actually match VW’s own consumption claims, 10.6 for the urban cycle.

It does make sense though. We all know that forced-induction equals more air being burned which must be matched by more fuel. So doubling that…

The smaller, cheaper, 4X2 model is a bit better here at least managing to dip below 10l/100km. It’s even got a slightly faster 0-100km/h sprint time (9.3 versus 9.6s) and a higher top speed (195 versus 193km/h). For less money.

Anyway back to our test sample.

The interior is certainly, well, comfortable for one, the optional leather upholstery really lifting the interior ambience at least in terms of the tactile quality. And seemingly bombproof, as the manufacturer is famous for. But it’s certainly very dull, black plastic, black leather, pretty “conventional” in every other respect.

Yes all the luxurious touches are in place but there just isn’t any real soul, guys. And, well, if I’m going to be spending over three-hundred grand, let alone nearly four, well I want some character thrown in at least, in place of a few of the swish even, would be fine.

There isn’t really anything at all to criticise directly though. The handling is tidy at eight-tenths, the ride good, the little motor quite muscular if thirsty, and the interior rock solid at all times. You do have to love the baby Touraeg exterior appearance as well. Oh, and the manual gearbox seems to actually be an active attempt to encourage people to buy a DSG instead – just unacceptably vague and spongy at all times.

What the TSI motor does have over torque-rich turbo-only motors like the FIAT T-Jet, is actually high up in the range. When the turbo takes over from the supercharger, it frees the engine up to spin all the way to the redline without feeling strained, and still delivering good acceleration right to the limiter just about. Unfortunately the car as a whole doesn’t really encourage you to keep it nailed like that too often.

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Of course, it’s a strong market segment with I’m sure customers lining up to shell that out of course, even in the difficult economic conditions (OK well maybe not that many anymore, but still a few). They aren’t the same sort of drivers that we are primarily though, or alternately they have something fun tucked away for weekends and actually want something pretty numb for the crushing daily commutes cycles. So the Tiguan in all its guises, and especially this “eco-conscious” yet still enjoyable variant will do the best, especially considering the continued reluctance (with good reasons, for which I applaud you) of the SA market to adopt diesels.

But for us? Unfortunately, in terms of passion, it definitely fits better with the reptile half of its name, and not the big cat at all. For that, I guess, you really need something like a big cat (Jag XKR anyone?) after all.

Reviewer : Russell Bennett

Liked

Torquey twincharged engine

Disliked

Poor gearbox

Unseemly thirst

Cost

Vital stats

Engine : 1.4-litre twincharged

Power : 110kW@5800rpm

Torque : 240 Nm@1800-4000rpm

0-100km/h : 9.6 s

Top speed : 193 km/h

Weight : 1546 kg

Price :  R318 800 (base spec)

For more information, visit the VW SA website.

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  • Magdalen Matuck

    Love your blog

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