Johannesburg - Security risks, emissions scandal... Volkswagen has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in recent months. Fortunately, the brand has a trump card to play, at least in the local SUV market, to help sway hearts and minds.
While the subject of 'delicate' topics (read: #Dieselgate) were briefly mentioned by the Volkswagen South Africa top brass, the automaker's focus lies solely with its new Tiguan, launched eight years after it was first introduced locally.
A bigger, bolder Tiguan in SA
The second-generation Tiguan is bigger, bolder and more technologically advanced than its predecessor.
The VW group’s first SUV built on its now common-place MQB (translates to Modular Transverse Matrix) platform is initially available in three variants, with 4Motion TSI (162Kw) and TDI engines to be rolled out early in 2017.
The new Tiguan is available in Trendline Manual, Comfortline Manual and Comfortline DSG specifications.
At launch, a 1.4 TSI engine, available in either 92kW and 110kW guises, is offered. The 92kW petrol engine is available with a six-speed manual transmission and the 110kW variant is mated to a six-speed DSG transmission.
The 2.0 TDI, with power output of 81kW, 105kW and 130kW will be introduced in the last quarter of 2016 along with a 2.0 TSI engine producing 162kW. The high powered engines (2.0 TDI with 105kW and 130kW, as well as the 2.0 TSI engine) will be fitted with Volkswagen's 4Motion drive system.
What's it like to drive?
At the local launch in Gauteng, I experienced the current top-of-the-range derivative, the 1.4 TSI 110kW DSG. Though it looks great, drenched in VW's ‘R-line’ trim package, I was left underwhelmed by the engine which suffers from turbo lag. The direct shift gearbox, however, is a peach and was excellent during my 180km trip to Oliphantsfontein.
The steering is light and accurate. Overall, the Tiguan is more Golf-esque to drive than a typical SUV of its size, a definite boon when navigating city traffic. The instrument cluster borrows elements from the Passat and this translates to a premium, upmarket interior for a lifestyle vehicle.
A 70km stint in the manual 90kW version was rather pleasant, with decent torque available low-down the rev range. The DSG will undoubtedly be the transmission of choice though you can't go wrong with the manual either.
Turbo lag is tangible in the first and second gears but along the highway to the financial hub of the country, SUV was all too happy to keep up with traffic in the right-hand lane.
Gallery: 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan
The new Tiguan is wider, longer, taller and more spacious thanks to VW’s engineers stretching the platform. In fact, VWSA said customers of its previous generation SUV took issue with how small the firm’s baby SUV was. VW has certainly taken customer issues to heart with its new compact SUV.
The new Tiguan sees a 33mm reduction in height to 1.6m and a 30mm increase in width to 1.8m. It's 60mm longer than its predecessor at 4.4m and its wheelbase has been extended to 2.6m (an increase of 77mm).
With the rear bench moved forward, the boot capacity offers 615 litres of space - 145L more than the previous model. With the rear bench folded, cargo space increases to 1 655L.
New tech, features
It has new seats, 50L more boot space than its predecessor and new technological features such as adaptive cruise control (which performed well on our roads), active info (all technical info directed on the main readout section) and a VW-first safety mechanism called active bonnet.
VW says active bonnet alleviates the damage done to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of front-impact collision.
The new Tiguan is a huge improvement compared to its predecessor. In a fiercely competitive segment, with this model the automaker, dogged by negative press in recent months, has a chance to make a giant leap forward and become a segment leader once the full range is rolled-out locally.
The new styling is a massive departure from the old car: akin to perhaps a change in SA’s presidency. VW sneakily donned all the launch units with the charming 'R-line' package, a R18 000 option which includes: A sport suspension system, 19" Sebring painted in grey metallic (255/45 R19) alloys, bumpers and sill extension in "R"-style including black wheel housing flaring, body-coloured rear spoiler in "R"-style, and Titanium Black headlining.
The active bonnet - a first for any Volkswagen - reduces the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists. When contact is made with the bumper, a sensor strip triggers a pyrotechnic actuator that lifts the rear edge of the bonnet by around 50mm within 22 milliseconds.
This increases the distance between the hard engine components and the relatively flexible bonnet. In turn, it reduces the risk of serious head injuries, says Volkswagen.
For now, the forced induction petrol engines do feel underpowered. With the diesels, in three power outputs (81kW, 105kW and 130kW) and a flagship 162kW version due in 2017, the range could become a tour de force.
4Motion, VW-speak for four-wheel drive, is only available on high-powered engines (2.0 TDI with 105kW and 130kW, as well as the 2.0 TSI engine).
The styling is just about perfect, and our Facebook readers seem to share in my sentiments.
Volkswagen have pulled off a major coup with aggressive pricing. Starting from less than R380 000, the Trendline models' standard equipment is comprehensive; with items such as manual aircon, front and rear electrically-powered windows, cruise control, front fog lights, leather multi-function steering wheel, connectivity package (Bluetooth & USB interface) and roof rails.
Incidentally, VW sold 20 000 Tiguans during its eight-year stint in South Africa. The automaker is hoping to sell 5000 units of its new Tiguan a year. Based on my experience on the two launch models and what's due to complete the range, VW definitely has a winner here.
Despite the SUV segment fragmented between four or five models, each desperately battling for market share, I foresee the new Tiguan becoming a dominating force, much like its Golf sibling. And considering the Golf's market-dominating local sales, praise doesn't get much higher than that.
1.4 TSI 92kW Trendline Manual - R378 000
1.4 TSI 92kW Comfortline Manual - R419 000
1.4 TSI 110kW Comfortline DSG - R457 680
The new Tiguan is sold with a five- year or 90 000km service plan, three-year or 120 000km warranty and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are 15 000km.
Also consider: (starting prices are quoted)
Hyundai Tucson R369 900
Mazda CX-5 R360 300
Ford Kuga R366 900
Toyota Rav - R363 400