- Excellent value for money
- Gutsy but efficient engine
- Still very practical
- Ride is a touch too firm
- Expensive servicing
- Cabin quality could be better
The SUV fad is no longer a fad, it’s well and truly taken over, and various models from manufacturers are now their best-selling cars. Take the Volkswagen Tiguan, which used to be outsold be the Golf, is now comfortably Volkswagen’s best-selling car globally. Same with the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and so on. Without these models, car makers would arguably not exist such is their popularity. With that in mind, we tested the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life to find out if Volkswagen’s bread and butter product is worthy of its strong global sales.
The Tiguan was recently updated for the 2021 model year with new frontal styling to keep it fresh, as well as a new model structure in line with Volkswagen’s latest naming, a new 147TDI 2.0-litre turbo diesel variant and a whole host of new tech. We’re testing the entry level Life variant, which is priced at $41,490 drive away. Is the entry-level Tiguan all anybody really needs, and should the Tiguan be the mid-size SUV you buy? Let’s find out.
The Tiguan competes in arguably the most populous segment in the world: mid-size SUVs. There’s everything from the Tiguan’s Skoda Karoq cousin to the Subaru Forester, the aforementioned CX-5 and X-Trail, the Mitsubishi Outlander, Renault Koleos, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Citroen C5 Aircross, Peugeot 3008 and the newly freshened Ford Escape.
Price & Equipment: 8/10
Priced from $41,490 drive away, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life is well equipped for the money. Standard kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, auto lights and wipers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heated and auto-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rear mirror, a digital driver’s display, cloth upholstery, lumbar adjustment for both front seats, three USB-C charging ports, an eight-speaker sound system and an electric tailgate with kick-to-open functionality.
Standard safety equipment across the Tiguan range includes seven airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist with adaptive lane guidance, adaptive cruise control, driver attention monitoring, auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, rear auto braking and even automatic parking.
Our test car was painted in no-cost ‘Pure White’, though for an extra $800, ‘Kings Red’, ‘Dolphin Grey’, ‘Nightshade Blue’, ‘Reflex Silver’ and ‘Deep Black’ are also available. Also available is a $5,000 Luxury Package that adds black ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat with memory functionality, a panoramic sunroof and heated front seats with a heated steering wheel – if you’re really wanting those features, the pack is pretty good value.
While there are a whole multitude of competitors, we consider the $38,490 drive away Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.0L FWD to be the biggest competitor to the Tiguan 110TSI Life. The Mazda is $3,000 less expensive than the Tiguan and while it does feature digital radio and front fog lights as standard, the VW counters with tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, an electric tailgate with kick-to-open functionality, a rear fog light, rain-activated headlights, Global Auto and Close key-activated windows, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, larger 18-inch wheels, a digital driver’s display, front parking sensors, heated and auto-folding mirrors and newer USB-C charging ports.
Engine & Performance: 9/10
Standard on the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life is a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine matched to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Moving up the Tiguan range swaps the 1.4L engine for a larger 2.0L unit with a seven-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, but unless you’re wanting more standard kit or all-wheel drive, we don’t think that’s a necessary move as the Tiguan 110TSI offers more than enough grunt for most people.
The 1.4L turbo petrol produces a reasonable 110kW of power but a strong 250Nm of torque, and while it has slightly less power than the 115kW 2.0-litre petrol unit in the entry-level CX-5s, its 250Nm torque figure is 50Nm higher than the Mazda. In addition to that, its peak torque comes in much lower in the rev range than the CX-5 (1,500rpm versus 4,000rpm) – this helps refinement, and it also helps fuel economy as you don’t have to rev it.
When you do rev it, however, the 1.4L engine is a peach of a thing. It’s not as new as the 1.5L turbo engine in the Skoda Scala and Kamiq – and even the Tiguan in Europe , but not here thanks to our lax emissions standards that VW HQ uses to give us old tech engines – but it’s still quiet, efficient and punchy. It’s also wildly preferable to the underpowered and thirsty 2.0-litre petrol engines that serve in base model competitors such as the CX-5, Tucson, Sportage, X-Trail and Outlander.
We’re also more pleased with the six-speed dual-clutch auto used in this Tiguan than the newer seven-speed unit used in the all-wheel drive models as it’s much more predictable, yet just as smooth and intuitive. There’s still a touch of low-speed hesitancy, so it can take time to get to know the gearbox, but it’s a better option than the seven-speed in higher Tiguan models. Still, we wish the eight-speed torque converter that’s paired to this engine in the Karoq and T-Roc made its way into the Tiguan too.
Volkswagen claims that the Tiguan will use strangely high 7.7L/100km on a combined cycle, and we found it easy to beat that figure and got 6.7L/100km – more than 3L/100km less than our testing of the CX-5 2.0L petrol engine. Like other VW Group products, the Tiguan requires a minimum of 95RON fuel, and it features a 58-litre tank.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
The Tiguan has always been one of the more dynamic SUVs to drive, and with the 2021 update, that has not changed – not only do you feel much more part of the driving experience than, say, a Subaru Forester, but the ride quality is also much better damped as well. In fact, the ride quality is the only area that we’d say needs attention in the updated Tiguan as it’s just a touch too firm for urban use – it softens nicely on country roads and highways, however, and it’s an excellent tourer.
Upper-spec Tiguan models feature even larger wheels, but they also feature adaptive dampers as standard, the latter of which is unavailable on this entry-level car. But we don’t think you’d need them as the Tiguan’s ride is totally fine for most people, though the CX-5 is a touch more compliant.
The rest of the driving experience is pretty typically Volkswagen good. The handling is typically German solid with a nimble chassis that makes the Tiguan feel more like a tall Golf – which, we guess, it sort of is. The steering is also typically-Volkswagen light with not amazing amounts of feel, but we prefer it to the CX-5’s heavy rack. Road noise levels are higher than the Mazda, though the Tiguan’s visibility is better thanks to larger windows and its boxier shape.
Interior & Practicality: 9/10
This generation Tiguan’s interior has always been one of the best in the mid-size SUV segment thanks to a winning combination of excellent build quality, great practicality and a good use of technology. Thanks to more of the latter and a general freshening, the cabin of the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life is better than before. Cabin materials haven’t changed and are disappointingly hard in some places – the cheaper Skoda Karoq’s plastics are better quality – but the new dashboard inlays and cloth materials on the seats and doors make it feel relatively plush, especially compared with something like an entry-level Hyundai Tucson.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel (which features paddle shifters) and gearknob are also excellent quality and we think they look nice in their new designs, as well. The 8.0-inch touchscreen now features VW’s latest software, and now includes a wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as integrated satellite navigation. There’s still no digital radio or wireless phone charging, however – and those are two features you can get in the Karoq.
The screen itself is excellent quality, aside from the grainy rear camera, and it’s quick and easy to use. The digital screen in front of the driver is also intuitive and easy to use, though it can take a while to learn its whole multitude of functionality – best to do that while parked, we say.
Practicality inside the Tiguan’s cabin is excellent with more than ample storage space, including huge door bins that are lined with felt so your keys don’t rattle, a reasonably-sized glovebox, a huge storage space in the centre console with a sliding cover and adjustable cup holders, a tray up on the dashboard, a under-armrest box and even trays underneath the front seats.
Rear seat space is best in the segment, as are the amenities – a USB-C charging port, a 12V socket, a separate climate zone with rear vents, sliding and reclining rear seats, a 40:20:40-split rear seat with a centre armrest and big lined door pockets round out the inclusions for rear passengers. The space on offer for six-footers such as us is excellent, with more than ample leg- and headroom, while three will fit comfortably as well – there’s way more room on offer than the CX-5.
The boot measures in at 615-litres, which is also very healthy in the segment – the CX-5 only offers 442L, for example. The rear seats fold flat and there’s several tie-down points, tabs to release the rear seats and even a dual-level boot floor. Underneath the floor is a space saver spare wheel. All 2021 Tiguan models come with an electric tailgate that can be opened by waving your foot underneath the bumper as well.
Service & Warranty: 7/10
Like other Volkswagen products in Australia, the Tiguan 110TSI Life comes with a five-year unlimited km warranty with one year of roadside assistance. Servicing the Tiguan Life is expensive at $3,069 for five years/75,000km (or $614 per service), though Volkswagen offers a five year service plan that can be purchased with the car for $2,200 that covers the same five years or 75,000km (averaging $440 a service). The service plan also includes five years of roadside assistance, which is standard on the Mazda CX-5.
Servicing the CX-5 over five years costs $1,939, but that’s to only 50,000km as the Mazda has shorter 10,000km service intervals – service it to 70,000km over the same five years as the Tiguan and the CX-5 costs $2,700. Not only that, you have to visit a dealership two times more than the VW as well.
The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.2/10
We’re definite fans of the updated 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life as its huge range of talents has been widened with this update with new standard equipment – including the whole safety suite as standard – as well as a light styling change for a more emotive look, more technology in the cabin and yet crucially, just as much practicality, driving fun and excellence under the bonnet as before.
Yet we think that the entry-level Life – thanks to its new list of standard equipment that doesn’t need looking into the options list – is so far the pick of the Tiguan range. Yes, the upper-spec cars are yet to arrive in the country and the larger 2.0-litre engine and all-wheel drive system will make them more fun to drive, but there’s so much on offer here with the 110TSI that for most people, it’s the Tiguan to buy.