VW Tiguan R-Line

VW Tiguan lr

By Tim Saunders

My family and I belong to a different age. Smartphones and social media only reinforce this fact. With three children aged 10 and under we anticipated this crisis wouldn’t land on our doorstep for a few more years yet. Wrong. This vulnerable age group are already having these damaging devices thrust upon them. Not our children. Hoodie-clad youngsters walking to school stoop as they hunch over their screens. They slump on park benches with heads bowed as they check social media. It depresses me, let alone them. Innocent childhoods ripped away without a care. How can parents do this to their offspring? And so called experts cannot fathom why so many people are unhappy these days. God help us all.

Against this backdrop car manufacturers embrace this by now cheap technology and roll it out into every single vehicle they produce. Swipe the information system to operate the sat nav, radio etc. Spread those germs. I haven’t got the patience for it. Give me traditional more satisfying switches.

And so I sit inside the VW Tiguan where even the heating is operated through swiping. Save me. You have to be precise with this stuff, too otherwise it just won’t work. This is a problem when driving because it takes your attention away from driving. And that is not good. My wife has to deal with it for me. There is such a thing as driving without due care and attention, you know.

In Hampshire alone deaths caused by drivers using mobile phones include a school crossing patrol officer and a cyclist, the latter was one of my wife’s students. We all do well to remember that cars are killing machines. The more basic the vehicle the better it is, I believe. My Fiesta has no fancy reversing camera, parking aids or cruise control and I am in complete control. It is the most basic form of motoring yet because my senses are heightened, it is, I argue, the safest. I am not relying on temperamental technology such as auto hold switches to prevent the car from rolling backwards when on a hill but on my own ability to work the clutch and the gears together in harmony etc. Don’t get me started on the joys of parallel parking. As each year passes George Orwell’s 1984 becomes more of a reality. And we all follow like sheep. Don’t get me wrong technology does a lot of good in the world but it has its place. Forget this at your peril.  

As I curse this turn of events in the nearly £33,000 Tiguan, Ken Dodd sings Happiness, oh happiness. It’s the first time I’ve actually listened to this song all the way through; I really should have done that before I spoke to him a few years ago. I smile. How true, that success in life should be measured by happiness instead of money.

But there are some good things about this SUV. The wheel base is wide enough to evade the irritating speed humps on some of the local roads to my dentist... The raised height is helpful and it’s an attractive car from the outside helped by the chrome edged windows although this doesn’t quite match up on the passenger side. There’s a large panoramic glass sunroof; the roof slides open above the front seats and this roof is similar to the one in the £201,000 Bentley Flying Spur I have driven. In between these two vehicles I’ve used my 19-year-old Ford Fiesta (so that the five of us could go on a family outing – the Bentley saloon only had four seats). Yet I cannot help feeling that I have come down in the world when sitting in the Tiguan. Obviously I felt this and expect to feel this in my Fiesta but the R-line Tiguan looks the part so I expect a little bit more from it. For me it’s the driver’s seat that is the biggest let down because it does feel cheap despite it being electrically adjustable. It’s just not as supportive as I need it to be. The interior is ok and everything fits together as it should but there are some areas around the dash and the gearbox where the quality could be improved and should be on a car of this price.

This is a 7-speed DSG automatic that can be driven like a manual thanks to paddleshifts either side of the steering wheel. But for me this isn’t comparable to a traditional manual; it’s lazy driving that takes away the fun of making those gear changes. My parents had a few automatics when I was growing up and these gearboxes typically lasted 100,000 miles and then packed up costing £3,000 to replace. Goodness knows what the cost is now. I go back to my humble 19-year old Fiesta with its five-speed gearbox and 111,000 miles on the clock. If this box breaks it is considerably cheaper to replace (although it would inevitably cost more than the car itself). But we do live in a throw away society with consumers not keeping things for long so perhaps this isn’t a problem for them as it would be for me. However, this is no longer an acceptable approach as we all become more aware of our precious environment. Think of the tonnes of eyewatering carbon emissions that are produced in the manufacture of just one single vehicle.  

These days I expect petrol cars to return over 50mpg but this 1.5-litre VW returns 42mpg over the course of the test. Am I being too harsh? After all this is the sporty R-line and high torque etc. effects efficiency.

The Tiguan's numberplate ends in BFF. Best Friend Forever my daughters reliably inform me. No, unfortunately it is not for me. When all is said and done I struggle with being told that we must behave in a certain way and then discover that few are actually doing so. This goes for both Covid and the environment.

There are petrol engines that are really efficient and surely these are the ones that should be being used in cars now. If it is not possible to have both performance and efficiency then surely manufacturers must make the right choice.

“I like this car,” pipes up Harriett (10). “It’s comfortable. I like the fact that there are five seats and it looks nice.” That’s me told.

“The driver’s seat is actually getting more comfortable,” I tell my wife. And yes, it is true that as time passes the car does grow on you in a positive way but time also allows me to discover another negative. I engage cruise control and ask it to stick to 50mph. We’re on the M27 where there is a strict 50mph speed limit for miles and miles on end it seems. I take my eye off the speed and concentrate on the road at which point the system takes it upon itself to automatically amend the speed to 60mph increasing the speed accordingly. Then on a trip back from Portland along the A354 it reckons there’s a 90mph speed limit. This really is the biscuit. What is going on with this car? This is just infuriating. So, for me the negatives outweigh the positives.

But then I drive the Fiat 500X, a competitor to the Tiguan and despite its characterful looks and its manual gearbox it only has a 48 litre fuel tank compared to the 64 litre one in the Tiguan. The Fiat will travel 300 miles if you’re lucky compared to 500 in the VW. The cruise control in the Tiguan is more sophisticated than the Fiat because it measures the distance of the vehicle in front and brakes or accelerates accordingly. So the Tiguan has a distinct advantage here.

Facts at a glance

Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line
Price: £32,825
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
0 to 60mph: 9.2secs
Top speed: 126mph
Economy: over 42mpg
Power: 150bhp
CO2: 165g/km

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