Volkswagen Tiguan TSI R-Line | Hot-hatch On Stilts

BY Azfar Hashim

What looks like an SUV but acts like a hot-hatch? This one…

Photos by Joel Tam

You crave power and space at the same time, and realistically speaking, that is a tall order; because there’s nothing in the market right now – with a price tag below $200k with COE – that has both. In fact, SUVs that are rocket fast and can give hot-hatches a really hard time are the Porsche Macan S and Mercedes-AMG GLC43; and they’re priced at $327k and $298k respectively.

A little steep for most, I agree. But what if I tell you there’s an alternative that you could consider?

This particular alternative option begins with a price tag of $189,900, with COE. Sounds compelling, eh? Then lets go on with the sort of numbers it churns out: 220 bhp, 350 Nm worth of torque, zero to hero in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 220 km/h. Once upon a time, these numbers were exclusively reserved only for hot-hatches, but oh how times have changed.

For skeptics out there, it may sound as though Volkswagen is pulling a fast one (pun intended) — considering the 1,862 kg kerbweight and 4Motion four-wheel drive system, how on earth could it be on the tail of a Golf GTI or A250?

Well, magic.

Kidding. The Tiguan comes with the same engine seen in the Golf GTI, but comes with a different gearbox; if its hot-hatch sibling had a 6-speed DSG, this hot Tiguan gets a 7-speed. At this point you may doubt my explanation and even have the impression Volkswagen paid me brilliantly to utter this little bit of PR gibberish, but I assure you that’s how it is. I’m not paid a single cent to say that, mind you…

You shift from P to S, weld the accelerator flat into the floorboard and the Tiguan surges forward like a bat out of cave; I’ve squeezed my brains trying to give you readers an idea of how fast this thing is, but alas, this is the best I could come up with despite being wide awake while writing this, after two cups of coffee. If you have doubts and reckon I’m exaggerating, need I remind you again the Tiguan has the same engine as the Golf GTI. However at the same time, I would not lie that you could feel a little bit of resistant at initial move off (due to weight, what else?), but this is something the average driver would easily miss.

Head-up Display (HUD), ala fighter jets, comes standard for the R-Line

Head-up Display (HUD), ala fighter jets, comes standard for the R-Line

It’s quite exciting seeing the Tiguan climb up the counter, because at the same time, it amazes you as to how far automotive engineering has come. Ten years ago, no 2.0 or 2.4-litre SUV could ever outrun a hot-hatch; and now, you have this.

That’s not saying it wants to be driven in a manner that would jeopardize your driving license all the time. Because when you take things easy with the family in tow while in Normal mode, the Tiguan exposes its refined side that you could easily mistake it for a BMW X5. The suspension, although taut, does a good job of ironing out road undulations while at the same time, both wind and engine noises are well dampened for better cabin comfort. Tyre noise does intrude though, and this is due to the fact that it’s fitted with 255/45 R-19 Pirelli Scorpion Verde rubbers that’s designed for both tarmac and light off-roading duties — premium comfort-biased tyres should eliminate this issue.

Choose the surface you're driving over, and the Tiguan adapts accordingly

Choose the surface you're driving over, and the Tiguan adapts accordingly

Keeping in mind this is an SUV, the Tiguan handles rather brilliantly even at high-speed. A weekend spent up North showed how planted it is even at high speed, and when taken along b-roads (from Ayer Keroh to Ayer Hitam), it hugs corners confidently without any sign of understeer; in fact, steering feel and response are highly positive. Its anchors are well sorted, but after some hard ‘work out’, you can progressively feel it stressing out.

The Tiguan’s cabin deserves praise as it is solidly put together on top of the well-labeled control buttons. The seats — particularly the front pair — are supportive and come with adjustments that enhance comfort. And just like Audi, Volkswagen has adopted the virtual cockpit for the Tiguan too; I’m glad to report the graphic is sharp here and I don’t need to squint my eyes.

So there you have it, a German SUV that is reviewed in the context of a hot-hatch. After all, it has the heart of one, handles like one (compared to its peers, that is) and quite simply, behaves like one. But the best bit here is knowing that it has dual characters that allows you to have loads of fun one minute, and switch it to a lovely family carrier the next. Hence, if the Macan S and GLC43 are both too far-fetched for now, you can remain contented by buying this one.

Rear air-con vents provide additional comfort for occupants

Rear air-con vents provide additional comfort for occupants