A subtle midlife facelift to the practical Volkswagen Tiguan disguises more useful improvements inside. In this review, we look at the most affordable Tiguan of all – the front-wheel-drive 110TSI Life.
The second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan rightfully pocketed a swag of awards in the years after its launch in Australia. It delivered a mix of useful space, Golf-esque ride and handling, a suite of impressive engines, and a handsome if rather pragmatic design inside and out.
Now, it’s facelift time – so, what does the ‘Mk 2.5’ bring to this popular midsize SUV? Well, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan carries over more than it changes, but there are some key changes to the structure of the range, and some handy tech changes that make this VW easier to live with.
The old Trendline, Comfortline and Highline variants are gone, replaced by new global trim badges, kicking off with the $39,690 Tiguan 110TSI Life, which is basically an amalgamation of the previous 110TSI Trendline base model and the mid-spec 110TSI Comfortline.
Buy the Life and you’re able to add a $5,000 leather-lined Luxury package, and you can also walk up to the $43,690 132TSI Life, which has a beefier engine and all wheel drive.
After that, it’s a step to the $50,790 petrol 162TSI and $52,290 diesel 147TDI Elegance grades, which replace the old Highlines, and finally, the popular R-Line models have been created as their own trim ($53,790 petrol, $55,290 diesel).
So, as before, it’s a big range – everything from the 1.4-litre base model on test here to a Golf GTI-powered R-Line grade. And next year, there will be a fire-breathing Tiguan R to crown the range with a performance hero.
But what is life like at the entry point of the Tiguan lineup?
One of the reasons the Volkswagen Tiguan has been so successful in Australia is because it is basically an enlarged Golf with more space and a taller ride height.
That’s not a bad thing to be. Sharing the VW Group’s MQB platform with the Golf (and a huge host of other models), the Tiguan arrives with taut suspension, good body control, agile handling and a comfortable, composed demeanour out of the box.
There is a bit of variation in these attributes as you work your way up the range, of course. The Life grades, on their sensible 18-inch wheels and chunky tyres, deliver the best and most comfortable ride quality. However, even the fancier Elegance and sportier R-Line still ride quite well, despite low-profile tyres, thanks to their standard adaptive dampers.
Trick dampers aren’t found on the Life, and nor are drive modes on the 110TSI front-drive version, but you don’t really need them. The fixed suspension and steering settings are pretty much right.
Still distinctly cab-forward in design, the Tiguan is easy to see out of and the intuitive steering ratio makes it easy to plot a line through corners. Tyre grip is good and you can push this SUV harder than you’d need to on a country road.
Possibly the biggest choice to make is the engine you buy. The entry-level grade uses a small but impressive engine – the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder used extensively throughout the Golf and Audi A3 lineups.
The outputs of 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque do look modest on paper but the engine is punchier than you’d imagine, and it will be enough for most people. But if you routinely fill the car up with people and stuff – or if you drive on slippery surfaces – it may be worth moving further up the range.
The optional 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol with AWD represents $4,000 well spent if you plan to take the Tiguan camping or on ski trips, and the additional flexibility of the larger two-litre motor does help on country roads.
The even torquier 162kW/350Nm petrol and 147kW/400Nm diesel available on the up-spec Elegance and R-Line tiers are genuinely punchy units with a performance edge.
All these engines make use of dual-clutch automatic gearboxes on the Tiguan which have been refined to the point where we think they do a good job of staying out of your way in town, while delivering crisp and quick shifts on a country road.
It’s a quiet and calm environment inside the Tiguan while you’re on the go, as well, thanks to decent levels of noise insulation and Volkswagen’s more sophisticated rear suspension setup.
Unlike a Skoda Karoq 110TSI, or even an Audi Q2, the Tiguan has a proper multi-link independent rear suspension even on the base model, which keeps the back end settled and quiet while delivering more agility in the corners.
This factor also makes the Tiguan 110TSI a noticeable step up in sophistication from the smaller T-Roc 110TSI Style.
For the 2021 facelift, Volkswagen have also endowed the Tiguan with a generous safety suite as standard. Now branded IQ Drive, the suite includes forwards and reversing AEB, adaptive cruise control, strong lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
By contrast to the Tiguan’s at-times sparkling driving dynamics, its interior errs much more to the conservative side of cabin design.
In fact, aside from optional grey leather on the Elegance trim, every other Tiguan interior is a sea of grey and black trims. It’s certainly not as adventurous as the new Hyundai Tucson, or even the Toyota RAV4.
That said, the Tiguan’s interior doesn’t shout. It’s calming and unfussy to look at, and quality is generally quite high. The base model isn’t especially premium, but the stitched cloth seats, leather steering wheel and shifter and metal accents are all very presentable.
Shown in image: the Tiguan 110TSI Life with Luxury Package. We tested a vehicle without this package.
That said, the Tiguan is a bit hardier inside than its siblings in the Volkswagen lineup. You do get yielding soft materials on the dash and parts of the front doors, but there are ‘family-friendly’ hard plastics, per se, on most other surfaces.
Layout-wise, the 2021 Tiguan will be totally familiar to anybody upgrading from a three or four year old model – but a closer inspection shows that the cabin tech has come in for replacement with newer screens and software.
There’s still an eight-inch touchscreen standard on the Life variants, but it runs a newer version of Volkswagen’s infotainment system. Navigation is now standard, and so is wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto – a real boon.
Volkswagen have also made the Digital Cockpit Pro screen ahead of the driver standard kit, and this continues to work very well, allowing a full map to be placed in your line of sight. You can also customise the digital gauges to show rich media and trip information. There’s still no DAB radio, but the standard stereo renders music quite crisply.
The seats in the Life models are upholstered in fairly hardy cloth fabric but it feels high quality and in summer, it won’t heat up like leather. That said, the easy-clean nature of leather seats is attractive, and you get these if you tick the $5,000 Luxury Package (along with front seat heating, electric adjustment and memory, plus a panoramic sunroof), or if you step up to the circa-$50,000 Elegance grades.
One issue Volkswagen hasn’t addressed is the Tiguan’s unusual driving position. The steering wheel is angled a little too shallowly, like a minivan, and without the thigh angle adjustment of the optional leather pews, the driver’s seat is angled a little too forward. Because of this, we don’t find the Tiguan as comfortable as some rivals. Try it for yourself and it may suit.
Storage continues to be a highlight for the Tiguan, though, with large, flock-lined door bins, a commodious cupholder area, a bin beneath an adjustable armrest between the seats, and storage ahead of the gear shifter. Plus, the cloth-seated Life gets a secret bin underneath the passenger seat.
Moving backwards, buyers continue to benefit from the substantial growth of the Tiguan in second-generation form. A seven-seat Allspace model is available (though it hasn’t yet been facelifted), but if all you need are five seats, the standard Tiguan offers huge space for kids and adults alike in the second row.
Headroom, legroom and shoulder room are all very generous for this segment. Air vents, an armrest and big door bins are all standard, though the door skins are hard plastic back here.
Sadly, Volkswagen have removed the previous Tiguan Comfortline’s nifty aeroplane-style tray tables back here. These have been replaced with cheap-looking additional seatback pockets.
But an electric tailgate is now standard – quite unusual for a sub-$40,000 midsize SUV. That door opens promptly to reveal a substantial 615 litre boot, though this measurement is taken when the sliding rear seats are pushed forward. But any way you look at it, the Tiguan has a big boot – more than enough space for prams or golf bags. Plus, you get a space saver spare wheel.
The Tiguan is relatively economical in 1.4-litre 110TSI form, and it has a good warranty – but it is afflicted by very expensive servicing costs relative to its competitors.
That’s unless you stump up for a Care Plan when you buy the Tiguan. Basically, if you pre-pay your servicing, you get a huge discount compared to paying every time you turn up to have this SUV serviced – that’s every 15,000km or every year, whichever comes first.
The Tiguan 110TSI’s first five services are priced at $389, $637, $379, $1,285, and $379, for a five-year total of $3,069. That’s an average of $614 per year, which is about double what some rivals will cost to service.
However, if you purchase an up-front five-year Care Plan, the cost is $2,200 – or a huge saving of $869. A three-year Care Plan can be selected for $1,200, which represents a much smaller saving of $205. Care Plans are transferable to new owners.
Like other Volkswagens, the Tiguan is covered by a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia.
Fuel consumption for the 110TSI was reasonable in our testing. We found this midsize SUV used around 8.5L/100km in combined driving, which is good for the class. On the highway, you’ll do better – but if you’ll spend a lot of time doing country miles, the 147TDI diesel would be a solid investment. We note that the 110TSI requires 95-octane premium petrol as a minimum.
The Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Life is a faithful family workhorse.
Its dynamics give more than a taste of European sophistication. There’s a small but impressive engine at play here, alongside great ride and handling that make this midsize SUV far better than average to drive.
And while the cabin is not especially exciting, it’s comfortable and well-made. It gets the job done easily with a big back seat and boot.
Plus, tech changes for 2021 – standard wireless CarPlay, standard digital gauges, standard power tailgate – all help to make this family SUV even more liveable.
Variant tested 110TSI LIFE
Key specs (as tested)
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