Seven-seater VW Tiguan Allspace makes life easy
HOW come Volkswagen is selling a seven-seat SUV here for less than the sticker on the five-seater version? It's to do, in a roundabout way, with European buyers getting cleaner, thriftier cars.
For now, you can no longer buy a base model five-seater VW Tiguan 110TSi in Australia - it will return next year (see Better get it right, below) - and the cheapest is the next grade up, the 132TSi at $42,490.
If you just need a front-drive city shuttle, you can get the entry-level seven-seater Tiguan Allspace for less than $41K. For review purposes, we're in the next grade up too.
We're testing the mid-spec Allspace 132TSi Comfortline 4Motion, at $45,490 a $3000 premium over the five-seater Comfortline.
It runs VW's 2.0-litre turbo (132kW/320Nm) matched exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.
The Allspace adds 109mm of wheelbase and 215mm of overall length to the five-seater. Structurally, and size-wise, it's almost identical to subsidiary brand Skoda's seven-seater Kodiaq, our 2017 Car of the Year.
Comfortline spec includes eight-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity (with access to voice control), remote operation via smartphone or tablet, navigation, three USB ports, tri-zone aircon (with row two vents and controls), chilled glovebox, LED headlights that illuminate a corner as you turn the wheel, automatic parking and power tailgate.
The ride, on 18-inch wheels, is pretty firm and fidgety in town. The base 110TSi, on 17-inchers and taller tyres, will be more comfortable.
At highway speeds, suspension compliance improves and the 132TSi irons out a rough road calmly and efficiently. The Hankook tyres are exceptionally quiet, too.
You sit deep in the Tiguan, so it can feel bigger and bulkier than it is. Firm, supportive seating is typical VW, there's handy storage all over the place.
Row two has ample legroom. It's split 60-40, with each side adjustable, and there are flip up tables on the front seat backs plus a 12V outlet.
VW correctly calls the Allspace a "5+2", because the two fold-up rear seats are suitable only for young kids or very short trips and access is tight. The larger section of row two is on the kerbside, so it takes some muscle to fold and slide it to let kids in and out of the back stalls.
Fold the third row and the boot extends to almost two metres. With all seats in use, you can still fit a few bags in the back.
Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, braking from 10km/h and under in reverse and lane keeping are standard. Curtain airbags cover all rows. A $1600 option bundles adaptive cruise (with a low speed crawl function), adaptive LED headlights, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
If your usual route of town is via the airport, the 110TSi will do the job just fine, and at $40,990 it's a bargain. If regular highway drives and/or the occasional dirt road excursion with a full load of people and gear are on the agenda, the 132TSi is worth the extra spend.
VW's 2.0 turbo is getting on, as evidenced by noticeable turbo lag when moving off from rest, accompanied by the usual momentary hesitation from the transmission. Once rolling, it's a tractable, refined engine.
Dynamic ability is as good as a seven-seater SUV gets - and the Allspace's handling is more agile and responsive than most five seaters thanks to its relatively light 1735kg, the AWD apportioning drive fore and aft, disciplined body control, accurate, well-weighted steering and strong brakes.
I know I can't enjoy a real car any more because I have to carry too many children. At least this one is a pleasure to drive.
I need an extra couple of seats only occasionally, so I can get away with something lighter, more efficient and stylish than a full-size seven-seater SUV.
HYUNDAI SANTA FE FROM $46,000
This buys the 147kW 2.2 turbo diesel/eight-speed auto/all-wheel drive Active. Big grunt, superb quality and comfort, decent handling and loaded with driver assist safety tech. Five years' warranty.
SKODA KODIAQ 132TSi FROM $42,990
Same as the Tiguan underneath, with Skoda styling and extra standard equipment, including nine airbags, adaptive cruise, leather/Alcantara upholstery, side window blinds, door protectors and 19-inch alloys. Five years' warranty.
As a family freighter, the Tiguan Allspace has everything you need to make life easy and keep the little varmints safe, entertained and happy. As a drive, the VW/Skoda twins are also the best seven-seaters out there.
BETTER GET IT RIGHT
Europe's new standard for measuring fuel efficiency is the Worldwide Harmonised Light Duty Vehicles Test Procedure - a gobful that thankfully is abbreviated to WLTP.
The previous test, known as NEDC and still used in Australia, didn't accurately reflect real world conditions, was rorted by car companies and produced optimistic fuel numbers.
Don't expect to see WLTP here any time soon. It's based on European standard petrol with a sulphur content of 10 parts per million (PPM). Our unleaded contains up to 150PPM, and the federal government has shown nil interest in forcing oil companies to clean it up.
Earlier in the year, several European makers, including VW, suspended production of right-hand drive models so as to supply WLTP cars to left-hand drive markets.
Among the suspended models was the base five-seater Tiguan, which will return in 2019. For now, the cheapest five-seater is the $42,490 132TSi. The Allspace seven-seater, imported from Mexico, is unaffected by WLTP issues and in entry 110TSi grade (1.4-litre turbo/six-speed twin-clutch auto and front-drive) is $40,990.
VW TIGUAN ALLSPACE 132TSi
PRICE $45,490 (reasonable)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5-year warranty (until Dec 31; long) $2752 for 4 years/60,000km (expensive)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 132kW/320Nm (average)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, auto braking in reverse, lane keep assist (average)
THIRST 7.9L/100km (good)
SPARE Space-saver (not good)
CARGO 700L (five-seater mode; big)