My problem with car reviews is that too many of them only focus on lap times, or performance figures, or other metrics that look good on paper and make for an exciting video.
Sure, that is interesting, and may end up being the first reason you buy a car. But, in my experience, once you drop that cash, your priorities can change. After all, that 0-100km/h sprint time is probably going to be far less important for your daily driver if it’s attached to the world’s most uncomfortable vehicle. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back
And that’s why today, I’m not going to be reviewing a smartphone or a laptop or some smartwatch. Instead, I’ll be reviewing this bad boy:
This is the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace R-Line. It costs a little over RM200,000, it has a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine and is grey. But all of that isn’t that important to me. What I want to find out is what it’s like to live with, in this hot and humid paradise we call Malaysia.
And it starts with the interior
If I had to describe how the interior of the Tiguan was designed in one word, that word would be thoughtful. Everything in there feels like it was put there for a reason, and the more time I spent with the car, the more of these little things I started to notice. The dash, and door panels, for example are soft so if you do bump into them the car absorbs most of the impact. While the door handle itself is made from smooth hard plastic so it doesn’t wear as quickly.
The steering wheel comes with a flat bottom so you get a little more legroom. And, it’s also a telescoping wheel so you can adjust not only how high or low you want it to be, but also how close or far you want it from you. You have cubbies lined with felt on the dash and in the door pockets to tell you that’s where you put your noisy rattly belongings like keys, coins and tumblers.
There are separate sunglasses holders for both the front and rear passengers so each can reach it themselves. And pretty much every compartment in the Tiguan that opens out is damped so that they don’t slam open. The glove box even has an aircon vent to keep the stuff in there cool. You can also deploy two additional cup holders in the centre aisle, or tuck them away when you don’t need them.
This thoughtfulness also extends to the rear, where there’s a dedicated compartment under the boot to store your tonneau cover when not in use. Even one of the boot lights can be pulled out of its socket to double as a flashlight in case of an emergency.
There are also mood and practical lights all over the place. Along the doors, in the footwells, and the brightness for all of those can be adjusted to your liking. There are even lights under the side mirrors so you can see where you’re going when you approach the vehicle in the dark. And all of these soft touch materials, mood lighting and good finish add up to give the Tiguan a truly premium cabin feel.
If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of a built-in wireless charger in the rubberised phone compartment under the centre console. It seems like such a logical thing to do considering most flagship phones come with Qi support these days, but I guess the trade off is that you have two illuminated USB-C ports to hook your phone up to instead.
Nevertheless, there was never a time in the week that I spent with the Tiguan that I got into the cabin and was unhappy to be there. And if we’re talking about a vehicle that most will be making their daily driver, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
Now, let’s talk about the cabin tech
Most cars these days are making the switch to a fully digital dashes, and the VW Tiguan is no exception. In this R-Line model, you get two big screens, one in the centre console, and one in place of your instrument cluster. As someone who spends his days looking at and reviewing some of the best mobile screens in the market, I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the Tiguan’s screens.
The head unit in particular, was sharp and bright, with a smooth refresh rate. Even on bright sunny days, I had no issues with seeing what was on screen so that’s definitely a mark in the Tiguan’s favour. That said, navigating it by swiping around was a little finicky. It often struggled with determining if I was swiping across the panel or trying to tap on one of the icons so I often resorted to using the touch buttons along the side of the display for navigation instead.
And, I would like to point out that I actually like the fact that most of the important controls that you’d want to adjust while driving, like the climate control and controls on the steering wheel are buttons. Please, manufacturers everywhere. Stop getting rid of buttons, they have their place and are incredibly useful when you need to control something without looking at what you’re touching.
I don’t want the vehicles of tomorrow to just have one gigantic display in the middle without any physical controls unless you’ve perfected autonomous driving. Otherwise, that’s just a recipe for disaster.
The Tiguan also supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so for the most part that’s what I had up on screen. Interestingly, I didn’t encounter these same touch issues while in CarPlay so it could be more of a VW software issue than the screen itself.
In the digital cluster, that display is coated with a matte layer to help reduce glare. It’s effective, but it also makes the elements on screen far less sharp than the main infotainment unit.
Still, it’s a good enough screen, but I wasn’t very happy with the fact that I couldn’t have my Apple CarPlay navigation appear on the digital cluster. I could switch the music playback tab to pull from Spotify, but the navigation tab was hard locked into VW’s own proprietary navigation software. And I don’t know about you, but I definitely prefer Google Maps over any in-car navigation.
This feels like a pretty big oversight in my opinion, and I’d love to see it remedied in a future software update. Wait, do cars get software updates?
We need to talk about the 7-seater claims
So far, I think the Tiguan has done a really good job establishing itself as a modern, and maybe even expensive, place to be in. But there is one huge phant in the room that I would like to address before we proceed to how this thing drives. And that has to do with the Tiguan Allspace’s claims of being a 7-seater.
The reason why this is called the Tiguan Allspace is that it’s supposed to give you all the space–whether that’s cargo space or passengers. This means you can configure the Tiguan in a bunch of different ways. As a typical 5-seater, VW claims you can get about 700 litres of boot space. But if you need more, you can fold everything down to get 1,775 litres instead. If you fully deploy all 7 seats, you’re still left with about 230 litres of boot space, which is about the same as what you’d get from a typical hatchback.
However, I think that it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a proper 7-seater vehicle. That’s because the two seats in the rear are tiny, and you have basically no legroom at all. The floor comes right up to the bottom of the seat so you’re sitting in almost this half-squat if you’re a fully grown adult. At best, I think you should consider this a 5+2-seater with the rear row reserved for really short trips to the mamak or for children.
But, if you’re fine just taking three people out with you on a drive, the VW Tiguan is an absolute peach to drive on the road. Since it’s a keyless system with an electronic handbrake, I can leave the house, walk right up to the locked car, get in it, start the engine and go, without even thinking about it. Everything just works as long as I have the key with me. The lights are also automatic, and there are even cornering lights that switch on so you can see where you’re turning.
There’s also an electric tailgate, which opens really quickly, I might add. But the weird thing is that while I could open the tailgate from the driver’s seat thanks to a button in the door, I couldn’t find a way to close it. Which meant I had to get out of the car and hit the button at the back. And while that’s just a little troublesome for me, I can see how this might become a bigger issue for those with mobility impairments.
There’s also no foot sensor to open the boot lid so you will need to press a button or use the key. But, a nice thing is that you can set how high you want the boot to open by holding down the release button.
Being a 2010 Myvi owner, I’ve never experienced such luxurious automation in a daily driver, and I have to say, I could absolutely get used to it. One interesting thing I noticed was how there seemed to be two separate inputs for locking and unlocking the car. To unlock, it’s simple, just grab the handle. But if you want to lock it again, you need to make sure your hand isn’t around the handle when you touch the sensor at the end of it.
But enough about that, let’s talk about how it drives
I won’t beat around the bush: despite being called a “Compact Crossover SUV” the Tiguan Allspace is a big car. But sitting in it, you don’t get a sense of this enormity at all. The steering is incredibly light, and the Tiguan darts around traffic and through tight bends like it was no bigger than my Myvi. And then there’s the power. Oh it’s effortless when you pull out to overtake someone or just want a quick head start at a set of lights. The car even gives a satisfying little growl when you bury the go-faster pedal.
But all of this performance and smooth, effortless driving comes with a small asterisk attached to it. And that’s the DSG, or Direct Shift Gearbox. Now, I’m not going to go into detail explaining what it is and how it works, because if I’m being honest I’m no expert. But, the gist of it is that it’s a dual-clutch gearbox. And what that means is that it won’t behave like your typical automatic transmission. That means there’s a bit of an adjustment period.
For starters, if you’re on a slope or a hill, the gearbox won’t hold you there the way your typical automatic transmission will. In fact, your car will start rolling down the hill if you don’t engage the auto hold function. By the way, I would 100% recommend that you leave the Auto Hold on because rolling backwards down a hill when you lift your foot off the brake is quite a terrifying experience. Even then, when you’re ready to set off, you’ve got to have conviction when you step on the throttle—this gearbox doesn’t like the weak of heart.
In a way, it’s kind of like a manual transmission, but you won’t have to do any shifting and there isn’t a clutch. If that sounds scary…it really shouldn’t, because once you get used to its quirks, it’s just lovely in the city. The gear shifts when you’re driving around town are smooth, and sometimes you don’t even realise that it’s shifting between its seven available speeds.
I will note, however, that the DSG starts to misbehave a little bit when you’re creeping through traffic or in really slow-moving scenarios. If you’re crawling between 0 to like 10km/h the gearbox will jitter and feel very uncomfortable sending power to all four wheels. It’s a pretty common characteristic that I’ve noticed even back in the day when driving my sister’s VW Polo, so I’m kinda surprised they haven’t found a fix for this just yet. Because it’s a mark in the Tiguan’s otherwise flawless driving dynamics.
Of course, I can’t really talk about the drive without also touching on the ride, noise, vibration and harshness, all of which I think the Tiguan R-Line scores really high marks on.
Driving along at highway speeds, you don’t get much in the way of wind noise making it really easy to not realise you’re already breaking the speed limit.
But, there is quite a lot of road noise. Amin’s theory is that it’s down to the tyres, which are Pirelli Scorpion Verdes, and they are more of a dual-sport design, which probably means they aren’t as fully optimised for tarmac as they could have been. My theory is that sometimes we just have bad road surfaces, and those will definitely generate more road noise than the freshly paved kind.
The ride is fantastic too. It’s supple without feeling numb, so you can feel the little bumps and texture of the road through your fingers and butt, but the big bumps don’t rock you either. I have to say that I’m impressed with how planted the Tiguan feels despite being such a tall car. Even when I was having some fun in the twisty roads around Kuala Kubu Bharu, the car didn’t feel like it was going to topple over or lose grip.
I’ve seen reviews complaining about body roll on the Tiguan, but I honestly wasn’t bothered by it. Maybe it becomes a problem if you compare it to a highly strung sports car, but if you want a vehicle to have some fun in, I think the Tiguan R-Line did pretty well. There was one thing I was quite torn on, regarding the way the Tiguan R-Line was set up on the road. When driving, I loved the way the seats held you in place, with the wings on the back and bottom fitting snugly around my bum.
There’s also plenty of adjustment that you can tweak via the electric controls on the side. This even includes lumbar support, which felt fantastic on long rides. You can also save up to four preset seat and mirror configurations, in case this ends up being a shared vehicle. But I gotta say, the seats may be a little too sporty for a daily driver. You know those wings I love so much? Well, the ones at the base of the seat end up stabbing me in the butt every single time I get out of the car, which is not a fun experience.
Speaking of driving though, the Tiguan R-Line has a couple of driving modes which you can switch between via a rotating dial in the centre console. It’ll let you tweak settings between various road surfaces, and also more specific settings if you dive into the custom menu. Since I didn’t take it off roading, I spent my entire review period in road mode, but I did mess around with the settings in the Individual drive mode.
Honestly, I didn’t notice a huge difference between the modes in every setting except the drive setting. Switching between comfort or normal, and sport mode, drastically changed the way the engine, throttle and gearbox behaved.
For my recommendation, if you’re going to be driving your daily commutes, leave the Drive in either normal or comfort. Only switch to sport if you’re ready to give it a spanking because this mode really sharpens up throttle response which makes driving smoothly a bit more challenging. Besides, you can always kick it into Sport if you want to overtake someone by simply pulling down on the gear lever when you’re on the go.
But now I need to be the harbinger of bad news because as much as I enjoyed my time driving around in the Tiguan, there’s one thing I absolutely hate about it, and a couple of things I was really disappointed not to find in it.
Where are the autonomous safety features?
Automatic start-stop without the ability to keep the air conditioning cool has to be the stupidest car tech thing to be introduced in the Malaysian market…ever. And this Tiguan R-Line unfortunately comes equipped with it. Sure, it works well to start and stop the car without you really needing to worry about it, but I just hate how the air conditioning stops working when you’re trapped in start-stop traffic in 30-degree weather.
I almost always disable it with the button on the centre console, but the problem is when I turn off the engine and start it back up again, the feature automatically turns itself back on again. I’ll grant that my one complaint so far is more of a personal gripe. For all I know, everyone else enjoys sweating in our eternal summer heat. But I think the one thing you and I will probably be able to agree on is: Where are the safety features on the Tiguan R-Line?
Besides ESC, there really isn’t much else to keep you from getting into an accident. There is no lane departure warning, lane keep assist, no autonomous braking, or any of those modern safety features I would have expected in a RM200,000 car. Sure, there are 6 airbags and something called an “automatic post collision brake system” which is undoubtedly useful after you get into an accident. But I was kind of hoping to avoid that as much as possible.
Heck, you don’t even get blind spot detection on the Tiguan! I don’t know if you know this VW, but I can’t be trusted on the road. I’m a Myvi driver, and there are more of my kind on our roads than you think. Speaking of Myvis, by the way, even something like the 2018 Perodua Myvi has more of these safety features than the Tiguan Allspace R-Line.
So, what was this Tiguan like to live with?
Well, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the VW Tiguan. It was so much fun to drive on the daily, and from my research, it looks like pretty good value for a 7 seater AWD vehicle too. Yes, I did clown on the 7 seats a little, but you can technically fit seven people in here. I even ended up liking the way the VW Tiguan Allspace R-Line looks, which is something I never thought I’d say about a Crossover SUV.
While reserved, the car’s styling definitely gives it some presence on the road—almost like something a baddie would drive in an action movie. The proportions look just right, with these 19” wheels and the sleek grey colourway. It also looks like it has the potential to age really well over the years.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Tiguan Allspace Highline because I think that car just looks super goofy—almost like a caricature of what a “mom SUV” would look like. I’m just disappointed it isn’t more well-equipped in the safety department. I would have liked at least a blind spot warning system considering how long this car is.
It’s a shame, but not something that’s difficult for VW to update in the future.