Earlier in the week, Volkswagen New Zealand extended the team at DriveLife the opportunity to join them in Auckland for the launch of the new Volkswagen Golf and the refreshed Tiguan.

The Golf is a legacy product for Volkswagen, holding a modern status similar to the Beetle nameplate.  Since arriving to the world in 1974, the humble Golf has evolved into Europe’s ultimate all-rounder, with this current model being the 8th iteration – the Mark 8. Over the years, the Golf has adapted to suit the needs of a variety of motorists, sweeping up several awards for different generations along the way.  The result is record sales, with over 35 million Golfs sold. 

The Tiguan, on-the-other hand, is currently Volkswagen’s most popular model. We’ve heard of the phrase, ‘one-born every minute’ – try 35 seconds, if you’re Volkswagen. That’s allegedly how frequently they sell a Tiguan around the globe. In its short lifespan, the Tiguan has sold over 6 million units. It’s a sign of the times – people love SUVs. 

Naturally, Volkswagen New Zealand is going to make some noise about their most successful models.   

Beginning the day at Auckland’s QT hotel, we started with a presentation of the new models from Volkswagen NZ staff.  Pro-tip, if you’re going to hold a conference, bring donuts. Volkswagen did. 

The line-up

There are two models of the new Golf available, the base model – the Golf Life – replacing the Comfortline, and the top-spec model, the Golf R-line. The Life starts at $37,990, while the R-line starts at $47,990. 

The 2WD Tiguan range mirrors the Golf line-up – there’s the Life, which starts at $46,990, and the R-line for $55,990.  Moving into the 4WD range, the range starts with the Tiguan Style at $59,990, graduating up to the Tiguan 4WD R-line at $68,990. 

The exterior changes on the new Golf are immediately noticeable. The front-end has been freshly sculpted, featuring new bumpers, bonnet, and LED headlights which are connected by a chrome strip. Around the back, there’s new LED tail lights, fresh bumpers with (fake) quad exhausts. The new model also wears the latest badging, spelling out the model on the rear.  The changes aren’t all aesthetic, as the drag coefficient of the new car has dropped to 0.275cd from 0.3cd.   

Despite the changes, the shape and design are still recognisably a Golf. The proportions are roughly the same too.

Similar treatments have been extended to the Tiguan, but on a smaller scale. Most notably on the front, where the Tiguan wears new bumpers, grille and LED headlights. Again, profile and proportions are the same.

The interior of the new Golf has undergone an extensive redesign, whereas the Tiguan’s updates are more modest. The new Golf has a different layout, wearing a bunch of new and premium materials. The Tiguan’s layout is similar to before, but with a material refresh. The biggest item on the menu is tech – a whole bunch of it. 

There’s new infotainment screens, featuring Volkswagen’s latest MIB 3 software. There are new steering wheels, featuring haptic touch controls. The climate controls have been adjusted in both vehicles; the Golf gets a dash integrated touch slider, while the Tiguan gets a new haptic touch interface. The new Golf also features shift-by-wire tech too. 

Both cars also have Volkswagen’s Active Info Display “Pro” available, which is a configurable digital dash (like Audi’s virtual cockpit). It’s standard for the Golf line-up, and available in the Tiguan from the 2WD R-line upwards. 

R-line models also add a few extras, like wider infotainment screens, and wireless phone projection for Apple Carplay and Android Auto. 

It also wouldn’t be 2021 without some disco-lighting. Base model cars (the Life) have 10-colour ambient lighting, whereas R-line variants have 30 colour options – I can’t even name that many colours, so perhaps I should get a Life (get it?).  

Speaking of life, safety is naturally a high priority. The new Golf receives a five-star ANCAP rating, largely thanks to a smattering of safety tech. The new Golf features autonomous emergency braking with blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, driver fatigue warning, cyclist and pedestrian’s recognition plus Volkswagen’s lane assist tech, which pairs adaptive cruise and lane keep assist. The Mk8 also features rear side airbags for the first time. 

As for powerplants, both Golf’s are powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. This is paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox, replacing the DSG gearbox.

As for the Tiguan, 2WD variants share the same engine as the Golf line-up, but use a 6-speed DSG gearbox. Move into the 4WD range, and performance gets a bit more generous with a 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 132kW/320Nm on the 4WD Style and 162kW/350Nm with the 4WD R-Line. These latter two are paired with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. 

How about electrification? Not yet.

In fact, Volkswagen NZ confirmed that there was going to be a Mk9 Golf range in the future, and likely another entire product cycle before the Golf sees electrification.

What about plug-in hybrids and mild hybrid variants? They will come, but it’s not clear on when yet. Look beyond 24 months. 

The subject of EVs seemed a tad peevish for Volkswagen NZ. They are already leveraging the offices in Wolfsburg to bring the ID range into New Zealand, yet the Europeans are hoovering up the majority. Without delving into too much, Volkswagen NZ would love more EVs.  However, due to factors beyond their control – some reasons involving supply and some are geo-political – New Zealand doesn’t fall high on the priorities list.   

What about the Golf GTI and R? Yes – they’re coming. Woohoo!

The Golf GTI arrives in May, and the Golf R in November. There’s even going to be a Tiguan R – using the same powertrain as found in the Golf R – which arrives in December. Kiwis have a taste for high-performance vehicles, so a Tiguan R should go down a treat with the young-at-heart.  

Powering the GTI is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. Unlike the standard-line-up, the GTI retains it’s 7-speed DSG gearbox. The combination propels the GTI from 0-100kph in 6.3 seconds. Adaptive dampers and Volkswagen’s trick E-LSD come standard on the GTI Mk8, where historically they needed to be optioned on the Mk7. 

The Golf R uses the same 2.0L turbocharged petrol engine and DSG combination. After some fettling, it produces 235kW of power and 420Nm of torque, shooting from a standstill to 100kph in 4.7 seconds. However, we’re aware that these power figures appear conservative based on international tests. 

The R also has a 4Motion R differential, which supports torque vectoring. It sounds rather clinical, but also should also make it rather fast. 

Pricing for the GTI is $61,490, while R models are yet to be determined. 

The Tiguan

After the presentation, it was time for us to drive. The journey? Head north to Snells Beach. First up was the Tiguan 2WD R-line.

Approaching from the front, the Tiguan facelift is immediately noticeable. The new front bumper and lights give the nose a rounder appearance, compared with the blockier-look of the generation prior.

Stepping inside, you nestle yourself into the comfy and supportive R-line seat. The interior is cavernous, with plenty of storage spaces, plus good material quality. The dash layout is largely unchanged, save for all the new tech apparatus. 

These tech updates immediately made themselves known. Directly in front of you is the new steering wheel, which uses a bunch of haptic touch controls. The same can be said for the climate controls, which are freshly redesigned with haptic touch controls.

Usually haptic touch controls are a bit slow, hence I’m not their biggest advocate. In Volkswagen’s case, they’ve managed to make them work rather well. 

Heading north out of Auckland is where we got to experience the Tiguan performing. The new 6-speed DSG in the Tiguan is decent, vectoring the output from the 1.4L engine effectively.  It allows the Tiguan to move a bit more briskly than its 1,400kg curb weight would suggest. 

The rest of the driving experience is quintessential crossover. The driving position is high, NVH is at reasonable levels, the steering is light, the pedals are doughy – which means it’s all pretty approachable and easy to live with.

Granted, the Tiguan was a tad bouncy at times. It could maintain confidence through a quicker corner, but ride quality, particularly along patchier roads wasn’t a strong suit. It’s not bad by any stretch, but it’s no magic carpet ride. The 4WD Tiguan’s should theoretically be better, with models featuring 4Motion active control and electronic dampeners. 

As hinted earlier, the driving technology is also one of the main drawcards of these new V.A.G products, particularly Volkswagen’s lane assist tech. This effectively pairs the adaptive cruise and lane keep assist together, and it performs excellently. 

Volkswagen product manager, Jordan Haines, confidently said the tech operates up to 210km/h. Obviously, we didn’t test this, nor am I in a position to argue the claim. It’s not that I don’t believe it, it probably can. It’s more that I’m unsure that my life insurance policy extends to such circumstances if it stopped working for any reason. Either way, from first impressions I’d say this is one of the better systems available at this price point. It’s quite impressive.

Overall, it’s easy to see why the Tiguan is a popular product with owners – even DriveLife’s JSG has a Tiguan in his stable. The tech refresh makes the package all the more compelling. 

The Golf

After an excellent lunch stop at The Glass House at Brick Bay Winery, it was time to head back to the city. This time, I managed to snaffle the keys to a Golf R-line for the journey back.

The changes are immediately noticeable as soon as you step into new Golf. The new interior design, plus all the technology has bought the Golf right into 2021. It makes the Mk7 seem antiquated.

Angled towards the driver is the new 10’’ infotainment screen. In front is Volkswagen’s excellent “Info Display Pro” for the dash cluster, plus a heads-up display. The resolution of the screen is sharp, the responsiveness is great, but the interface has a learning curve. 

Haptic touch controls must be in vogue in Europe – they’re everywhere in this new Golf!

Virtually all of the physical controls are now haptic, including (but not limited to) the climate controls, the drive mode selectors and even the interior roof lights! The latter of these three being one of few features I didn’t like. Since when does turning on a light need to be such a spectacle?

Down in the centre, the transmission selector is a little notch, which sticks up from the consol, like the one that they use on the new Porsche 911.  Above that is a rectangular engine start button.

Out on the road and with less weight to carry, the 1.4-litre engine supplies the Golf with adequate power, delivering its performance smoothly and quietly. As mentioned earlier, the most notable difference is with the transmission.

Instead of a dual clutch (DSG), the Golf uses an 8-speed automatic transmission. Why the difference? It’s not clear – but this new transmission is a total peach.  It moves seamlessly between gears, that you won’t miss having the DSG. The departure from the DSG also means you needn’t live with dual-clutch quirks when traveling at low-speed.

Golf’s have always been competent performers in both city and country roads, which was evidenced in our journey back into the city. Dynamically, the Golf is great for a family hatchback, and this doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality.

Being the R-line, our Golf features sports suspension and drive mode selection. Change to drive mode to sport and it tautens things up a bit, but don’t expect GTI performance from it.  Instead, I spent most of my time in Comfort mode, just enjoying the Golf in the default state.

As mentioned earlier, it’s the tech offering which remains a strong drawcard.  Again, I want to highlight Volkswagen’s lane assist. It made Auckland’s harbour bridge traffic a total breeze. It felt like it did most of the driving in this period.  Other cars do offer this, but the highlight is its effectiveness for the price.

Conclusion

Overall, the new Golf Mk 8 and refreshed Tiguan models made a good first impression. The fresh styling, new interiors, and updated technology make both vehicles highly compelling products for their segments.

The tech really helps these vehicles stay ahead of the curve, and the pricing points make the package seem even better. The Golf and Tiguan look set to maintain their all-rounder status.

Thank you to Volkswagen New Zealand for hosting DriveLife. We look forward to conducting a feature-length review of Golf and Tiguan models in the near future.

P.S. We’d love a Golf GTI. And an R too.   

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