Are you after an all-wheel drive SUV with a grunty motor? Volkswagen Tiguan 162 TSI Highline Vs Subaru Forester XT Premium.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI

Pricing from $48,490+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Power 162kW from 4500-6200rpm Torque 350Nm from 1500-4400rpm Transmission seven-speed DSG Drive 4Motion all-wheel drive Dimensions 4486mm (L); 1839mm (W); 1658mm (H); 2681mm (WB) Turning Circle 11.5m Boot Space 615L – 1655L Spare space saving spare Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 8.1L/100km claimed combined

2016 Subaru Forester XT Premium

Price $47,990+ORC Warranty Three Years, Unlimited Kilometres Safety 5 Star ANCAP Engine 2.0-Litre Turbocharged Four-Cylinder (Boxer) Petrol Power 177kW at 5600rpm Torque 350Nm from 2400-3600rpm Transmission CVT Body 4595mm (L); 1795mm (W); 1735mm (H) Weight 1657kg Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 8.5L/100km (Combined)

IF YOU’RE after a grunty, all-wheel drive family-oriented SUV than you should have both the Forester XT Premium and the Volkswagen Tiguan 162 TSI Highline on your shortlist. These two vehicles come from a similar place (in terms of concept), are priced very closely but offer buyers different things.

What’s the price like?

The Subaru Forester XT was last updated back in 2016 and our Premium variant is priced from $48,240+ORC which is very close to the Tiguan 162 TSI Highline at $48,490+ORC. The Tiguan, however, is a much newer vehicle having been launched all-new at the end of last year.

The Forester will be updated in the next couple of years via an all-new model which will sit on the brand’s new global platform which currently sees service underneath the Impreza and XV. With the mid-life facelift in early 2016, Subaru made some very minor tweaks to the inside and out with the most attention paid to the suspension. Despite the tweaks, the Forester is long in the tooth compared to newer rivals, and falls a long way short of the Tiguan where standard features are concerned.

The Tiguan 162 TSI offers an active safety suite, including autonomous emergency braking, an active bonnet and front and rear parking sensors, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. In terms of value for money, the Tiguan out performs the Forester.

What’s the interior like?

The Forester feels very much like a Subaru, meaning you get a plain but functional interior with materials aimed at standing up to abuse from family buyers. Climb in behind the steering wheel and you’ll find a nice high-set driving position that, via the electric seat adjust, can be raised even higher… only the Tiguan, in this segment, can match the Forester’s commanding view out of the cabin.

Vision all the way around from the driver’s seat is excellent, although the reversing camera leaves a little to be desired. Some we’ve used recently offer a beautiful clear picture even in low light, but the camera on the Forester XT becomes grainy in anything but bright sunlight.

Subaru Forester XT review


Over in the back seat and due to the scalloped backs of the front seats there’s more than enough legroom for two adults, the middle seat is more of a perch as the transmission tunnel robs legroom. There are ISOFIX mounting points on the two outboard seats, and three top tether mounts, although to be fair you’d probably only comfortably fit two child seats across the back.

The back seats are 60:40 split fold and while they don’t fold totally flat (the seats can be dropped via two boot mounted levers) they do increase the boot from 422 litres to 1474 litres. And because of the boxy design of the Forester the boot space is quite usable.

The XT Premium gets an automatic open/close tailgate and I found it to be more annoying than useful; I’m just on six-foot tall and my head brushed the tailgate when it was opened and because of the curve of the door, I had to duck slightly to avoid scalping myself. Personally, and I get the argument for them, I could have done without it. Under the boot floor is a full-size (18-inch spare wheel).

Volkswagen is well known for the quality of its interiors and the Tiguan 162TSI as the top-spec Tiguan cements that reputation with materials and design that blends class with hard-wearing practicality. Especially in areas like the centre console which will get pummelled by your phone, bottles, keys, coins and whatever other odds and ends you dump into the hidey holes.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline Review

Flexible is a good way to describe passenger space. The rear seat bench which is split 40:20:40 can be slid forwards and back (through 180mm), and when the seats are pushed all the way back, the Tiguan’s rear seat legroom is impressive. The seatbacks can also be reclined and there are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats, and three top tether anchors in the middle of the rear seat backs.

The rear seats are set a little higher than the front seats which means those in the back get a good view and access in or out of the back seat isn’t compromised, although younger children using a booster seat will likely require some extra help getting into the back. There are rear air vents in the back with the ability for backseat passengers to set the temperature to suit themselves, and there’s a 12V outlet for charging devices and pouches on the backs of the two front seats. And because there’s only minimal intrusion by the transmission tunnel, the middle seat in the back is usable as a seat. For an adult.

There’s reach and rake on the steering wheel and the driver’s seat offers electric adjustment with three-position memory. The seats are comfortable but not overly supportive; but then, this isn’t a corner carving kind of car, despite what Volkswagen would have you believe.

There are numerous hidey holes (like drawers under the front seats, passenger only in the Highline, an overhead storage container in the back, and more) and the two cup holders in the centre console will carry a medium coffee cup or 500ml water bottle with adjustable ‘holders’, while the doors will hold large 1.5L water bottles. Those in the back will handle a 1L water bottle.

The dashboard layout is nice and neat and the accent strips running horizontally across the dash make it feel larger on the inside than it is.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline Review

Over in the boot, there’s 615 litres of space with the seats pushed forwards, pushing them all the way back will obviously reduce the size of the space. Drop the seats and the space grows to more than 1600 litres. The boot offers a double height floor, in its lowest setting it’s a few centimetres below level.

What are they like to drive?

The one thing that stands out about the VW Tiguan, no matter the flavour, is just how comfortable and competent it is, and that’s exactly what you want from a family-oriented SUV. The steering is direct and with enough weight throughout its travel that you feel connected to the front end, but there’s a little bit of lightness in the straight-ahead that I haven’t noticed on other Tiguans I’ve driven. All other controls, like the brakes are nice and progressive in their action.

The Tiguan 162TSI borrows its engine from the Golf GTI Mark 7, meaning it’s the old car’s tune, rather than the current, slightly more powerful Mark 7.5 variant. That means the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 162kW from 4500-6200rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1500-4400. This is mated to a seven-speed DSG and it matches the old GTI’s 6.5 second sprint from 0-100km/h, which says more about this car than the Golf GTI.

The Tiguan gets all-wheel drive but it’s not a permanent set-up like the Forester, but unlike other on-demand systems there’s no fixed drive distribution with up to almost 100% of torque able to be sent to the rear axle. And because, in general driving, only the front wheels are receiving drive, you do save on fuel consumption with the Tiguan 162 TSI Highline beating out the Forester XT Premium 8.1L/100km Vs 8.5L/100km claimed combined. That said, drive either vehicle ‘normally’ and you’ll get nowhere near the claimed figure, expect around 8.8L100km for both vehicles and that’s only because you’ll likely drive the Tiguan with a heavier right foot to feel all its grunt.

The Tiguan also has what’s called 4Motion with Active Control which is a mode selector dial just next to the gear shifter. In a nutshell, activating one of the modes via the 4Motion Active Control will tweak how the throttle pedal feels, how the transmission, steering and adaptive dampers respond, as well as activating hill descent and ascent control and the Off-Road ABS function, as well as both the engine and brake traction controls, which Volkswagen refers to as ASR – engine traction control, and EDL – brake traction control. The driving situations covered by Active Control are ‘on road’, ‘ice and snow’, ‘off-road’ and ‘off-road.

The Forester XT Premium shares its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with the WRX, although in Forester guise it makes less power. On offer from 5600rpm is 177kW (down from the 197kW in both the WRX and Levorg) and 350Nm of torque from 2400-3600rpm. This is mated to a CVT which when Sport Sharp (S#) is selected via the Si-Drive system (there are two other modes, Intelligent and Sport) the transmission will do its best to simulate an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with eight preset ratios.

Subaru Forester XT review

And, overall the CVT does a good job, although in either normal or Sport Sharp mode the transmission is nowhere near as good as it is in either the WRX or the Levorg. Indeed, when left to its own devices the CVT will slur its way through shifts and feel peaky into the bargain. It also emits a lot of noise, although whether this is all the fault of the CVT and maybe also an element of turbo whistle which merges to leak into the cabin as a whine, is up for debate.

This ‘transmission’ noise leaking into the cabin is despite Subaru fitting thicker glass and beefier seals to filter out road and engine noise. Overall, it works with most noises, beyond some wind whistle and the CVT whine being all but eliminated.

Where the fourth-generation Forester came in for some criticism when it was first launched regarding its ride and handling, Subaru has spent a great deal of engineering effort to retune the thing for this mid-life update. And, with a fair amount of the criticism emanating from Australian motoring scribblers, Subaru sent its engineers Down Under to fiddle and test with the Forester’s suspension. And they’ve done a good job.

Subaru Forester XT review

It means you now get a better, more consistent ride across a variety of surfaces. Indeed, the Forester XT offers a comfortable and reasonably flat ride with the dampers able to provide decent support on the black top. One issue, though, is that the suspension isn’t particularly long legged and, so, when on rutted dirt roads the ride can become a little crashy. Fortunately, though, the secondary ride is good and any bangs and crashes tend to be heard rather than felt.

What about safety features?

The Forester offers permanent all-wheel drive, airbags, adjustable front seat belts, daytime running lights, stability and traction controls and, on the Forester XT Vehicle Dynamics Control which will brake the inside wheel when understeer is detected to help push the car into the corner. It gets a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers with de-icers, dusk-sensing headlights, and more. The Forester achieved a five-star rating in 2013 with a score of 35.74 out of 37.

Subaru Forester XT review

The Forester XT also offers Subaru’s clever EyeSight system with autonomous emergency braking, but it’s not the current system on offer in the new Impreza or XV.

Like the rest of the Tiguan range, the Tigaun 162TSI carries a five-star ANCAP rating based on EuroNCAP testing. It scored, and the Euro NCAP testing system notes down data differently to ANCAP, 96% for adult occupant protection, 84% for child occupant protection, or 41.5 out of 49, and 8.2 out of 13 for its safety assistance systems, and 26.1 out of 42 for pedestrian protection… but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

See, as standard, the Tiguan offers front assist with city emergency braking, active bonnet and lane assist, as well as reversing camera, seven airbags and a multi-collision system as well as driver fatigue measurement. Pedestrian protection is a feature that more and more cars will focus on going forward, and the active bonnet on the Tiguan is a good idea (especially as people spend more time looking at their phone while crossing the road and less at what might potentially collide with them… obviously, I didn’t try it out. When contact is made with the bonnet (there’s no speed mentioned, but you can assume it would have to be more than 10km/h, otherwise bumping the front bumper could set the thing off) the rear edge of the bonnet, at the base of the windscreen, will rise by 50mm to cushion a pedestrian’s impact.

Other safety elements, at least as far as I’m concerned, include, rain-sensing wipers, roll-back function on the one-touch up and down windows for the front and the back (not something all cars get, but should), a reversing camera that offers multi-angle views and dynamic guidelines, as well as all-wheel drive with 4Motion Active Control functionality.

So, which one wins?

In the end, it’s the new Volkswagen Tiguan 162 TSI Highline that takes the win here and that’s as much for the fact it’s a brand-new vehicle as it is because it gets so much extra kit than the aging Forester XT. The Forester is still a favourite out in the countryside because of its permanent all-wheel drive and reliability, but the Tiguan 162 TSI Highline offers more interior space, a bigger boot, a much better infotainment system and the list price is only a few hundred dollars more. It really is hard to go past.

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline Review


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  1. The Subaru was on my shortlist, but I ended up with the Tiguan 132. I own a 2003 Outback and it’s excellent, not that I get to drive it often. It was a toss up between Subaru’s known reliability and VW’s technology. VW tried to put me off (the local distributor, not the dealer.) I’ve had the vehicle close to a year and it’s fine. It has enough grunt, even with the less powerful engine. I rarely bother with sports mode, mostly on winding roads where it can help around some corners that go uphill at the same time. One thing that put me off the Subaru was the price. It just seems excessive for what is now a near obsolete vehicle.

  2. I’ve had a 162TSI (R-Line) for about 5 months now. It’s an absolutely lovely car, and while it’s on the pricier end of the scale it feels like it’s in a different class to the other SUVs I compared it with, including an X1. I was tempted by an XT, as I wouldn’t have had to wait the 6 months for my car to arrive if I went down that path, but I really didn’t like the CVT, the cabin felt less luxurious and it lacked all the tech that the Tiguan gets.

    With the R-Line pack you get ACC (adjustable suspension) which I really love. It’s nice and smooth in comfort mode which I often use (and my wife loves) and it you feel like a spirited drive, the sports mode transforms it to feel more like a hot hatch.

  3. Not one mention of the fact that the Forester has a full-size spare, while the Tiguan has, ahem, what?

    Which is suited then for taking out of the city limits?

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