Since the demise of the Touran in SA, Volkswagen has not had a seven-seater in the local market, unless you want to go up to the much larger Kombi.
Internationally it has the Atlas, but as VW global brand boss Herbert Diess has set out to make the Tiguan the world’s best-selling SUV, a seven-seater version is set to arrive in SA in the second half of 2018 in the form of the Tiguan Allspace.
Already VW’s third-biggest seller (behind the Golf and Polo), the polished, tech-savvy Tiguan now has a longer brother, with an extra 110mm stuffed surreptitiously inside the wheelbase and the option of a variation of the Touran’s versatile folding third-row system to bolt into the rear end.
The beauty of the extra length is that you only notice it at second glance, so cleverly has it been integrated into the Tiguan design.
There is a slight difference in the C-pillar to add the length, while the B-pillar remains the same and the rear door is a little longer.
Oddly, the 4701mm Allspace is 215mm longer than the standard Tiguan, which means there is 105mm tacked on behind the rear wheels to accommodate the extra space. And there’s plenty of extra space, even with the third row as an option.
That’s because VW’s research insisted the majority of buyers wanted the extra space, but not necessarily the extra row of seating.
Keep it all standard as a five-seater and the Allspace delivers a rear-seat bench that slides 180mm, just like the stock Tiguan, but gives another 54mm of knee room.
Another major difference is that it delivers another 145l of luggage capacity behind it (now 760l if the seats are max forward) and boosts the folded capacity up from 1655l to an astounding 1920l. With all seats up and as far back as possible, the rear luggage space is just 230l.
The third-row seats are designed for kids, rather than adults or even teenagers, and the head and leg-room is accordingly limited. And not for little kids, either, because there are no Isofix points for the clip-in chairs. But to be fair on VW, they only call it a 5+2, in reference to the just-in-case status of the third row.
Up front, the Allspace carries the same Tiguan story, with an impressive array of technology buried within a dashboard that at once screams exacting design, width and not a single trace of excitement.
A fully digital active-info display instrument cluster dominates the wide cabin and if that does not deliver enough information, there is also an optional head-up display and the enormous, dash-mounted, touchscreen central multimedia screen.
There is also a ton of connectivity, three-zone climate control air conditioning, parking sensors, active cruise control and a raft of active safety features, although of course VWSA has yet to decide on final specifications for our market.
There will be three petrol and three diesel fours (at least there will be in Germany; again SA derivatives and engines have yet to be confirmed), plus front and all-wheel drive, though we only tested the 2.0l, turbodiesel version with 176kW of power and a 2.0l TSI petrol motor with 162kW.
There is also a 1.4l four-cylinder petrol engine (with 110kW of power, a six-speed transmission and front-wheel drive) and a 132kW version of the 2.0l four cylinder, which comes with all-wheel drive, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
For those brave enough to push on beyond Dieselgate, the three-motor diesel range starts with a 110kW version of the 2.0l turbo four, with either front or all-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
It rises to a 140kW version of the same engine and tops out with the 176kW diesel, both of which carry all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch as standard.
The core goal of the engineering team was to deliver all of the extra space and versatility without messing up the Tiguan’s good road manners and benign balance.
That has been achieved to an impressive degree.
While it could never be mistaken for a sporting or remotely interesting car to drive on winding roads, it is a solid, dependable, comfortable package.
That is probably all it needs to move seven people appropriately.
While the lesser powertrains are likely to be the biggest sellers (and, if the short-wheelbase Tiguan is any guide, the middle power outputs are likely to be the best all-round packages), we were not given those options to drive.
The petrol engine is smooth, with the engine’s exertions isolated to the point of being nonexistent inside the cabin, even though you could hear it working and feel the car pulling strongly. It works well from all engine speeds, hauling up in a smooth, linear way until it falls away beyond 6,000r/min. But it is the strongest diesel that is the most impressive. VW has pulled the sound levels down until they equate to a petrol engine that is not quite front line, and that is impressive in its own right.
More impressive is how it gets around. Prod the throttle from any revs and it just jumps forward, even more enthusiastically if it is in sport mode.
There are enormous reserves of performance, especially at lower revs where it crunches out 500Nm from 1,750r/min.
VW says it is good for a 6.7 second sprint to 100km/h. And that is not bad from a 1880kg SUV with seven seats.
It is also smooth and flexible, mating superbly with the now-mature seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The ride quality is excellent, as it should be with a longer wheelbase, and the dynamic engineers have done well to mask both the extra weight and the extra overhang at the back.
It feels utterly composed everywhere and astonishingly capable, though it never encourages you to push its handling envelope. Or its performance envelope.
It is just there, lurking in the background should circumstance require it.
It is happier to cruise most of the time, oozing from traffic light to roundabout and back again, relying on things like active cruise control, push-button parking, lane-departure warning systems and a host of other safety technology to keep people out of trouble of their own making.
All of this – ride, handling, performance, comfort technology and good road manners – are really there as a life-support system for a versatile interior, which does its job very well. It is a little awkward to climb into the back seat for adults and even more awkward to sit there, so forget we mentioned it.
Kids will fare better and be happier, though it’s still easier to climb into a Touran’s rear row.
But a Touran is no longer available in SA and besides, it doesn’t pull the car park cred like an SUV, does it?