The Tiguan is Volkswagen's first entry in the compact crossover SUV segment. It's based on VW's small-car platform and boasts a turbocharged engine and European-flavored driving dynamics.
Talk about being late to the party. The hors d'oeuvres are long since gone, the DJ looks ready for bed and the revelers are doing the Electric Slide for the third time. Still, tardiness may not diminish the appeal of the Volkswagen Tiguan to the compact crossover SUV crowd.
Don't bother looking the name up in the dictionary. You won't find it, as it's a concoction from VW's marketing department. We're told the name's a melding of tiger and iguana, which nearly makes for an entire zoo, given that the Tiguan is based on the same platform as the VW Rabbit. The Tiguan gets VW's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine -- the same sprightly workhorse that also sees duty in the GTI, GLI and Audi products such as the A4 and TT.
In general, the Tiguan doesn't stray too far from the typical compact SUV design. It seats five, is offered in front-wheel or all-wheel drive and has nearly all of the latest convenience and safety features. But the Tiguan does offer a neatly tailored Euro design as well as the high-grade cabin treatment for which Volkswagen has become known. It also boasts composed handling and a comfortable ride.
These aspects help the Tiguan stand out a bit at the crossover party. But is it enough? Well, for people who have bought VW products in the past, the Tiguan will no doubt be a hit. And those who like to drive will find its Teutonic driving dynamics appealing.
But there are some downsides, including a price tag at least a few thousand above comparable vehicles and a smallish cargo capacity. As such, you might find models like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 to be more practical. There's also the Nissan Rogue, which is similar in concept to the Tiguan but less expensive. Still, the Volkswagen Tiguan could be a nice alternative for discerning consumers looking for a little spice in a mostly bland segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover SUV that's offered in three trims that all share the same powertrain. The base S includes 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, an eight-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary jack, aluminum interior accents, eight-way manual adjustable front seats, air-conditioning, cruise control and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.
The SE upgrade includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a roof rack, chrome exterior accents, deep-tinted glass, upgraded upholstery, heated front seats, a power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer and upgraded audio with a CD changer and satellite radio.
The top-shelf SEL comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, leather seating, a 12-way power driver seat with memory settings, a premium "Dynaudio" audio system, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Options include rear side airbags, a towing package, a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
All Tiguans are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 200 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. The S can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, while the SE and SEL are automatic only. The latter two trims are also available with VW's "4Motion" all-wheel-drive system.
Volkswagen estimates that the Tiguan can go from zero to 60 mph in fewer than 8 seconds, which would make it one of the quickest compact crossovers available. Its towing capacity of 2,200 pounds, however, is about 1,300 pounds less than V6-powered rivals.
Antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are all standard. Side airbags for rear passengers are optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
In keeping with Volkswagen's reputation for fine cabins, the interior of the Tiguan boasts high-quality materials and tight-as-a-drum build quality. Real aluminum -- not silver-colored plastic -- enhances the premium feel. Most controls are large and well-placed, and the available navigation system boasts a large screen and a simple interface.
Firm, well-shaped seats offer proper support when logging miles on the interstate or slicing through a twisty two-laner. The reclining rear seat offers a 60/40-split design as well as a pass-through in the middle, which allows the Tiguan to carry long items and four passengers at the same time. The rear seat also slides fore and aft to improve either rear legroom or cargo space. With all the seats in use, the Tiguan offers a maximum of 16.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity, about the same as a large family sedan's trunk. With the second row folded down, maximum capacity measures 56.1 cubic feet, about 17 cubes shy of class leaders such as the CR-V and RAV4.
Spirited acceleration is almost always on tap thanks to the turbo-4's broad power band. In corners, the Volkswagen Tiguan's body remains poised. Most compact SUVs tend to skate over rough surfaces, but the Tiguan remains firmly planted while tracking steadily. To add an extra measure of durability for rough road use, there's high-strength steel in the frame plus heavy-duty dampers.
The Tiguan's electromechanically assisted steering does a decent job of imitating a traditional hydraulic setup. The assist starts soft and builds to a moderate amount of effort that won't tax even the skinniest of arms. There's not much effort needed for the brake pedal either, as it delivers plenty of stopping power with a modest push.