This was my first time driving the Volkswagen Tiguan; I think my expectations may have been too high. I always imagined the Tiguan to be a GTI with more ground clearance, but it’s not.
My major beef is with the driver’s seating position. It’s awkward and almost impossible to find a comfortable setting. Even more annoying is the fact that the steering wheel fails to tilt down far enough.
On the road however, the Tiguan is fairly buttoned down. And given the vehicle’s 3433-pound curb weight, the 2.0T engine provides sufficient power for passing whether on the highway or a two-lane road.
As we’ve all come to expect from Volkswagen, the interior of the Tiguan is full of well-designed, high-quality materials that fit together properly and are placed so that they make sense ergonomically. The exterior profile makes the Tiguan look like a scaled-down Touareg, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, except it seems to be scaled down about half a size too small. Compared with its Japanese, Korean, and American competitors, the Tiguan is lacking in the one thing that crossover vehicles are supposed to provide – cargo capacity. With the second row in place, there is only 23.8 cubic feet of capacity (56.1 with the second row folded). And to top it all off, the Tiguan is priced higher than those same competitors.
If you’re a product planner, sometimes it’s best to ignore history’s lessons. Twenty years ago, Volkswagen took a five-door Golf, jacked up the suspension, installed all-wheel-drive, and called it the Golf Country Syncro. The oddball Frankenhatch ultimately proved to be a flop.
Although the Tiguan is blessed with a different, more SUV-like body, it still adheres to that same basic recipe-and in today’s crossover-centric society, the idea seems to work. Sales of the Tiguan are up nearly 65.8 percent thus far in 2010, and the model remains one of the strongest-selling lines in VW’s North American portfolio.
Step behind the wheel, and the Golf cues are hard to miss (half of the interior panels you’re faced with are pulled straight from the compact car, albeit with more storage cubbies), but the seating position is unusually elevated. Steering is fairly direct, but it lacks the weight I’ve come to known and love in both the Golf and the GTI. Suspension tuning also seems to have been lost in translation, as the Tiguan feels stiffer and less compliant than its hatchback siblings, and as Mike noted, the higher center of gravity means it’s not as tossable as it could be.
That said, it’s one of the more enjoyable cute-utes to drive. The turbocharged 2.0 in-line four delivers enough power to lug the all-wheel-drive Tiguan around, but I do wish VW would replace this six-speed automatic with its dual-clutch transmission. Its shifts are smooth, but they’re extremely relaxed, which is particularly annoying when you’re trying to instigate a gearchange in manumatic mode.
Over the course of the long Memorial Day weekend, I kept looking at the Tiguan every time I walked out of my house, thinking, “Is it me, or is the front end kinda weird?” It seems like it’s just a couple of inches too long in relation to the rest of the body. Overall, I think the design theme is sound, but there’s something about that schnoz.
I like the fact that our test example was not larded up with every possible option, because at $30K, it’s still not cheap. But it is nice. And I can do without a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system. The instrument panel is arguably more attractive without a nav screen, anyway. I really like the eight small circular symmetrical climate control vents: four for the front passenger, four for the driver. Very nicely done.
As Mike says, there’s nothing about this that brings to mind the GTI. Yet if you shove the six-speed transmission into “S” for “Sport,” the trusty VW 2.0-liter turbo four delivers smooth, strong, and satisfying acceleration, and you can bound down the road just about as fast as anyone is going want to in a crossover.
I much prefer VW’s Jetta wagon to the Tiguan, but I can see the appeal of this vehicle. Our all-wheel-drive test car sits quite high off the ground, so not only does it provide easy entry, the car could also actually tackle some greasy, off-the-beaten-path terrain. I’m not saying you should take it off-roading, but it could certainly handle as much as most SUV owners throw at their Ford Explorers and Jeep Grand Cherokees. The high center of gravity weakens the Tiguan’s handling quite a bit, but the car still steers and drives decently. Acceleration is quite good, too, considering the fact that this turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is usually in the engine bay of considerably lighter sedans and small hatchbacks.
Like Mike, I’m no fan of the Tiguan’s driving position, though, as the steering wheel is way too high for me, even when it’s tilted down as far as it’ll go. I’d raise the seat, but that tips it forward too much for me to be comfortable.
As Joe mentioned, our test car was pleasantly pretty basic, with no power seats, no navigation, and no sunroof. The lack of a sunroof means that the Tiguan has four (count ’em!) sunglass-holder-like bins in the overhead console area. I guess you can’t buy a Tiguan if you don’t collect sunglasses. But wouldn’t a sunroof encourage more frequent use of shades anyway?
There’s nothing offensive about the way the Tiguan is styled, how it’s built, or the way it drives, but this Volkswagen leaves me a bit cold. The turbocharged 2.0-liter makes for a quick little crossover, but the engine drones more and is generally more invasive than in other applications, such as the GTI. The interior is well screwed together, but it all seems a bit staid. On the other hand, I try to think of a better V-6 competitor like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, or Chevrolet Equinox and I can’t think of a substantially better vehicle. Maybe my problem isn’t the Volkswagen Tiguan, but that the small crossover segment suffers from the same lack of passion and originality as the family sedan category.
2010 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion
Base price (with destination): $30,155
Price as tested: $30,575
2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed TipTronic automatic
Electro-mechanical power steering
Tire pressure monitoring system
Heated front seats
Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Touchscreen AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-CD changer
MP3/WMA capability and auxiliary input
Sirius satellite radio
Options on this vehicle:
Tiguan protection kit — $420
Rubber floor mats
Key options not on vehicle:
DVD navigation system with rearview camera — $1990
Panoramic sunroof — $1300
iPod adapter — $250
18 / 24 / 20 mpg
Size: 2.0L turbo-charged I-4
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5100-6000 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1700-5000 rpm
Curb weight: 3433 lb
Wheels/tires: 17-inch aluminum wheels
235/55R17 Michelin Latitude Tour HP all-season tires