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.