The Tiguan is a small crossover that Volkswagen refers to as the GTI of SUVs due to the sportiness it packs into its utilitarian body style. Built on a modified Passat platform with some bits from the Golf thrown in on the ends, the latest model benefits from a mid-product-cycle update that brought new exterior styling, a revised automatic transmission and improved fuel economy.
Seeking to create a uniform look throughout its lineup, Volkswagen recently applied its corporate two-bar grille to Tiguan while also redesigning the front fascia with new fog lights and a honeycomb grille below the bumper. At the rear, two-part taillights echo those of the larger Touareg and are sleeker and more compact than the units they replaced.
Power for the Tiguan comes exclusively from Volkswagen's proven 2.0-liter turbo inline-four, which cranks out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque and can be paired with either a six-speed manual (available only on the entry-level S model) or six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic gearbox boasts a second overdrive gear, enabling it to return 22 mpg (21 on the range-topping SEL with Premium Navigation and Dynaudio) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, bettering the 18/26 mpg rating for the three-pedal gearbox. Maximum towing capacity for the Touareg's little brother is rated at 2,200 lbs.
Front-wheel drive is standard, and Volkswagen's 4MOTION all-wheel drive system available as an option.
The cabin of the Tiguan was designed before VW decided to attack the heart of the American automotive market by making their cars more accessible (read: cheaper), meaning the materials are high-quality for the price point. The overall design is elegant, and there's 23.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up 56.1 cubic feet with them folded down. Interior flexibility is maximized thanks to 60-40 split folding rear seats.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Tiguan is available in eight trim levels: S, S with Sunroof, SE, SE with Sunroof and Navigation, SE with Appearance, SEL, SEL with Premium Navigation and SEL with Premium Navigation and Dynaudio.
The entry-level Tiguan S comes standard with an eight-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer, cloth seats, cruise control and trailer hitch prep. An electronic parking brake, hill-hold control, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and a leather shift knob are also included.
Somewhat predictably, the Tiguan S with Sunroof adds a tilt/sliding panoramic sunroof in addition to tinted windows.
Moving up to the Tiguan SE brings 18-inch "New York" alloy wheels, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, heated front washer nozzles, front fog and cornering lights, satellite radio, a Media Device-Interface with iPod connectivity, a power driver's seat, a partial power passenger seat and a multi-function display.
The Tiguan SE with Sunroof and Navigation surprises no one by offering a navigation system with a five-inch display in addition to a tilt/sliding panoramic sunroof in addition to the Tiguan SE's features.
The Tiguan SE with Appearance gains keyless entry and start and a rear-view camera.
The Tiguan SEL adds 19-inch "Savanna" wheels, a sport suspension, leather upholstery, silver-metallic interior trim, a fully power-adjustable passenger's seat, automatic climate control, keyless entry with push button start, bi-xenon headlights with low-beam assist along with the aforementioned panoramic sunroof and navigation system.
The Tiguan SEL with Premium Navigation brings a 6.5-inch screen, an integrated 30GB hard drive and voice control.
Finally, the Tiguan SEL with Dynaudio adds a 300-watt Dynaudio premium sound system.
All Tiguan models can be ordered with Volkswagen's Car-Net infotainment system, which integrates the car's entertainment, navigation and climate control systems while offering crash notification, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location assistance. Car-Net also features remote vehicle access, speed and boundary alerts and it can provide a vehicle health report. The bulk of Car-Net's features can be accessed via a smartphone.
Available as an add on to the Tiguan's SEL trim level, the R-Line enhances the compact SUV with a number of styling and performance tweaks.
On the styling front, the Tiguan R-Line sports side skirts, larger fender flares and a rear spoiler. The package also includes LED license plate illumination, Xenon headlight and LED daytime running lights.
In order to improve the Tiguan's handling, the R-Line trim comes with "Mallory" 19-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile rubber. A lowered suspension is also included in the package.
Inside, the Tiguan R-Libe benefits from "metallic-finish" dash and door trim, a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, R-Line scuff plates and a black headliner.
In order to keep audiophiles happy, the Tiguan R-Line also includes Volkswagen's Fender Premium Audio System.
Regardless of trim level, the Tiguan is fitted with dual front, side thorax and side curtain airbags in addition to stability and traction control systems, ABS and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Given the sporty and slightly upscale nature of the Tiguan, its closest competitors include the turbocharged variants of the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-7 , though buyers could also conceivably cross-shop vehicles like the GMC Terrain and even the Acura RDX.