Volkswagen Tiguan — Relevant in two segments

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

As the small family crossover segment heats up, the Volkswagen Tiguan — despite the lack of a major redesign since its inception in 2009 — remains very relevant and a solid competitor against both the new breed of sub-compacts and compacts in both the mainstream and entry luxury segments.

The two things that attracted us most were its sporty, fun to drive nature, and its class-leading performance from VW's award-winning turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. And in terms of refinement, it stands tall enough to compete in the entry-level luxury segment.

We believe the Tiguan can effectively challenge products in both segments because of its 102.5-inch wheelbase and 174.5-inch length that straddles the segment lines in size. It falls neatly between sub-compact that average about 168 inches in length and with wheelbases just over 100 inches — and the compacts ranging from 177 to 180 inches and with wheelbases in the103 to 106 inch range.

The heart and soul of the Tiguan is its standard engine making 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. (The Tiguan loses its manual transmission option for 2015.) Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive — called 4Motion — is available for $1,975.

The Tiguan feels good especially in stop and start driving and in accelerating from 20 mph to 50 to negotiate pesky situations. This is due to a good measure of low-end torque, which peaks out at a very useable 1,700 rpm. Although on paper the new Volkswagen has good if not standout numbers — 0-to-60 in 7.7 seconds and 15.9 seconds at 91 mph in the quarter mile — it feels good all the time. Throw out the paper and get behind the wheel. You may find yourself amazed at the real-world performance

What makes the Tiguan such a complete package for those who enjoy driving is its confident and poised cornering ability and accurate steering. It can put a smile on your face while carving up some rural twisting roads and mountain passes.

Volkswagen has managed to wring decent mileage out of its turbocharged engine although falling slightly behind the newer entries. The front-wheel automatic is rated at 21 mpg city, 26 on the highway with a combined 23. All-wheel drive suffers only slightly at 20/26/23.

The Tiguan is attractive with a sculpted high-riding rugged look. While Volkswagen has tinkered around the edges of the crossover's styling over the years, the basic conservative stance has worn well and the little crossover looks as modern today against the new competition as it did in 2009.

Compared to the compact crossovers the Tiguan is on the small side, but we think its size is part of its tossable charm, and don't be put off by the proportions. Unless hauling cargo is your primary goal, the Tiguan works. Cargo capacity is 56.1 cubic feet and luggage room behind the seats is a useable 23.8 cubic feet. The seats are firm, well-shaped and offer ample support with well-done seat comfort, headroom and legroom.

The standout aspect of the Tiguan is its premium-looking cockpit. Excellent fit and finish and high-quality materials are pleasing and befitting a luxury brand. The gauge package is well-done and easy to read. The typical Volkswagen/Audi message center that sits between the tachometer and speedometer dispenses much useful information including instant gas mileage, outdoor temperature, a trip odometer and a clock.

Our SE with sunroof and navigation test car was outfitted with the standard eight-speaker audio system that includes Sirius satellite radio. Learning the audio setup in the navigation screen is a bit tedious, but once you gain just a bit of experience, it becomes easy to use. Several features have been made standard this year including a rearview camera, a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Volkswagen's Car-Net connected services, and iPod cable.

The Tiguan comes in five trim levels —S, SE, SE with Appearance, SEL, and R-Line starting at $27,120 including destination charge for the S. The popular SE, which we think is a good choice for most people, starts at $29,115, and $31,090 with all-wheel drive. The chart-topping R-Line with 4Motion runs an eye-popping $40,490. But we think the prices reasonable because of†the crossover's long list of standard equipment and its more upscale interior.

Our test SE without options came in at $29,115 and included heated side mirrors, heated seats, 17-inch wheels, leatherette upholstery, power reclining driver's seat, eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, and full power accessories including one-touch down and up windows.

Base price, $27,120; as driven, $29,115
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 200 @ 5,100 rpm
Torque: 207 foot-pounds at $1,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.5 inches
Length: 174.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,404 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
Towing capacity: 2,200 pounds
Luggage capacity: 23.8 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 56.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.8 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 26 highway, 21 city, 23 combined
0-60: 7.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Buick Encore, Honda HR-V, Audi Q3

The Good
• Premium cabin
• Outstanding engine
• Fun-to-drive nature

The Bad
• Limited cargo capacity

The Ugly
• Fuel economy below average