The 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan is an all-new compact SUV that VW is releasing at the right time. VW calls it the GTI of crossovers, an apt description based on our test drive.
The Volkswagen Tiguan's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is shared with the GTI. It's more powerful than the engines offered in most compact SUVs. Those who want to shift their own gears can choose the six-speed manual transmission, an odd and sporty offering for the class. The available six-speed automatic transmission is more mainstream and it has a manual shiftgate that adds a sporty character.
With either transmission, the VW Tiguan has ready power for everyday needs and worry-free passing. Fuel economy is average for the class, which is better than most SUVs, but not as good as your average car. Fuel economy is hurt somewhat when the available all-wheel-drive system is ordered, but it's a big advantage for driving in northern climates.
Behind the wheel, the Tiguan offers a carlike and somewhat sporty driving experience. Handling is sharp for a crossover SUV, with manageable lean in turns, communicative but not overly quick steering, and good brake pedal feel. The ride is also quite good. Small bumps are barely noticed, but the Tiguan can react harshly to sharp bumps, especially with the available 18-inch wheels.
Like other Volkswagens, the Tiguan exists somewhere between standard line and luxury. Inside, it has a lot of soft-touch materials and the general feel is of quality. A navigation system with a hard-drive radio and rearview camera is offered, and the top-line SEL has an attractive leather interior.
The controls are clear and easy to use, and there are lots of little nooks for small items storage. Getting in and out is easy, and road and engine noise are kept to a minimum. Front seat room is plentiful, and the driver's seat offers comfort and a good view to all corners.
The rear seats move forward and aft up to six inches, allowing drivers to optimize the Volkswagen Tiguan for either rear cargo room or rear passenger comfort. Fully back, the rear seats have lots of room, but cargo room suffers. With the rear seats folded down, the Tiguan has a nice rear cargo area, but it is small for the class.
Buyers looking for a comfortable small SUV should give the VW Tiguan a look. It is sporty for the class, with a fine engine and a smooth ride. The interior is a pleasant place to be, and, like all SUVs, it can haul cargo. Just be careful about which model and options you choose, because pricing for the top-line model gets into the luxury realm.