The 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan SE ($28,875 as tested) is an all-new compact SUV that Volkswagen is releasing this year. The automaker calls it the GTI of crossovers, a good description based on my test drive. The Tiguan's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the same one as the GTI and the one Audi uses in the upmarket A4. It's more powerful than the engines offered in most compact SUVs and is a proven powertrain. The available six-speed automatic transmission has a manual Tiptronic shifter that adds a sporty character to the driving characteristics.
The Tiguan has plenty of power for every type of driving you will experience. Fuel economy is average for the class, 18/24 mpg city/highway, but is still better than most SUVs. Fuel economy goes down when the available 4Motion all-wheel drive system is ordered, but it's a must if you live in snow country.
When you get behind the wheel, the Tiguan offers a sporty, fun driving experience. Handling is tight for a crossover SUV, with very little lean in turns, quick steering, and good brake pedal feel. The ride quality is also quite good. I barely noticed the small bumps on the dirt road near my home.
Like other models in the Volkswagen family, the Tiguan is somewhere between standard and luxury. Inside, it has a lot of nice materials and the general feel is of quality. A navigation system with a hard-drive radio and rearview camera is offered, and the power panoramic sunroof that runs the length of the roof gives the interior an open airy feeling. The controls are clear and easy to use, and there’s lots of storage for small items in the front.
Getting in and out is easy because the Tiguan sits a little higher. Road and engine noise are barely heard when you are driving. Front seat room is plentiful, and the driver's seat offers comfort and a good view out all windows. The rear seats move back up to six inches, allowing drivers to optimize the 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.
Buyers looking for a comfortable small SUV should give the Tiguan a look. It’s sporty, with a proven engine and a smooth ride. The interior is comfortable and well laid out, and, like all SUVs, it can haul cargo.