- A premium interior
- Turbo four is strong, efficient
- Cabin is roomy
- Handling is uninspired
- Manual transmission feels vague
- Styling can seem too staid
It's not particularly fun to drive, but the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan feels every bit like a premium crossover vehicle.
The Volkswagen Tiguan won't win over crossover shoppers with a low pricetag, with a vast interior, the very latest infotainment and connectivity features, or even the best gas mileage. What it does simply, and well, is deliver the essentials in the typical VW fashion: it's the right size, with the right performance, styled for long-lasting appeal, with a cabin that's a knockout even at the top of its price range.
The Tiguan shares some running gear with the Golf lineup, and from a distance, it looks like a Golf upsized to tall-wagon proportions. It's tame in the same ways, timeless to some for the same reasons. There's not a hair out of place, and with its new grille, some blessed definition at the front end to match the crisp lines that outline its glass. No design leader like the Hyundai Tucson or Ford Escape or Kia Sportage, the Tiguan's content to look good for a long time. Owners will notice it from the inside more anyway, and that's where it truly shines, with polished materials and tight assembly quality that would embarrass some $40,000 sedans.
One engine propels the Tiguan, and it's one of VW's best. The turbocharged, 200-horsepower four works best with the six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, though it doesn't feel especially light or nimble even in that trimmest configuration. The Tiguan's just not an autocrosser--for that, there's a Golf R with all-wheel drive. This crossover can tow up to 2200 pounds, and can mud around with optional all-wheel drive, toting your skis and pets if you want to share in the fun.
The Tiguan has the straightforward, versatile, and comfortable interior that compact crossover shoppers look for. Sporty and supportive seats give good comfort and an excellent driving position in front, and the flexible interior package includes second-row split bench seats designed to slide and tilt. Even larger adults will be very comfortable in the front seats, thanks to generous headroom, shoulder room, and legroom, and the back seats are ample for adults. The cargo compartment has a small hidden storage bin underneath the load floor, and with the 60/40-split back seats folded there's 56 cubic feet of expanded cargo space. A twin glove box up front adds convenience, and there are numerous other cubbies.
With the Tiguan, Volkswagen keeps to its commitment to safety features and top-notch occupant protection. Standard features include front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and stability control, while rear side thorax airbags—not often available in this class—are an option. On all-wheel-drive versions, hill descent control is also included, to help control speed on steep slopes. Safety results have been excellent.
VW's upped the standard equipment in the Tiguan, but base models still cost more than $23,000, and fully outfitted versions approach $40,000. All Tiguans have a decent AM/FM/CD sound system, and an iPod adapter and voice-activated Bluetooth are now also standard on all models. The SEL model includes leather seats and push-button start, and roof-rack rails come with SE and SEL trims. Noteworthy options include a sizable panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, and a music hard drive, and an iPod connection. The navigation and audio setup also includes DVD video playback when the vehicle is stopped, and an SD memory card slot. The top Dynaudio system remains offered only on the Tiguan SEL 4Motion model.