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Over the last decade, Volkswagen has pushed simplicity, value and practicality in the U.S.; and in packaging, design and purpose, the Tiguan compact crossover stays true to these priorities, perhaps better than any other model in the lineup. The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan won't necessarily win crossover shoppers over for its pricetag, for interior space, or for having the very latest infotainment and connectivity features. 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.
With respect to styling and the driving experience, the Tiguan is one of the more conservative designs VW has produced in recent years--but that includes a knockout cabin that's attractive and gets all the details right. As if the Tiguan were designed from the inside out (maybe it was), this is a vehicle with an upright design inside and a straightforward presentation, yet with richer finishes than we've seen in some of VW's other small cars. From the outside, there's really nothing adventurous and nothing exciting about it, and it ends up looking like a grown-upward version of the Golf--with only the larger wheels on some models helping throw it more decisively into the crossover category.
The Tiguan doesn't betray its homely exterior too much. Although the specs might sound promising--200-horsepower turbocharged four, manual or automatic transmissions--this is a vehicle tuned for family duty, not for VW precision. It's more nimble and responsive than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, for sure, but the goods simply aren't here to satisfy driving enthusiasts. It can tow up to 2,200 pounds—good for jet-skis or ATVs—while all-wheel-drive versions also make good picks for those in snowy climates.
Really, the Tiguan is what it is: a very tall small car with a lot of usefulness, an affordable price, and good gas mileage. This vehicle is probably the best fit for a growing family that wants something with a little more utility, or to the older driver who likes the easier entry/exit and seating position of a city-oriented crossover. Most crossover shoppers also want an interior that's straightforward and versatile—as well as comfortable—and the Tiguan delivers on those expectations. Front seats feel sporty and supportive, with good comfort and an excellent driving position, while the second-row seats slide and tilt, leaving ample space for adults. With the 60/40-split seatbacks folded you get 56 cubic feet of cargo space (nearly 24 with the seat up), with a small 'hidden' storage bin under the floor plus a twin-compartment glovebox and various other cubbies throughout the vehicle.
Throughout the Tiguan, there really isn't a hair out of place. And while it isn't a design leader in any way, just a quick glance around the cabin may be enough to understand where this crossover really shines: Materials and details feel polished, assembly quality is tight, and overall there's a feel that this could conceivably be a vehicle from a premium brand like Audi.
Crash-test results for the Tiguan have been excellent, and Volkswagen continuous to offer a few more safety features than you'd typically expect to see in a small crossover. In addition to the usual front and side airbags, rear side thorax airbags—not often available in this class—are an option here. On all-wheel-drive versions, hill descent control is also included, to help control speed on steep slopes, while for 2013 hill-hold control and an electronic parking brake have been added to the entire model line.
Along with a mild refresh last year, VW upped the level of standard equipment in the Tiguan; base models remain above the entry prices for many rival models, however. But feature content throughout the lineup is now impressive. All Tiguans have a decent AM/FM/CD sound system, with an iPod adapter and voice-activated Bluetooth, while at the top of the model line you get leather seats and push-button start in the SEL. Mid-level SE models add fog and cornering lamps, heated seats, and VW's V-Tex vinyl seating—which to us is no upgrade, so try them both. The SEL model includes leather seats and push-button start, along with a sport suspension, bi-xenon headlamps and LED running lamps, and automatic climate control. Both SE and SEL trims get roof-rack rails. There's only one equipment surprise in the Tiguan: If you want a manual version of the Tiguan, you'll have to settle for the more basic base model.
For 2013, the Tiguan is no longer as vegan-friendly; all trims now include leather trim for the shift knob and steering wheel. Also new to the lineup is a partial power passenger seat in SE trims, while SEL models now have a full power one.
- Strong, efficient turbo four
- Upscale interior
- Roomy cabin
- Build quality and materials
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- Uninspired handling
- Conservative styling
- Priced higher than its peers
- Notchy, vague manual gearbox