Saturday, August 21, 2010



The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have long been the gold standard for automakers looking to mass produce a decently successful compact SUV. Emerging automotive superpower Volkswagen however, decided to try its hand at the segment for the 2009 model year with the introduction of the Tiguan, giving shoppers of the growing segment yet another option.

As the old adage asks, ‘What’s in a name?’. In the case of this car, nothing. Once one is able to see beyond the name, they will notice a compact SUV that is sportier, more elegant, and better looking than the competition. It is also the most expensive with its starting MSRP of $23,200, as the CRV and RAV4 both come with starting stickers under $22,000. So the question remains; does the $1,500 premium in price make this German offering a viable one when considered against the Japanese models?

Exterior:
Despite the relative blandness of the Tiguan S – the car we tested – it still sits in our opinion as the best looking and most attractive in its class. Depending on the trim package, the Tiguan is offered with Bi-Xenon headlights which feature a built-in leveling and steerable light system, heated sideview mirrors, panoramic sunroof, and roof rails for the outdoorsmen out there. All of this sits atop 16-inch 7-spoke standard alloy wheels, and buyers of any model reserve the option to upgrade to 17, 18, or even 19-inch alloy wheels.

Of course, all those added options will make the Tiguan look a tad bit better than the base Tiguan S model given to use to test-drive.

With its wheelbase of 102.5 inches and measuring in at 174.3” long by 71.2” wide with a height of 66.3”, the Tiguan sits just a foot shorter than the Toureg. That size takes a downturn when you get in the interior of the Tiguan.

Interior:
The Tiguan continues upon Volkswagen’s philosophy of offering premium interiors marked by soft-touch materials and ergonomic layouts. The quality difference between the interior of the Tiguan and those of the competitors is not so great however that it warrants the $1,500 price premium.

The base model Tiguan S comes standard with an AM/FM Radio with CD player and AUX input in the center dash display. The Tiguan Wolfsburg and SEL (priced at $27,750 and $31,550 respectively), offer the buyer the option of adding a DVD Navigation System with rear-view-camera, touch-screen radio and navigation controls and a 30GB HDD to manage the navigation system, telephone, Bluetooth, heated-seats, rear-view camera, radio, and CD and MP3 players.

The Tiguan comes through in a solid way with regard to size and passenger seating area. The 60/40 split rear seats move backward to provide extra legroom, and down to provide extra headroom. Cargo volume unfortunately, is not so impressive; the 56.1 cubic feet of space with collapsed seats is very small when one considers the 73 cubic feet offered by both the RAV4 and the CRV. If cargo space is what you desire, than you had better weigh other options – however, if it is comfort, legroom, and a spacious interior for passengers that you seek, your search has ended.



Performance:
The 2010 Volkswagen Tiguan derives its power from the company’s award winning 200-hp 2.0 TSI 4-cylinder engine which puts out 207 lb-ft of torque. The engine comes standardly fitted to a 6-speed manual but buyers have the option of upgrading to a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic. The automatic upgrade brings the car to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. Nonetheless, we recommend a manual transmission for spirited driving and the Tiguan is the only SUV/Crossover in the segment that offers do-it-yourself-shifting.

All Tiguan models come standardly equipped with front-wheel-drive, and for an extra $3,050 can be outfitted with VW’s 4Motion four-wheel drive system which provides for a more stable and balanced handling experience on many type of road surfaces.

Fuel-economy is about what one would expect – 19/26 mpg (city/highway) when atttached to a 6-speed manual, and 18/24 mpg when mated to a 6-speed automatic. During our test we were able to manage a combined fuel-economy of 18 mpg.

The power numbers are actually quite impressive when compared to the competition. The ’10 Honda CR-V pulls its strength from a 180-hp DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine, while the ’10 RAV4 derives its strength from a 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve making 179-hp. Those numbers being considered, we’d also like to point out that Toyota offers the RAV4 with a 269-hp 3.5L V6 engine, which starts at $23,710.

Overall:
The answer to the question we originally posed, ‘does the $1,500 premium in price make the German offering a viable one when considered against the Japanese models?’ That really depends on the type of person you are, but our answer is “not really”. All things considered, the Tiguan is probably more suited to the pseudo-hipster with his MacBook and Starbucks half-caf-soy-mocha-latte-extra-foam-no-whip, while the consumer who is strictly about obtaining the most bang for the buck will certainly be driving their C-RV or RAV4 to get their Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolatta.

Regardless of which type you are though, the Tiguan is at least worthy of a test-drive if you have any inclination towards the compact SUV segment.



- By: Stephen Calogera

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