With a heart from the GTI hot-hatch and overachieving manners and materials, this Veedub's worth a few more bucks
Volkswagen is a company of two minds right now. On one front, you have vehicles like the new Jetta and Passat, products built specifically to a price that is right in the heart of the market. Then, there are product like our subject here, the 2012 Tiguan. It's the kind of machine VW built its solid gold reputation on. To get behind the wheel of this compact SUV means plunking down $27,875, significantly more than rivals like the Kia Sportage at $21,995 and even a bit more than a top-selling Chevrolet Equinox at $26,315. Here's the thing, though: those few extra dollars are worth it. As has long been the case with Volkswagens, pay a little more and you get a little better built vehicle. It's a trend that's changing with those new gotta-be-priced-just-right Jettas and Passats, but the Tiguan still feels like a vehicle engineered for the class above where it competes.
The Tig's been given a slight overhaul for 2012. It's mostly cosmetic touches to being the five-seater in line with the Veedub family's new conservative looks. The powertrain's unchanged, but an all-star nonetheless. It's powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder engine as the famed Golf GTI hot-hatch, here making a solid 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. In a strange twist for Volkswagen Canada - which usually offers two or three engine choices in each model - the 2.0T is the only mill offered under the Tiguan's hood. At least it finds a happy medium between surprisingly swift performance and fuel economy, officially rated by the Feds as good as 9.7 L/100 km city and 7.6 highway.
It's disappointing that the bottom two of the Tiguan's three trim levels (Treadline, Comfortline and Highline) come with a manual transmission. Not that we're against shifting ourselves, but it's a fact that most shoppers in this category opt for an automatic gearbox. You should instantly add $1,400 to the sticker of this VW is you want its six-speed auto.
On the street, the Tiguan remains the quiet, smooth and solid handling rig it’s been since debuting in 2007. Befitting any German car worth its lederhosen, the SUV feels likes it would be comfortable far beyond the speeds were limited to here in Canada.
We do wish the steering didn't have such airy-fairy feel and - here's a first for us - avoid the optional $2,000ish Sport Package unless you're a fan of some seriously stiff suspension.
We had a full weekend of errands and family visiting to trundle through when I test-drove the Tig, so I can vouch for its usefulness as a ride for a young family. Being a European-designed machine, the VW's noticeable compact too - over one foot shorter than that Chevy Equinox - but feels no less roomy inside. Kudos to Wolfsburg for some brilliant packaging here.
The Tiguan's interior's pretty much unchanged from last year and is a simple, easy-to-live-with design with lots of storage spot. The driving position's very chair-like and the dashboard seems tall and upright, so shorter drivers are encouraged to make sure they can find a comfortable seating position before signing on that dotted line.
Quality, as we've mentioned, is A1 here. All the materials feel above-class as does fit and finish. Too bad the light beige interior of our test car seems to get dirty so easily. Black's available as well, but not the brown seats shown in our press shots.
Unless you opt for the full-jam $38,375 Highline Tiguan (more thoughts on it later…), adding all-wheel drive to this VW will run you another $3,400. The 4Motion system's a pretty stellar setup though, able to adjust the power going to each wheel individually to maintain grip and stabilities (in terms of the vehicle and the driver's mental state…)
Three across the back row of this Veedub may not be the most spacious experience, but the rear seats do recline, slide fore-and-aft to max-out cargo or legroom, and split-fold 60/40.
We're torn on the design of the rear hatch, too. While the opening's nice and low to ease lifting heavy objects in, the actual release button is way, way down in the license plate box and gets dirty in all but the sunniest of driving conditions. Yuck.
An entry-level Tiguan's equipped with a fine suite of basics, but if you can make the walk to the $31,375 Comfortline model, it's recommended. A panoramic sunroof, leatherette seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, a premium touchscreen radio and a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel all come online here.
Perhaps the best way to wrap-up here is to come back to that Tiguan Highline model mentioned above:
You see, Audi Canada is having trouble getting enough Q5 compact SUVs to satisfy demand. I'd point those yearning customers across the parking lot to the Volkswagen dealership at a top-shelf Tiguan. Sure, the badge on the nose is not as premium as the four-ringer and some exotic luxury toys are missing, but this SU-VW can be quite the premium machine.
Between its class-above driving manners and gear like navigation, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, 18-inch wheels, rain sensing wipers, iPod connectivity and dual-zone climate control, it's an Audi in Wolfsburg clothing.
After all, isn’t that what VWs are supposed to be all about?