The compact Golf might serve as ideal transportation in European cities, but Americans prefer bigger cars. With wider roads, wider butts, and--depending on where you live--tough weather conditions, an all-wheel-drive crossover seems to best fit the needs of American drivers. Enter the Tiguan, a tall hatchback based on the Golf but sized for us. VW calls it the "GTI of compact SUVs," and that's not far off. After all, the Tiguan shares the GTI's basic chassis setup, excellent body control, and prodigious grip. The only engine is the powerful and refined turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The Tiguan offers a better driving experience than do most of its competitors, but at the expense of a few miles per gallon. Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual or automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive. The Tiguan has a smooth ride and offers familiar, easy-to-use ergonomics. In fact, the Tiguan's biggest drawback is its moniker. Named by an apparently intoxicated bunch of Germans, it's half-tiger and half-iguana. This makes no sense, but the vehicle itself does. It's much smaller than the Touareg on the outside but still offers a lot of room inside. It's much less thirsty at the gas pump, too. Call it what you will, the Tiguan is a nice, if somewhat more expensive, alternative to the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.
Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: S, SE, SEL
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engine: 2.0L turbo I-4, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 95.4 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 2200 lb; cargo (rear seats
up/down) 23.8/56.1 cu ft
A face-lift for 2012 brings the Tiguan's looks in line with the rest of the Volkswagen family, particularly the larger Touareg. Key changes are a narrower grille and revised head- and taillights. The SEL now includes standard swiveling bixenon headlights and nineteen-inch wheels designed by Volkswagen's R performance division. The Tiguan rides on the same mechanical hardware that it did last year.
ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control are standard on the Tiguan.
EPA Fuel Economy
All: 18-22 mpg city/26-27 mpg highway
- Poised driving dynamics
- Spacious interior
- Excellent ergonomics
You Won't Like
- Uncompetitive fuel economy
A compact SUV with sporty roots.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Escape
- Honda CR-V
- Nissan Rogue
- Toyota RAV4