Volkswagen's Tiguan has always been a gem of the compact-SUV class: not too big, not too small, with crisp styling inside and out and even a bit of handling prowess. Now the Tiguan gets a much-needed update for 2012, with a new facelift that brings it in line with the rest of VW's lineup.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine remains the same, but gets a new six-speed automatic transmission to help improve fuel economy. Still available is a six-speed manual and the availability of 4Motion all-wheel drive that varies power among all four wheels depending on handling and road conditions. New 19-inch alloy wheels are added for 2012, as well as the inclusion of available bi-xenon headlights.
The Tiguan comes well-appointed with touch-screen audio and Bluetooth controls, along with 18-inch wheels, a cold weather package, dual-zone climate control, and power-adjustable leather seating -- features expected from its young professional audience which VW plans to target. Unfortunately, the Tiguan prices itself at the higher end of its competition, and more space and less expense can be found with the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-7.
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
Models: S, SE, SEL
For 2012 Volkswagen gives the Tiguan a fresh face, mimicking its bigger sibling the Touareg, as well as the rest of VW's lineup. There's a new lower bumper and faux skid plate to imply toughness, and LED lights are integrated into the headlight housings, which add an upscale (and expensive) look. A new six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission adds more fuel economy. The off-road package is nixed with the redesign, keeping in line with VW's pavement-only aspirations for the cute-ute.
With a newer, cleaner look, the Tiguan is handsome, stubby and purposeful -- even if it's not a serious off-roader, it looks more competent than others in the class. Available alloy wheels range in size from 16- to 19-inches, and integrated roof racks and bi-Xenon headlights add to the Tiguan's utility. And for those who don't find the Tiguan's look to be exciting enough, VW offers a $2000 Sport Styling Package to give the cute-ute less cuteness and more aggression.
The interior is trimmed in soft-touch, quality-feeling plastics and plenty of wood, leather, and aluminum. Headroom is excellent for all passengers and the adjustable front armrest and audio input are nice touches. Higher-optioned models come with a 300-watt premium Dynaudio system and a touch-screen navigation system.
Performance & Handling
Volkswagen describes the Tiguan as "the GTI of compact SUVs," which implies a level of sportiness that's at best faintly present. Indeed, the Tiguan does handle well, especially with 4Motion all-wheel-drive. The only engine available, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shared with the Golf, has plenty of low-end torque. Sadly, the quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission available on the Golf and GTI isn't an option here.
Six airbags are available, including full-length side curtain airbags for the entire cabin. Electronic traction control is standard. Like all modern VW models, the Tiguan comes with Intelligent Crash Response System, which shuts off the engine and turns on the headlights automatically if a crash is detected.
EPA Fuel Economy
S, SE, SEL: 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway (manual, S only); 21-22 mpg city/27 mpg highway (auto)
- Peppy 2.0-liter turbo engine
- Available 4Motion all-wheel drive
- High-class interior
- Sporty on-road, capable off-road
You Won't Like
- No DSG transmission available
Minimal cargo space
Gets expensive, fast
If an Audi Q5's too pricey...
If You Like This Vehicle
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Ford Escape
- Mazda CX-7
- Subaru Forester
- Toyota RAV-4