The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

By Thom Cannell
Detroit Bureau
The Auto Channel

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyers Guide

We flew into Fort Myers, Florida prepared to fix up our 1980's-era family condo and grab a few day's sun. As our beast of burden I thought the diminutive Volkswagen Tiguan crossover utility vehicle a great choice for hauling plumbing and people. Imagine our surprise when I had to fold down the rear seats to accommodate our modest luggage of a 70-pound rolling duffel, one roll-on suitcase, and two brief case carry-ons. I though i'd have to rent a truck!

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

However by mid-afternoon our Tiguan proved more capable then imaginable, swallowing an amazing assortment of cans and boxes: one bathroom vanity cabinet, one sink, one toilet, sink plumbing hardware and a new faucet, four gallons of paint, a 6' aluminum ladder, rollers, brushes, drop cloths, one large fluorescent bathroom lamp, two remodeler's lights, and we topped that off with eight bags of groceries.

Over the next week the Tiguan served more as a truck than car as it Toted boxes of tile, tile cement, tile tools, more paint, and more groceries. The rear seats easily collapsed for cargo duty, with the seat cushion flipping forward and the back flopping down (it's not a true fold-flat surface.) Making room for passengers is almost as easy as the cushion pulls into position easily. However the seat back pops up straight,\ rather than returning to its reclined position which is a small inconvenience. You'll find that reclining the seat makes a better seal against the scrolling privacy screen, improving quietness.

My first night time drive surprised me, this crossover was equipped with bi-xenon automatic adaptive headlights that turn with the steering wheel and pre-illuminated my intended line of travel. That is, as I turned the wheel my headlamps pointed into the turn. Plus they were bright and accurate, something many cars lack.

A big plus for Tiguan is brisk acceleration from the peppy and economical 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Ours had a six speed automatic transmission, though a six speed manual transmission is available. The engine makes 200 horsepower and more importantly a sturdy 207 pound feet of torque. That means you can accelerate quickly from a stoplight or join the freeway easily and i squeaked the tires surprisingly often; it's a torquey engine. The compact engine creates a rasty little engine note on full throttle acceleration and is otherwise quiet. Fuel economy is EPA rated at 12-19 in the city and 24-26 on the highway. Of course that depends on your driving style, choice of transmissions, as well as whether you opt for the all wheel drive version, which supplies power to any wheel that needs it; normally 90% of power goes to the front wheels.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Tiguan's fun to drive compact size and feel come from other VW products. A golf front suspension with a lower a-arm steering linkage and one-piece aluminum subframe (it locates the axle) is mated with a modified Passat independent rear four-link suspension. That, too, is modified with a weight-optimized high-strength steel subframe instead Passat's aluminum subframe.

Tiguan holds four or five with ease making it an efficient people mover and it does so in uncluttered European style. I liked the one-piece multi-grained instrument panel that prevents

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The familiar visual boredom induced by plain black everywhere, should you choose. Designs use two colors for the dash surface, no-glare black atop another charcoal or lighter color below. Controls are inset for a sleek appearance with large rotating knobs for intuitive operation. Large circular air outlets, two at each edge and two on either side of the audio stack, provide plenty of fresh or conditioned air as well as contributing a strong graphic element.

Controls mounted on the steering wheel activate the audio system and cruise control. VW also includes a driver information center between the tachometer and speedometer. It will tell you direction of travel, what You're listening to, and lots of other necessary information. Seats are firm and supple. Depending on the model, coverings are multi-textured fabric surfaces or leather panels on seats, steering wheel, and the shift knob. One very nice fact is that all models have similar interiors and the base model doesn't seem cheapened. Rather, the fabric or leather seat surfaces and choices of interior color vary from model to model but the design, instrument panel, and controls remain similar.

Options abound, like an enormous 13 square-foot panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, or a 6.5” touch-screen navigation system with backup camera that is current state of the art – it displays a solid graphic representation of your rearward travel and its lines bend as you rotate the steering wheel, showing you where you're steering.

Both AWD and FWD versions are available and they ride and handle quite differently. Vw's all wheel drive 4motion system provides only a very low first gear so there is no transfer case and ultra-low gears for serious off roaders. Road feel is rather like driving a tall vw gti with very precise steering. The front wheel drive vehicle, when equipped with a manual transmission, actually begs to be driven like a sports touring sedan as it grips the road and transmits road surface information to the driver. Photo Tiguan -3

I liked the red and blue backlighting for instruments and switches and appreciated the light, but accurate, electronic power steering. Passengers enjoyed its comfortable and supportive seats and an optional dynaudio/navigation system that plays dvd videos while parked, or dvd audio when moving. Standard safety features include six airbags and rear side airbags are optional. VW equips all three models with electronic stability control, abs, brake assist (it helps in panic stops,) and a Three-year/36,000 mile no-cost maintenance plan.

The model lineup pricing starts at $23,200 for an s with manual transmission. Stepping up to the se with automatic will cost $26,925, and Tiguan tops out at an SEL 4motion at $32,940 before extra cost options.

Things Gone Right

  • Compact size with plenty of room for four, reasonable accommodation for Five.
  • Tons of room for antiquing when rear seats are folded.
  • Fun to drive, powerful engine is sporty enough for a spirited drive and sedate enough for car pool duty.
  • Euro-stylish interior that does not demand premium price for a top of the line interior.
  • Plenty of upgrades to suit the most discerning and a base model satisfactory for most.
  • Manual transmission option.
  • Competes with bmw x3, acura rdx, cr-v on price and luxury.

There's room for improvement:

  • Family vacationers will need to take short trips or use gym-sized duffels for anything longer than a weekend trip.
  • Otherwise rear Seat passengers will be annoyed by uncomfortably upright seats required to fit standard luggage behind the seat backs.
  • Backup camera (optional) takes almost a second to illuminate, time enough to run over toys or tots unless you're patient.
  • Throttle control needs smoother control, not everyone likes to burn rubber at every stop light.

Author’ Note:No attempt at completeness, simply comments on one week’s driving experience―balanced against decades of experience and hundreds of comparisons.