Everything about Volkswagen's small crossover, the Tiguan, is understated except its name. Unlike the popular VW models being cranked out in Tennessee, the Tiguan still is built in Germany, which may account for its more Euro look (and boost in the price tag).
Appearance: At first blush, the Tiguan's design appears fairly vanilla, but let it sit in your driveway for a week and you begin to appreciate its Euro understatement. Even though the 2012 model has been refreshed, it still carries a dated styling cue — rocker-panel cladding, anyone? Our tester's chrome window trim and 18-inch alloy wheels highlighted the deep-blue paint. Up front, the VW's simple horizontal grille is framed by wide-set headlights. We detect an Audi influence in the daylight running lights that frame the headlamps. Sharp.
Performance: We were both impressed with the Tiguan's feisty 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 200 horsepower. The motor responds well to being pushed hard, and that's when the Tiguan is fun to drive. The downside: It's noisy and takes premium gas. Peter found the 6-speed automatic too busy in city driving — it always seems to be fishing for a gear, which may help the 22/27 mpg. We found the ride to be on the firm side, though not unforgiving. The 2,200-pound towing capacity is also decent for the class. Our tester was front-wheel drive — VW's well-regarded AWD system is also available — and cornered adequately, but with some body lean.
Interior: VW has done a good job of making the interior look upscale, using a nice mix of hard- and soft-touch materials for the dash and other surfaces, such as the "leatherette" seats. (The exception: flimsy seat-adjustment levers.) The controls and gauges are well laid out and almost simple to a fault (except for the onscreen radio controls), and we liked the round, retro air vents. Our tester had the optional sunroof, which stretches from front seats to back and brightens the cabin. But its cover, an electronically controlled mesh shade, doesn't seem enough to keep out the Florida summer heat. That said, the opening is probably among the biggest we've seen, and all passengers can enjoy the view. There is adequate room in the back for adults — as long as you push the sliding seats all the way back. The seats are a 40/20/40 split, and fold with an easy pull of a lever. With rear seats folded down flat, there's 56.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which doesn't measure up to some of the competition. (With the rear seats up, there's not enough room for a big grocery run.)
Our 3 favorites
Steering wheel: Thick, leather-wrapped and grippy.
Floor mats: Our tester had heavy-duty rubber floor mats — great for the summer rainy season.
Color: The Night Blue Metallic is classy.
Torque: Lots of pick-up-and-go for an SUV.
Sunroof: Long and wide opening brings in lots of light for both front and rear passengers.
Rear seats: Slide forward and back. Plus you can lean back and watch the view.
The bottom line: The Volkswagen Tiguan is a small crossover SUV that's more for those whose priority is style and not cargo capacity.