2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan - A smaller crowd.


Volkswagen of America continues growing its full-line of automobiles in its U.S. fleet. Volkswagen, Europe's volume-leading car company, has been peddling its wares in the United States since the mid 1950s. In the last year, the German automaker introduced its first minivan (the 2009 Routan) to American shoppers and also its first compact crossover, the 2009 Tiguan. Both are new segments for VW, although both face well-established competitive nameplates. While minivan popularity may have peaked about a decade ago, the compact crossover segment continues strong. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. no longer sell a traditional V-6 powered minivan, although both have invested heavily in crossover vehicles of all sizes in the last two years.

What exactly is a crossover? Depends who one asks. Crossovers have a hatchback design, four side doors and a less boxy exterior design than a minivan or sport utility vehicle. Crossovers differ from SUVs in that traditional SUVs are heavier and designed for off-road use while crossovers are built for pavement. Larger crossovers boast three rows of seating while compact sizes generally have two rows, although Toyota's RAV4 (starting at $21,500) and Mitsubishi's Outlander have third-row availability. A majority of compact crossovers come with four-cylinder engines, with a few exceptions. The all-new 2009 Tiguan (measuring 174.3 inches in length) first arrived in VW dealers in the spring of 2008.

Next question... What is a Tiguan? Don't fret if Webster doesn't have an answer since Tiguan is a dreamed up, yet pleasant sounding name. It's not the lowest priced Volkswagen sold in America. That distinction belongs to the compact Rabbit starting around $15,600. Speaking of the Rabbit, Tiguan shares the underpinning platform of the spunky Rabbit, which is sold as the Golf in markets outside the U.S.

Three Tiguan trim levels are available: S, SE and SEL. The base S is an exclusive front-drive system while SE and SEL are available with front or all-wheel drive, which VW markets at '4Motion.' The all-wheel drive edition comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive S editions come with the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. The sole powertrain is an inline 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating an impressive 200 horsepower. No six cylinder engine is offered. Currently, no diesel or hybrid versions are available.

Tiguan starts at $23,200 for a manual transmission base model with front-wheel drive. A top-level SEL with all-wheel drive checks in at $32,540. Our test SE all-wheel drive listed at $28,875 and ended at $33,165 with optional navigation system ($1,950), power sunroof ($1,300) rear seat side air bags ($350) and a $690 destination charge.

The attractive instrument panel consists of two large circular analog gauges flanked by two smaller gauges along the bottom. A square digital information window is above the two diminutive circles. At night, easy-on-the-eyes blue and red backlighting creates a familiar VW glow. Eight circular, adjustable air vents adorn the dashboard. On the dashboard's top is an indented storage area. Controls are smartly within easy reach of the driver. A headlight dial resides towards the far left of the dash. The driver's door incorporates power window, lock and sideview mirror controls at a 45-degree angle towards the front of the door. Volkswagen generally receives high marks for interior quality and style. Tiguan carries on this tradition. It's an upscale interior found in a volume vehicle.

Below the rather diminutive 6.5-inch navigation screen are three easy-to-grab ventilation dials. Between the front bucket seats is the transmission shifter, dual beverage holders, electronic brake release and an arm/rest storage bin. The glove box measures in on the small side.

Tiguan is a five-seater with two rows; no third row seat is offered. The 70/30 split second row seats recline fore and aft six inches. Seatbacks also fold forward flat onto the seat cushions by pulling a strap forward along the base of the seat. This compact crossover is big enough so three adults can fit in reasonable comfort in row two. The front passenger seatback also folds flat for extra cargo carrying options. Both S and SE have cloth interiors while the top SEL sports leather seating.

Tiguan's aggressive stance is enhanced by arched wheel wells. Volkswagen's familiar circular logo is front and center flanked by a small horizontal grille and narrow headlight housing. The rear hatch opens from the bottom up. When open, even those 6-feet four-inches have enough head clearance. A temporary spare tire situates under the flat cargo floor.

Tiguan is built more for performance than fuel efficiency. Our four-cylinder all-wheel drive test model with six-speed automatic checked in at a below average 18 mpg city and 24 highway. With front wheel drive and automatic transmission, highway mileage registers one mpg better. The trade off is a turbocharged 200 horsepower four-cylinder that has the legs of a six cylinder. The fuel tank holds 16.8 gallons of premium recommended fuel. By in large, Tiguan will set bank accounts back more so than with most compact crossover competitors (and the number of rivals is growing);but, if great handling and dynamite performance are a requisite, Tiguan is a great place to start. During a fresh batch of December winter snow, the all-wheel drive Tiguan handled exceptionally well.

All trims come very nicely equipped with front air bags, front-seat side airbags, head curtain air bags for both rows, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Seat side air bags for the second row are optional. Also standard is air conditioning; cruise control; compact disc player with MP3 capability and power windows, locks and side view mirrors. The in-dash DVD navigation system is a $1,950 option in both SE and SEL.

All Volkswagens, including Tiguan, come with a three year, no charge, carefree maintenance program. Basically this means all of Tiguan's scheduled maintenance is covered for three years or 36,000 miles. This includes towing coverage for warranty-related items. In addition, powertrain warranty coverage is applicable for five years or 60,000 miles.

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.