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.