2009 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan - Crossing new terrain.


The early 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan fits into the thriving market for crossover utility vehicles, although VW refers to its new model as a compact SUV.

By that definition, the Tiguan is Volkswagen's first compact SUV. I'd call it the automaker's first compact crossover because it was developed from Volkswagen's compact Rabbit auto platform, with much-modified running gear. A crossover is generally defined as a vehicle that's car-based with SUV-style roominess.

The Tiguan is handsome, with a substantial profile and such items as sculpted shoulders. It's a four-door hatchback built to help Volkswagen match rivals Toyota and Honda as a genuine mainstream automaker.

Although billed as a five-seater, the Tiguan more comfortably seats four tall adults because its roomy backseat has a stiff center area best left to a large fold-down armrest.

The new VW comes in S, SE or SEL trim levels with front- or an improved version of the automaker's all-wheel-drive system for the two higher-line models.

Prices range from $23,200 for the front-drive S with a manual gearbox to $32,940 for the SEL with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. All have such standard features as air conditioning, cruise control, decent sound systems, split-folding rear seats and power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry.

Standard safety items include front- and curtain-side air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system.

Options include a navigation system and a panoramic sunroof.

In Europe, where fuel prices easily top those in America, the Tiguan has a 1.4-liter, twin-turbocharged diesel engine. But it likely will be offered here with a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder diesel late this year or in early 2009 -- and the sooner the better with no fuel price declines in sight. The approximately 140-horsepower diesel might deliver up to 40 mpg on highways.

For now, though, the Tiguan has a dual-overhead camshaft 2-liter four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection and four valves per cylinder, instead of the usual two, for greater efficiency. It sits low and doesn't take up much room under the hood, where fluid filler areas are easily reached without getting clothes dirty.

That engine provides an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 25 on highways with the automatic transmission and a few more mpg with the manual gearbox. All-wheel-drive versions are a little less fuel-thrifty.

Although small by U.S. standards, the sophisticated four-cylinder produces 200 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque at only 1,700 rpm for good responsiveness during typical U.S. driving. This familiar VW engine provides nearly the performance of a six-cylinder while being smooth and quiet.

The engine is mated to a manual or automatic transmission, both with six speeds. The decent manual works with a light, long-throw clutch that might cause some Tiguan buyers who live in congested areas to opt for the efficient automatic.

However, the Tiguan is like most Volkswagens in that it's a fun-to-drive vehicle with a sport suspension.

Acceleration is strong and linear in town and on highways, although the Tiguan is rather heavy at 3,397 to 3,631 pounds. Steering is quick and accurate, putting the Tiguan exactly where you want it to go without hesitation. It has an electro-mechanical assist mechanism that nearly eliminates kickback road shock at the wheel when encountering big bumps.

The suspension shrugs off road imperfections, although the brake pedal causes the brakes to engage a little early. A more progressive-action pedal would be appreciated.

The quiet, nicely executed interior has an upscale appearance. Front seats provide good side support and all have adjustable back supports. However, rear headrests partially hinder vision through the back window. Climate controls are large, and radio controls are easily worked once you get used to them. Front and rear dual cupholders are set low, although the rear armrest contains more conveniently placed cupholders. Back windows lower all the way.

The cargo area has a wide, rather high opening and is roomy. Rear seatbacks flip forward for more cargo space but don't fold completely flat. The hatch has two indented areas to help close it.

The heavy hood has a long prop rod to hold it open, rather than more convenient hydraulic struts.

While a little late to the crossover party, the Tiguan looks and feels more upscale than some more-established Asian rivals.

Prices: $23,200-$32,940

Likes: Fast. Roomy. Distinctive styling. Decent fuel economy. Compliant ride. Fun to drive. Available all-wheel drive.

Dislikes: Narrow rear door openings. Old-fashioned hood prop. Rear headrests hinder vision.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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