2010 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI Trendline Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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We are told the name "Tiguan" is a combination of Tiger and Iguana. It sounds like the product of the end of a long, hard week in the Volkswagen marketing department ("Oh, what the heck Fred, It's almost quitting time. Let's go with Tiguan"). If you think I'm joking, someday ask one of Ford's marketing people how the minivan Freestar got its name.

Tiguan may not make a lot of sense, but the compact wagon to which it's applied is eminently sensible. It even qualifies as fun, a term not often associated with crossover vehicles or compact SUVs or whatever the current jargon is for a wagon like this. The Tiguan is meant to compete with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester.

The Tiguan is a front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is available) vehicle with four doors and a rear hatch. The engine is the now-familiar 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplant that produces 200 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 206 pound-feet of torque at 1,700 rpm. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. This combination produces the estimated EPA equivalent of 13.1 L/100km in the city and 9.8 on the highway; more optimistic Canadian fuel economy numbers are 11.2 and 7.6 respectively. VW recommends premium gas "for maximum performance."

The price of a Tiguan is a tad higher than the competition. The base Trendline version starts at $27,875 and the top-of-the-line Highline 4Motion (AWD) with automatic transmission goes for $37,775. I tested the Trendline with automatic. Manufacturer's suggested retail price was $29,275 and the total was $30,855 with the destination charge of $1,580.

Here's what you get for your money: four-wheel disc brakes w/ABS; Electronic Stabilization Programme (ESP); the standard array of airbags; air conditioning; 8-way manual driver's and passenger's seat with lumbar control (the passenger seat folds flat); tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; cruise control; 60/40 split folding, reclining and sliding rear seat with fold-flat capability; electronic push-button parking brake; AM/FM radio with single CD player; MP3 format capability and auxiliary input; power windows; power side mirrors with side blinkers; variable intermittent windshield wipers; and front and rear carpeted floor mats.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am in general a fan of Volkswagens. From the Golf to the CC, I've found the products from Wolfsburg fun to drive, distinctive in their styling and the interiors are among the best in the industry. I also recognize that VW has had some reliability issues, but that they are being dealt with. So I was looking forward to a week with the Tiguan, to see how VW defines a compact SUV.

The test car showed up looking sharp in Reflex Silver Metallic with the Charcoal cloth interior. I was a little surprised that the Tiguan was smaller than expected (overall length is 4,427 mm / 174.3 inches on a wheelbase of 2,603 /102.5). It really is a compact SUV, but passenger space is not squeezed. There's plenty of headroom front and back and legroom in the rear is enhanced by rear seats that slide fore and aft and recline as well. Technically, it has seating capacity for five, but four is more realistic. Cargo space is tight, especially with the rear seat backs upright (674 litres / 23.8 cubic feet expands to 1,588 litres / 56.1 cubic feet with the second row down).

The layout of the driver's cockpit is straightforward and controls are intuitive. Operating the climate control is simple and, wonder of wonders on a German car, there is one knob that turns the radio on and off and controls volume. A second knob actually allows one to meander up and down the dial. If you want to pre-set stations, you tune to the station you want and push one button – voila! – it's done. How quaint. Other manufacturers could learn from this.

Interior fit-and-finish is first rate, despite the liberal use of plastics in the execution. The cloth-covered seats are comfortable and supportive. The levers on the sides of the front seats jack up the seat height or lower it manually as needed. Simple and useful.

Exterior styling is clean and modern. I expect the design will age well as it contains no fad notions. The Tiguan bears a close family resemblance to the Golf, Passat and other VW products, which is a good thing.

Another Volkswagen "family" trait is crisp handling. The Tiguan isn't a sports car in terms of handling, but it tracks responsively on its four-wheel independent suspension. You get the confident feeling it will stick to the road so long as you don't violate the laws of physics. The turbocharged inline four provides brisk acceleration (0-100 km/h in 8.0 seconds and an electronically-limited top speed of 210 km/h /131 mph, according to the company) and strong passing power. At idle, you feel the slight roughness of the four-cylinder engine, but nothing objectionable. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly – both in the auto and manual mode. The cabin is quiet at highway speeds.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined that the Tiguan performed well in crash tests, rating it with five stars, its top score, in frontal and side crashes and four stars in rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Tiguan as "good" in its crash tests.

Volkswagen stands behind the Tiguan with a five year/100,000-km powertrain warranty, a vehicle warranty of 4 years or 80,000 km and an anti-corrosion warranty of 12 years and unlimited distance. It has a roadside assistance program for the first four years or 80,000 km and a no-charge scheduled maintenance program for the same time and mileage limits.

You can make jokes about the name Tiguan, but if you're in the market for a compact SUV, the Volkswagen entry is worth serious consideration. True, the base price for a Tiguan is a couple thousand dollars higher than those of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, but the fun-to-drive quotient is higher in the VW and it does stand out from the crowd.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Volkswagen, VW, 2010, Tiguan, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Tiguan,

Organizations: Volkswagen

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