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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE Review by John Heilig

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By John Heilig
The Auto Channel

Model: 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan SE with sunroof and navigation
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 200 H @ 5,700 rpm/207 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 102.5 in.
Length x Width x Height: 174.5 x 71.2 x 65.6 in.
Tires: P235/50R18
Cargo: 23.8/56.1 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
Economy: 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway/30.3 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 16.8 gal.
Curb Weight: 3,393 lbs.
Sticker: $31,345 (includes $820 destination charge)

Top 5 Reasons to buy this car:

1. Nice compact SUV
2. Comfortable
3. Easy rider/driver
4. Solid
5. Only compact SUV with turbo standard

The Bottom Line: The Volkswagen Tiguan has an odd name (many VW models do), but once you get beyond the name you’ll discover a pretty decent compact SUV. It has all the capabilities of a compact SUV with the added benefit of turbocharging of the four-cylinder engine to provide better power when needed with little sacrifice in economy.

It has taken me a while to get a Volkswagen Tiguan to test drive. I was intrigued by how this compact SUV would fit in VW’s lineup between the wagons it produces and the Touareg large SUV.

Well, it fits nicely. We have driven the Touareg several times and have enjoyed its capabilities. We also got significant seat time in a Jetta Sportwagon as well, and like the way VW has kept the Jetta’s personality despite the wagon body.

The Tiguan, however is a different puppy altogether. First, it is a true compact SUV that has about the same exterior dimensions and feel as a Toyota Highlander. That said, it has the size you need when the situation calls for a vehicle with cargo capabilities, yet it isn’t too big to make it a handful when you have to drive in tight places.

VW brags that the Tiguan is the only compact SUV with a turbocharged engine as standard. That’s important. The 2.0-liter inline four can deliver the power when needed, yet still retain all the economic advantages of a four. For example, we averaged more than 30 mpg in our test, yet found that the available power was very good when we needed it.

I was slightly disappointed when I found significant turbo lag when I tromped on the accelerator. Normally, this lag isn’t that noticeable, but it stood out like a sore thumb when I needed that power.

The front seats are comfortable with good side support. These seats are adjustable manually, but they are relatively easy to adjust to a comfortable position. They’re also heated, which proved to be in valuable in cold weather.

The rear seats have very good legroom and decent side support of their own. Of course, the rear seat backs fold to significantly increase cargo capacity. There’s a high center hump in the rear which precludes putting a center passenger back there.

Drive quality is enhanced when the instruments are easy to read, the audio system is easy to operate, and the HVAC system can deliver the heat (or cold) where you want it with a minimum of fuss. The Tiguan passes muster on all counts.

The instruments are “standard” VW, with white-on-black gauges and red pointers. The HVAC system has three knobs, one for temperature, one for fan speed and one for controlling the air flow. The heated seat buttons are located inside the two outside knobs. The audio system is also easy to operate and has an interesting readout.

We didn’t use the navigation system, but the map was clear and the operation of the navi (inputting locations, etc.) was intuitive.

Sadly, my quest to test drive the Tiguan was not exciting or earth-shattering. The Tiguan is a very good compact SUV on a Volkswagen chassis that is in itself a good recommendation. That it seemed so “normal” was, in a sense, slightly disappointing. However, it could have been bad, which would have made it more fun to write about, but less fun to drive or own.

2012 The Auto Page