By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/9/2011
As an entry in one of the automotive market's fastest-growing segments, sales of Volkswagen's compact SUV should be firing on all cylinders. Regrettably, early resistance to both its styling and pricing made VW's "kinda-cute" ute a tougher sell than projected. An aggressive freshening of its styling for 2012, along with an entry-level price point of under $24,000, provides VW with an opportunity to turn the Tiguan story around. And that could be helped in no small way by the number of new customers attracted to VW's Jetta and Passat; proximity, perhaps, will nurture familiarity.
If you enjoy the footprint and packaging of today's compact SUVs, but are looking for more power and/or greater agility, the 2012 VW Tiguan makes a great deal of sense.
If you're taking your compact SUV to the trailhead, you may wish for a better reliability record than is (historically) typical of VW. And while affordable at the entry level, a Tiguan laden with options can quickly get pricey.
What VW terms a "major design refresh" for 2012 provides the Tiguan with a new front fascia incorporating the horizontal brand face. The result is a compact SUV looking quite a bit like VW's larger, up-market Touareg. At the rear, revised taillights also reflect the appearance of the Touareg, creating a "tough new look for the urban jungle." Finally, the top-of-the-line SEL receives new 19-inch alloy wheels, designed by Volkswagen's performance-oriented R performance division.
Sharing the GTI's 200-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder, you'd be inclined to think the Tiguan might provide some GTI-like performance. And with a 0-60 dash of less than eight seconds, it's less sluggish than a great many in the category. However, the Tiguan's upright stance, relatively soft suspension and prodigious (when compared to a Golf-based GTI) mass all work against it. You cross-shop it, however, with some of its immediate competition from Japan, and you'll find the Tiguan unexpectedly responsive, even in base S packaging. Of note is the sport suspension provided on the SEL trim. Given its Germanic DNA, steering, braking and drivability are above average in the class.
4Motion All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
Available on all models (but not, regrettably, available with a manual transmission) 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) takes the guesswork out of 4WD engagement, as it's always engaged. In most conditions 90 percent of the drive goes to the front wheels. When front-wheel slip is detected, however, the system can direct almost 100 percent of the driving torque to the rear wheels, providing driver and passenger(s) with genuine security, regardless of season.
40/20/40 Split Rear Seating
In a vehicle intended to offer utility, nothing beats stowage versatility. And within its compact footprint the Tiguan has it in spades, led by its flexible rear seating. The rear seats will fold in a 40/20/40 split, accommodating a wide variety of loads and load lengths. And they will also slide fore and aft by some six inches, increasing passenger comfort, or cargo capacity, as you need it.