On more than one occasion, I heard the term chick car applied to Volkswagen’s baby suv, usually by some smart alec know it all guy. I wonder how many of these he-men have actually driven one. I would assume none, as there is so many things to love about this little ute, not the least of which is the way it loves a windy road.
Perhaps the chick car handle came about because most small suv/cuv’s are woefully underpowered. Not so with the Tiguan. Powered by a 2.0 liter, turbocharged, direct injected 4 cylinder, our tester had 200 horsepower reaching the ground through a 6 speed automatic and 4motion all wheel drive. Tiptronic shifting has been around so long that it has become like Kleenex is to tissues: every just calls manual shift autoboxes a Tiptronic. It is no wonder then that VW’s original system works flawlessly. I have to admit though that the automatic’s brain is so well programmed that I left it in D for most of my time and let it shift itself. Even on windy roads it always selects the right gear to keep the turbo spooled up so that smooth power is ready when you need it.
One may not think about a small suv as the weapon of choice for a twisty rural road, but the euro tuned independent suspension under the Tiguan is more than up to the task. It actually handles more like a sport sedan on the tight, smooth stuff. Where the Tiguan may actually be better than many sedans though is when Mother Nature adds a few frost heaves and pressure cracks to Ontario’s roads. Then, the Tiguan just soaks up the extra bumps and keeps on trucking without losing it’s composure, even when the bumps are mid corner. While we didn’t get to play with the 4Motion system in the snow, we did travel down a wet gravel road and across a highway in a blinding rainstorm. In both situations the Tiguan was calm, composed and comfortable.
Behind the wheel, the fit and finish are pretty much what we have come to expect from VW. Understated, sleek modern look with materials that look rich and have a nice soft feel. A pet peeve of mine this year has been vehicles that don’t offer enough personal utility for the driver. By personal I mean places to put your cell phone, wallet and glasses so they are close at hand but also contained so they don’t flop around. The interior design folks at VW must have the same pet peeve, as the Tiguan has by far the best thought out driver’s space we’ve driven all year. There are lots of well place storage holes and compartments in the center console to keep your personal junk hidden but accessible. The armrest is perfectly positioned for my rotund physique. Cup holders are often a weak point in European vehicles as the folks across the pond just don’t get our Canadian obsession for a coffee on the road. In the Tiguan, your Timmie’s travel mug sits perfectly in from of the armrest, low enough that it does not interfere with the shifter. Volkswagen has always been known for high quality, no nonsense stereo systems and the Tiguan hits the mark here as well. It sounds great and is easy to use. Fortunately, VW understands the modern world so an aux in port for your mp3 player is part of the deal.
The front bucket seats are comfy yet remain supportive enough to keep you in place when you decide to take advantage of the chassis’ sporting side. Further back, the engineers have worked some serious spacial magic. The back seats are large enough to be comfortable for a 5″ 10″, 260 pounder like myself. Even with the driver’s seat in the fully aft position, there was a couple of inches between my knees and the front seat back. With this much rear seat space, one would think that cargo area would suffer in such a small vehicle but that is not the case. I know it is summer, but our 3 hockey bag test applies with such a versatile vehicle. How does it fare? Well, 2 large bags fit easily. Add in the 3rd while the back seats are up and the rearward view is a bit tough, but it will get a parent and 3 players to the rink.
Every review has to have some negative elements lest the reader think the reviewer is just blowing sunshine. The trouble is, I really didn’t find anything about the Tiguan that I didn’t like. I was confused by trunk release buttons that didn’t seem to do anything, but that is likely caused by my refusal to open an owner’s manual. Chances are I’m missing some combination of actions to make it work. Otherwise I absolutely loved every minute I spent in the Tiguan.
With a starting price of $27,575 Cdn, the Tiguan is in an interesting position amongst the competition. Honda’s CR-V is roughly the same price, but is lacking 34 horsepower. Toyota’s Rav-4 starts at about 3 grand less but is down by 21 ponies. Add in the more powerful V6 and the price climbs rather drastically. At the opposite end of the scale is BMW’s X3, which probably feels the most similar on the road. Sure, the baby beemer has 60 hp more than the VW, but it also starts at almost 18 grand more!
With a true sporting manner on the road, loads of utility and value for your dollar, the 2009 VW Tiguan may be one of the best little family vehicle on the road today. One that can haul the kiddies and all of their stuff, yet still carry the parental units to a classy function while having a little fun along the way. The Tiguan is definitely NOT the stereotypical chick car.
A note about the photos for this review: We had the Tiguan during one of the rainiest weeks we’ve seen in ages. Our photo shoot ended up taking place during an epic thunderstorm, so the lighting was more than a bit weird. Those streaks you see are actually rain. Our apologies that the images are not up to our usual standards.