2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline R-Line. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Pritchard
Have you been down the shampoo isle at WalMart? There are acres of shampoo. Miles of shampoo. Every viscosity, colour, formulation, follicular affliction and smell is represented. It’s all proof that shoppers just freakin’ love selection.
After all, selection is good stuff. It means you get the ability to choose exactly what you like. The ideal product. The warm and fuzzy and freshly conditioned feeling of having something that’s perfect for you. And that’s even if the ultimate ‘need’ satisfied by all of the competing products is largely the same.
And though Volkswagen doesn’t deal in shampoo, they do deal in compact crossovers – which exist in one of the hottest market segments in Canada, and one that offers a similarly daunting and promise-filled selection of competitors shouting out for your hard-earned cash with flashy packaging.
Here’s the thing: most compact crossovers are the same. Two- or four-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmissions, and features like panoramic roofs, Bluetooth, heated leather and the like. In many of those regards, the Volkswagen Tiguan is the same as its competitors.
Of course, when you’re doing battle in a highly crowded arena, it’s always a good idea to set yourself apart a little – and the Tiguan does this in a number of ways.
First, the sizing. For a young couple or small family, Tiguan should be like that proverbial perfect bowl of porridge sampled by Goldilocks before she got munched by a ravenous family of Grizzlies. It’s not too big, not too small, agile, not clumsy, and zippy, not lethargic, in tight quarters. Room on board for four adults, or two adults and three smaller kids should prove no issue. And because it’s not a behemoth, Tiguan drives less like a piece of construction equipment and more like a car.
2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline R-Line taillight & 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline R-Line centre stack storage. Click image to enlarge
A sporty car, even.
The second way Tiguan sets itself apart is with standard turbo power. The VW Group 2.0T engine is the sole offering – spooling up 200 horsepower, even more torque, and an award-winning combination of refinement, mileage, output and character. It’s no neck-snapper, but it’s considerably gutsier in the mid-range than comparable free-breathing four-cylinders when you give it a bootful of gas. It pulls strongly where many naturally breathing competitors struggle to achieve the miracle of forward acceleration, while making a noise like an old Dirt Devil coking on a shag carpet. Pushed or not, Tiguan maintains composure and an admirable sound that’s quietly pleasing.
The automatic transmission is a six-speed unit with paddle-shift. It’s smooth and easygoing, just like the engine, even if it never shifts in any sort of rush. You can get a six-speed stick in front-drive models, too.
Third way Tiguan differentiates itself? There’s an R-Line package available for a set of sporty and wide wheels, a subtle body kit, special badging, fender flares and some cosmetic tweaks that make the Tiguan something your mom would say looks sharp. There’s also a sports-tuned suspension calibration that takes a little out of ride comfort and adds back, several times over, to agility and responsiveness. Tiguan is one of only a few competitors to offer such a sports package, which goes along with the fourth way it separates itself from the crowd: with its handling.
2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline R-Line steering wheel & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Apparently nobody told the Tiguan R-Line that it wasn’t a GTI: you sit taller in the Tiguan and there aren’t any millisecond-quick giggle-gearchanges via the paddle shifters like you’ll find there – though same solid, dense, agile and quick-to-respond feel that defines VW’s elemental rascal-hatch seems to have inspired things here. Minimal steering inputs are needed to flit the R-Line around twisty roads, and it stays relatively flat in the process.
The wide tires dial up the overall grip, and steering feels connected to the wheels – a rarity in this segment. You get feedback. Character. A sense of the system loading up with the Tiggy’s mass when you rip around a ramp with intent. This beats typical crossover steering systems that mostly feel limp and soggy and as if they’re made of moistened bread. In all, with the R-Line kit, Tiguan is laid back when driven gently, and mischievous when rushed around.
So, bit of a sports car, the Tiguan R-Line. Thankfully it works pretty well as a crossover, too.