2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Volkswagen Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

Boulder, Colorado – For anyone not working on the corporate side of the auto industry, it’s easy to question why an automaker would wait years to plug itself into one of the most lucrative segments of the marketplace. With the 2009 Tiguan, Volkswagen is just now entering the compact SUV/crossover category. The Tiguan joins the party more than a decade after it was started by Honda and Toyota (CR-V and RAV4) and a good eight years following Ford’s Escape, which quickly became – and has remained – a top seller.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Click image to enlarge

Canadian consumers buy as many small crossovers as they do mid-size sedans. That’s as much a testament to the popularity of SUVs as it is to the fact that these little do-it-alls are, for all intents and purposes, the modern iteration of the intermediate station wagon.

Volkswagen says its key targets in designing the Tiguan were the CR-V, RAV4 and the Nissan Rogue. VW may be late in getting to this shindig, but at least it looks as though they used the time to get everything just right.

Size-wise, the Tiguan (is it just me who keeps wanting to call it “Tigger?”) is on the money. Wheelbase, length and width – 2,604 mm, 4,427 mm and 1,809 mm, respectively – are all just on the small side compared to those three target vehicles.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Click image to enlarge

Subjectively, the VW’s interior feels as roomy as any of them, though the Tiguan does without the nearly useless third-row seat Toyota offers.

Comfort is certainly high. The front seats are firmer than some may like, but they’re supportive and caused no discomfort after two hour-long stints behind the wheel. Ergonomics are good, the controls simple and the layout attractive. If there’s any part of the Tiguan’s interior design that gives something away to the CR-V and RAV4, it’s the cargo area; the clipped rear end limits the amount of space behind the rear seats. That said, the cargo hold is a useful shape, and the rear seats slide fore and aft, to create some extra stowage space.

With the rear seats set fully aft, space is good, but seating three across doesn’t look like it’d be a treat for anyone involved. The rear seatbacks adjust for angle.

Outside, the Tiguan certainly looks German and is unmistakably a Volkswagen, borrowing cues from models as disparate as the Touareg (obviously), Eos and Jetta. Stylistically, it’s as much of a standout as the Nissan Rogue, more interesting to look at than the plain-jane RAV4 and makes the CR-V look positively dowdy.

Canadian Tiguans will be available in three trims. The base Trendline comes as a front-drive model and is the only one available with a manual transmission. The mid-range Comfortline comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, as does the top-end Highline.

For $27,575, the Tiguan Trendline will have niceties like manual air conditioning, eight-way adjustable front seats with lumbar and a fold-flat front passenger seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, single CD stereo with auxiliary input, power windows, locks and heated exterior mirrors and an intermittent rear wiper. Add $1,400 for an automatic transmission; this base model with auto and 4Motion will cost $30,975 (there is no all-wheel drive model with manual tranny).

The mid-range Comfortline trim starts at $33,975 and adds a large panoramic sunroof, black roof rails, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield washers, heated “comfort” seats with upgraded cloth, tinted rear glass, multifunction trip computer, and power seatback adjustment for the driver’s seat.

The top-end Highline model starts at $38,375. It gets a 12-way power driver’s seat with memory, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, automatic bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic dual-zone climate controls, chrome exterior trim, silver roof rails, auto-dimming interior mirror, an interior lighting package and satellite radio.

Standard safety stuff on all trims includes anti-lock brakes with electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assistant; an anti-slip regulation (ASR) system that also brings an electronic differential lock, engine braking assist and electronic stabilization programme (ESP) stability control. Front side airbags are standard, as are front and rear head curtain airbags.

The $450 rear side airbags and a trailer hitch are extra on all trims (and are the only options on Trendline cars).

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Click image to enlarge

For $3,450, you can add a technology package to Comfortline and Highline models. This includes navigation, rearview camera, a CD-changer and a 300-watt Dynaudio stereo.

The Tiguan uses Volkswagen/Audi’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is the first application for a new generation of motor; it retains its direct injection system, but uses a low-maintenance timing chain instead of a belt, and a low-mess, easy-to-replace oil filter accessible from under the hood. This updated motor will migrate into the VW models that use it throughout this year.

Power output remains the same, at 200 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque, all of which is available from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm. Depending on trim, the engine is available with either a six-speed manual or Volkswagen’s very nice six-speed automatic with manual shift function.

As in other applications, the TSI motor behaves like one more powerful, and endows the Tiguan with some serious poke. Its power specs more or less split the difference between those of its four- and six-cylinder competition; the only downside is VW’s requirement for premium fuel for maximum performance, though the implication is that this motor will run on regular if it’s all that’s available.

Real-world fuel consumption should be decent, though EnerGuide estimates for automatic 4Motion Tiguans is 11.6 L/100 km (city) and 8.3 L/100 km (highway) – higher than those for the RAV4 V6, CR-V and Rogue. During our spirited drive through the hilly roads between Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado, the Tiguan’s trip computer was showing consumption of less than 9.5 L/100 km.

When asked, Volkswagen reps said that the company is “working on” a diesel version of the Tiguan, but said such a vehicle is at least two years away. The 2.0-litre TDI that will be available in 2009 Jettas didn’t make the grade as VW wasn’t confident that it would operate as cleanly in the harsher conditions (occasional off-roading and towing were the examples given) the Tiguan was designed for. Still, it’s hard to believe that a Tiguan TDI wouldn’t account for a significant percentage of the model’s sales; lots of VW fanatics love the brand’s diesel motors, and the forthcoming TDI promises to be a gem.

2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Click image to enlarge

Here’s something you won’t hear often: an automotive journalist telling you to choose the automatic transmission. For one, it’s just plain good. Second, the manual isn’t. The shifter has long throws and offers no satisfaction, and the clutch is spongy. Add to that a motor that likes to hang onto revs between shifts, and it’s not hard to make a case for the auto.

My only complaint about driving the automatic is the odd throttle mapping. Tip-in is gentle, but there’s a point where a little more throttle input turns into a lot more acceleration, which makes it tough to drive away smoothly. Were it not for the fact that this motor is known for its lack of turbo lag, you’d think that was the problem.

The Tiguan drives very well, with little road or wind noise making it into the cabin. It’s so civilized that it feels like a Passat – pretty good for a vehicle based on the Rabbit/Jetta platform. Handling is terrific. We drove a 4Motion model one way and a base front-drive version on the way back; with all-wheel drive, the car feels more balanced, probably attributable to the extra weight of the components taking power to the back wheels. Body roll is very well controlled, and the steering feel is far better than you’ll get in most of the Tiguan’s competitors.

The all-wheel drive system is the fourth-generation of the Haldex setup used in other transverse-engined VW and Audi vehicles (like the TT and A3). VW says it’s faster-acting than previous systems; one trick feature is that if it senses that the vehicle is stopped on a slippery surface, it locks 50/50 for a surer start. In dry conditions, all power goes to the front wheels, but the system can send 100 per cent of engine torque to the rear wheels if necessary. Car spotter’s note: in the U.S., all-wheel drive Tiguans will be distinguished by a 4Motion badge on the tailgate, beneath the 2.0T badge, but not so in Canada.

Volkswagen expects the vast majority of Tiguans sold here to be Comfortline models. The company predicts 20 per cent will be base models and about 10 per cent to be sold in Highline trim. Demographically, the Tiguan is aimed at mostly married men, aged 35-45 with above-average income, as a step-up from a Jetta.

The Tiguan will be in dealerships on June 1st.

Manufacturer’s web site
Volkswagen Canada

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