Car manufacturers often try to win consumers over with some serious razzle-dazzle, but it doesn't always do the trick.
In a classic case of reverse psychology, the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan won me over because of its lack of razzle-dazzle. This compact SUV isn't bare-bones, though; it has plenty of features and a beautiful interior.
The Tiguan received new front and rear styling for 2012. VW boasts that the Tiguan is the only compact SUV with a standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Its turbo is a bit uppity and requires a little getting used to, but it's fun once you do. What's even better is the steering is capable and the suspension complements the Tiguan's speediness.
The 2012 Tiguan has a starting MSRP of $23,660, including an $820 destination fee, but my test car, the Tiguan SE 4Motion, cost $33,300. While that's pricey for a compact SUV, there are a lot of standard features in the Tiguan that you'd pay extra for in its competitors. With the Tiguan, I don't have to add another $8,000 to account for features — both the ones I want and the ones I don't — that often come bundled together in optional packages.
The 2012 Tiguan looks masculine without being overtly beefy. Its looks mirror its bigger sibling, the Touareg, a five-seat crossover.
My kids are now ages 7 and 9 and rarely have significant problems opening and closing car doors. This is great for me, but they weren't always this big and independent. Smaller kids will likely need a little patience while getting used to the Tiguan's door handles, which aren't difficult to use but require a tug and some leverage that younger ones may not have yet. Toddlers also will need some help getting into the five-seater. It's not a huge step, but it's big enough to trip them up. What's nice is the high roofline means adults won't whack their heads when helping kids into the Tiguan.
The tailgate is a cinch to open and close. When open, there was plenty of room for me (at a whopping 5 feet 5 inches tall) to stand under the liftgate and I could close it with ease.
What didn't I like about the Tiguan? For as much as I loved its size, I wish the cargo area was a bit bigger. Our family goes skiing a lot and the Tiguan couldn't handle all our gear. Granted, we have a system that involves three large bags for gear (one for me, one for my husband and one for the kids to share), but it was too much for this SUV.
The Tiguan has a 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. My test car, the SE with all-wheel drive, has a standard six-speed automatic transmission and gets an EPA-estimated 21/27 mpg city/highway. Premium gas is recommended but not required.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times-Groove-On
While I wanted more room in the cargo area, I have no complaints about the rest of the Tiguan's interior. There's plenty of legroom for everyone, thanks to adjustable backseat that can slide 6 inches forward and back.
My midlevel trim test car had leatherette, aka vinyl, seat upholstery that can be cleaned with a snap. The Tiguan's piece de resistance is the optional panoramic moonroof that extends to the backseat, making everything feel much more open. The kids loved the moonroof, and they made good use of the backseat's cupholders and a shallow storage area that's built into the center armrest.
In the front row, there were a couple cupholders, a good-sized glove box and a decent-sized center console that fit a packet of tissues, my cellphone and some granola bars. Bonus points go to the interior designer who decided there should be black carpets and floor mats yet light-colored upholstery and headliner. It looked great and hid a lot of dirt and crumbs.
The optional navigation system with touch-screen is intuitive and easy to use. The same is true of the Tiguan's Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and iPod integration.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Tiguan's backseat has plenty of flexibility when it comes to installing child-safety seats. Not only do the rear seats slide back and forth, but also the seatbacks recline. A rear-facing infant-safety seat fit fine in the Tiguan, as did the booster seat. There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the outboard seats. They're clearly labeled and easy to access. The tether anchors are found at the bottom of the seatbacks, but some sort of voodoo made them not feel not too difficult to reach.
The 2012 Tiguan has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A car must receive the highest score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also received four stars out of five in rollover crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Standard safety features are front-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. All-wheel drive is optional.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan here.