A latecomer to the small SUV market, Volkswagen introduced the Tiguan in 2009, after the segment pioneers were well into their third generation. Competing in a popular category that is seeing several key models redesigned, we bought an updated 2012 Tiguan SEL 4Motion to see how it has progressed and chart how it stacks up.
Compared to big-selling models like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4, the Tiguan typically costs a lot more money. An all-wheel-drive Tiguan starts at $27,115 for a fairly barebones model. Perhaps part of the pricing problem is that the Tiguan is only sold in the States with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four—the uplevel engine in other markets. (Too bad a diesel isn’t available here, but that would make it even more expensive.)
Decked out with standard features that include full power leather seats and a giant sunroof, as well as a basic navigation system, our Tiguan SEL stickered at $37,020. Whether that’s expensive or not depends on the comparison. It’s about $5,000 more than a well-equipped turbocharged Subaru Forester 2.5XT or Toyota RAV4 V6 Limited. (The Tiguan SEL does come with features they lack, like a memory driver’s seat and adaptive HID headlights.) But it’s also just $5,000 less than premium small sporty SUVs like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Volvo XC60.
Surprisingly, the Tiguan competes well with all of these. Quick acceleration and nimble handling make this an especially enjoyable SUV to drive. Updates to the six-speed automatic improved fuel economy. The cabin is especially well-finished, a reminder of how nice VW cabins uniformly were before the new Jetta and Passat. Unfortunately the SEL’s low-profile 19-inch tires contribute to a stiff ride and lots of road noise; saving some money and buying a lower trim level Tiguan, with its smaller wheels and tires, will help on both counts.