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2010 Volkswagen Tiguan

Tim Odell August 24, 2010 Reviews, Road Test Reviews, Volkswagen Reviews 39 Comments

2010 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

I enjoy difficult challenges. My day job involves using implantable medical devices to help paralyzed people walk and I race a 3-speed automatic-equipped 1982 BMW 633csi in the 24 Hours of LeMons. Now I find myself trying to write a review that someone might actually want to read, about a brownish grey front wheel drive crossover.

Luckily, if one has to write a review of a brownish grey front wheel drive crossover, the VW Tiguan equipped with the 2.0T engine is probably the best option.

Our Tiguan came in nearly the lowest spec available, featuring only a leather interior and automatic transmission for upgrades. Notably absent were the rear axle (i.e. all wheel drive) and navigation options within the touch-screen based infotainment system. Still, the interior feels a cut above its non-luxury competitors, a Volkswagen norm these days.

While the interior makes a great first impression, the driving dynamics do the opposite. Starting from a stop, the throttle tip-in is terrible. You get nothing for 1/3 of the pedal, then a huge, lurching surge forward. The net result leaves you looking like you fell asleep at the stop light, then floored it when you woke up. After a week with the car, I still hadn’t gotten used to it.

The root of this problem is VW’s incredible turbocharged 2.0L motor. How can an incredible motor be the root of a problem? Well, the 2.0T makes a hearty 207lb-ft of torque at just 1800 rpm, meaning you’ve got plenty of grunt available just above idle. My suspicion is that some combination of terrible electronic throttle control programming and a tiny bit of turbo lag combine to put the dampers on instant part-throttle response. When you break through that fog a second and a half later, you’re right in the power band. Chirping tires and spilled drinks ensue.

Off the line awkwardness aside, the 2.0T and six speed automatic do a great job of delivering power in the rev ranges where most of us spend our time. In the real world, the Tiguan will feel (and likely be) faster than any of its competitors in the crowded compact crossover market. Additionally, despite being down by about 30 hp, it actually feels peppier than my ’06 WRX wagon in day-to-day driving. Rest assured, a 2.5L boxer equipped WRX would stomp all over any 2.0T equipped VW, but you’ve gotta be in the angry zone of the tach to do so.

As long as we’re comparing the Tiguan to compact wagons (specifically my compact wagon), let’s talk about interior room. Most of us enthusiasts claim a wagon offers equivalent—or nearly equivalent—room to a crossover. In the picture below you can see four wheel-tire combos, a steering box shaft, two CV axles and the complete rear subframe from a BMW 6-series. The Tiguan carried all this and three adult males without issue. When it was time to throw new tires on those wheels, my WRX struggled to carry two wheels and two tires behind the seats. The point is, a well packaged compact crossover really does offer significantly more room than a compact wagon.

When they’re not folded down for hauling car parts, the Tiguan’s rear seats slide front-to-back and recline. The front passenger seat folds flat as well. This is a handy feature for transporting long items like surfboards or taking pictures of the rear seats for your review. Things are a mixed bag for the driver. While the seat is comfortable and well-bolstered, the seating and steering positions are much more upright than we’d prefer. The wheel doesn’t tilt low enough and you actuate the pedals more by stomping them into the floor than the firewall. It’s all very minivan-like, really.

That said, the Mazda5 taught us that not all minivans are unhoonable. We described the Mazda5 as having a great chassis in need of a few more ponies. The Tiguan might be the inverse. The power is there, but the suspension feels—please forgive me for this—boingy. While not uncomfortable or jarring, certain bumps seem to be amplified. The effect is worse while cornering. I have a theory involving progressive rate springs and poorly matched dampers, but the real root of the problem is that lifting a car chassis by eight inches doesn’t improve the handling.

And that’s where we come back to wagons. Tragically, VW’s chosen to offer the enthusiast-centric Jetta Sportwagen with the cool-but-not-fast TDI or the soulless 2.5L five cylinder. Meanwhile, they offer the mainstream Tiguan with the 2.0T as the only available engine. We suspect the typical Tiguan buyers’ daughters would be just fine with the 2.5L, while a Sportwagen with the 2.0T and a manual or DSG gearbox could easily take a slice out of Subaru and/or Vovlo’s pie.

So where does that leave us? Is the Tiguan a disappointment? Yes, but only because it’s not a wagon and it stole the good motor. The flipside is, it’s a dang good sporty option in a field of lame commuter appliances. Chances are, someone you know is shopping for a compact crossover for their wife or daughter. If you’re going to spend any time behind the wheel, you might want to point them towards the Tiguan.

  • Feds_II

    My suggestion of the day: Come up with a series of "Interesting Tests for Boring Vehicles". For example: how well does the latest FWD vanilla do reverse doughnuts? How well does it hop curbs to cut in/out of drive-through/gas lines? How far down/up muddy forest service road can you get the thing, given an appropriate run up?

    • That would certainly fit in with the whole "staking a claim in the automotive fringe" thing.

    • Actually… I have a plan for something like this, I just need to line up two or three minivans

      • Alff

        Good luck getting manufacturers to give you cars out of the press fleet, after the first one.

        • Feds_II

          This is the part where I post a bunch of links to small town newspaper writers/magazines/websites writing off press cars…

          o.k, so I can't be bothered to find links, but there are manifold examples.

          • Maymar

            It's not small town, but there's Peter Bleakney's son.

            Also, after hearing the same spiel about the same crossover quite a few times, and its 2000L of cargo room, I wondered if there was room for 500 bags of milk. Obviously, finding 4L bags of milk in Southern California would be problematic, along with using 2000L of milk, but it's an idea.

            • Feds_II

              And redacted offroading in a Forester, and any number of magazine comparos that blast high-dollar sports/GT cars across deserts, causing 4-figure paint damage, and all the tire-shredding, dragrace/tracking comparison tests, or as much or as little of Jack Baruth as you chose to believe.

              Press cars do not live a good life as it is, might as well try some stupid stuff that an owner might try and get away with.

    • How comfortable is the trunk?
      Great review, by the way.

    • Measure dead hooker volume with actual dead hookers. I'd recommend putting down plastic (8 mil minimum) and wearing biohazard suits.

      • tonyola

        Realdolls ™ will do in a pinch. A little less messy and slightly fewer bothersome questions.

        • dr zero

          I think that the questions would be awkward instead of bothersome, but in the same quantity.

  • Alff

    I am The Tig

    <img src=";

    • tonyola

      No, I am the Tig.
      <img src=";

  • How much does this trim cost?

    • Through some weird mix-up, I never got the Monroney (window sticker) for this car, so I can't say exactly.

      Just under $30k is the best answer I can give, based on the online configurator and what this had.

  • Number_Six

    It's a little-known fact that the Tiguan was styled in-house after some famous design house models were rejected. Ghia's entry was particularly egregious:

    <img src="; />

  • I remember the first time I saw one of these on the road. I'm used to thinking of the Golf as swollen, but the Tiguan confused the hell out of me. It's comical, really. I wouldn't be surprised if this "tough" SUV shape was dwarfed by a Mazda5, hardly the bruiser of the minivan category.
    Also, literally, tiger + iguana. Das Facepalm.

  • VAG has really stepped up with the interiors, and put the world on notice. It would not be unfair to use them as the benchmark and compare every other car to the appropriate VAG vehicle. I think even some higher end vehicles (ahem, Lincoln and Cadillac) would struggle to match even some lower end VAG.

    The Tiguan intrigues me solely because of my wife's love of the Escape. It's essentially the same size, yet it seems more expensive. If it is around $30k as you had it loaded, it may not be that far off the Escape.

    • Number_Six

      The Escape is one of the worst currently-produced vehicles that I have ever driven or been a passenger in. The ride and road noise are shocking, as is the comfort of the rear seating. The materials seem to have been stolen from the Chrysler rejects bin. Unless the massive incentives sway you, the Tiguan should be an easy (if still slightly erroneous) choice.

      • I actually don't have too much of a problem with my wife's car. It rides more like a truck than a true crossover would, but it's an SUV (albeit with a FWD bias). So that's to be expected. The road noise is actually better than most small SUVs I've been in. The interior isn't the greatest. In fact, the interior plastics are probably my biggest gripe with it. If Ford would fix that in the next iteration then it would be a great little SUV.

        And the dog doesn't complain about the back seat. She's just happy be going for a ride. 😉

        Did you have a rental? I've found it hard to judge cars based on rentals unless you get a brand new (i.e. less than 3,000 mile) example. They get beat to hell, and rental companies tend to put the hardest, cheapest tires on their cars possible which contributes to the road noise and ride harshness.

        • Number_Six

          Rental, company vehicle, NYC hybrid taxi, friend's loaded $30K+ example. All quite similar.

    • tonyola

      It's to give you a nice and pleasant place to sit during your inevitable wait for roadside service or a tow truck.

  • BGW

    A vendor took me to lunch in one of these recently. My only real complaint with it (other than the general Crossover-type carping) is that the backseat was an absolutely improper place for my 6'2" w/ size 15 feet self to sit. I wasn't expecting Maybach-level recliners or anything, but it seemed to have the headroom of a mid-80s GM sedan.

  • AteUpWithMotor

    What size tires did the test car have? I wonder if some of the boinginess might be attributable to suspension tuning that was optimized for a different size tire.

    • I believe they were 17"s. The other options are 18"s or 19"s.

  • SSurfer321

    Sweet! Star Power Invincibility!* For when you absolutely positively MUST get the kids to soccer practice on time.
    <img src=";
    *notice the star button on the left hand side of the steering wheel.

    • Feds_II

      I was just about to +1 you for that, but your screen grab is from Mario Kart Wii, and not from Super Mario Kart (on the SNES), which is the superior version, therefore no 1-up for you.

      • SSurfer321

        Yeah, it was the only grab I could find with the actual star power indicated…

  • It's very rare that a compact SUV (or approximation of such) does anything to convince me, as you say, by and large they all feel like jacked-up hatchbacks. I particularly hated the BMW X3, and used to dread taking sales enquiries about them as I found it hard to sell a product I didn't believe in. The one machine I was impressed by, though, was the current generation of Land Rover Freelander. In essence it really does feel like a scaled down Range Rover, especially with the V6 Diesel.

    I've yet to drive the Tiguan, your review already feels familiar, though.

    • Being an enthusiast is maddening these days, as crossovers are everywhere and it's really really hard to argue against their utility as every day people movers.

      Rationally speaking, at the task of transporting a few people crap with minimal compromises for things like driving dynamics (which most people don't really care about), they're hard to beat.

      As decent wagon options dwindle or climb in price, you've gotta really not want a crossover to not buy a crossover. Luckily, the Missus is on board with the purchase of a CTS Sportwagon. As one can only get the stickshift in a -V, she's insisted that's what we'll have to get.

  • Feds_II

    <patiently awaits Nissan Juke review>

    • <patiently awaits the Juke to come around in the media fleet rotation>

  • Deartháir

    Having spent a LOT of time in these, I remain somewhat baffled. Firstly, that there was a Highline 2WD option offered down there. Up here, AWD and Tiptronic are standard features. The 2wd is a special-order option on the lowest trim only.

    Also, it really sounds like your tester has been beaten to within an inch of its life. The accelerator lag you describe, I've seen a few times, all on cars in need of service. I've driven dozens, possibly hundreds of these; I know what you're talking about, but on the ones I've seen like that, they've gone back into the shop.

    Cue "Volkswagen reliability" wonk-wonks. There's nothing broken, it's just not set up correctly. Same applies to the suspension. I get more complaints that it's too taut. I wonder how badly that one has been beaten.

    Did Lieberman have it before you?

    • Nah, he can't be bothered with such things anymore: …

      It wouldn't surprise me that (like so many media cars) this one had seen a rough life in its few thousand miles of existence. The semi-mysterious part is it it's a 2wd auto, so it's not like it was inviting people to hoon it…aside from looking for something interesting to do.

  • Maymar

    Being a beige crossover, I have no interest in this. On the other hand, as long as the Golf/Jetta wagon is allowed to live harmoniously in the same showroom, I don't exceptionally care – they strike me as two vehicles that, despite doing approximately the exact same thing, chase down two very different groups of clientelle.

  • Balestra

    I'm a big fan of wagons and almost bought me a Renault Megane Grand Tour just last friday, but had to settle for a Sandero instead. ("GREAT NEWS!!!! The Sandero….). Anyways, back here the roads are so bad crossovers are a luxury, something you want because there are so many bumps and potholes. I took my mom's Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (Montero up there) in a fishing trip back in july and 85% of the road is the very same I took in my dad's Civic Si. In the Civic I didn't feel the potholes because I was literally flying over them, mostly well over 100 mph (stupid I know, but I had my reasons). In the mitsu, I was at a far more relaxed pace, around 80-85, but I didn't feel potholes because the tires have such huge sidewalls. And tall, wagonlike crossovers and SUVs do offer boatloads of space. The mitsu took 4 of us in great comfort including all our luggage, the boat's motor and food and drinks for the week. They do have their uses

  • MattC

    Great review. I actually looked at a Tiguan and it was reasonably priced. However, the reliability stigma of (New)VWs kept me away from this. I bought a used Rav4 instead (cue unintended acceleration jokes…now).

    • In a Toyota, all of the acceleration is unintended.

  • nofrillls

    "Souless 2.5?" Harsh. Too harsh.

    VW/Audi 5's have never been truly thrilling in naturally-aspirated form, and in past incarnations have been at times downright pathetic, but the current generation of them is probably the best they've produced, and the sound of a free-breathing 5 has always been one of my favs. I think its a good fit for the Golf/Rabbit even if it is a bit heavy and it was a huge improvement over the flacid 2.0 for the New Beetle. Even if the 1.8 and 2.0T's have always been quicker motors, the 2.5-5 is a wonderfully smooth sonorous alternative.



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