Full 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Review
What's New for 2012
All versions of the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan receive freshened exterior styling plus tweaks to the automatic transmission that boost highway fuel economy by 2 mpg. Top-of-the-line SEL models also get new 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights. This year's Tiguan also gets a new LE trim level that slots between the base S and SE trims.
Utility might be the SUV's middle name, but practicality isn't always the most important consideration for some shoppers. If you're one of these folks, you might find the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan to be worth a look.
What really sets the Tiguan apart from other small crossover SUVs is its upscale interior and sophisticated driving dynamics, both of which are noticeably better than its competitors. Inside you'll find a premium-style cabin that approaches Audi in its overall sense of quality. And for power, the Tiguan comes standard with a turbocharged engine that produces a healthy 200 horsepower.
Yet even if practicality isn't your top concern, the Tiguan's limitations should also be taken into consideration. While its cargo hold may be roomy compared to your average midsize sedan, its capacity can't match the space offered by many other small SUVs. In fact, even the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen offers more cargo room. You should also be aware that the Tiguan's trim levels can be priced significantly higher than comparable models.
As a result, we suggest buyers considering the Tiguan also have a look at a few alternatives. Similarly proportioned competitors include the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Nissan Rogue, all fine vehicles in their own right. Before signing on the dotted line, it would also be wise to at least take a peek at more practical crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, as their larger interiors make them a good bit more useful in everyday driving.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover SUV offered in four trim levels: S, LE, SE and SEL.
The entry-level S version comes standard with 16-inch wheels (steel with manual transmission, alloy with automatic), heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 40/20/40-split rear seats with reclining seatbacks, a trip computer, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. A panoramic sunroof is optional and it brings with it tinted windows.
The LE adds deep tinted windows, premium leatherette vinyl upholstery, heated front seats and a USB port/iPod interface. The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, additional chrome exterior trim, roof rails, foglamps, heated washer nozzles, driver seat power recline and manual height adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an upgraded sound system with a touchscreen interface and satellite radio. Optional is the panoramic sunroof bundled with a navigation system.
The SEL includes all of the above plus 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment and memory functions, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SEL can be equipped with an upgraded navigation system that includes a larger touchscreen and a rearview camera. To this, an eight-speaker Dynaudio premium sound system can be added.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Tiguan S, while a six-speed automatic is optional on the S and standard on the SE and SEL. A choice of standard front-wheel drive or an available all-wheel-drive system round out the powertrain details.
In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive SEL accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds, which is about average for a small crossover SUV.
A handful of engineering tweaks have resulted in slightly better fuel economy for 2012, with the automatic-equipped front-wheel-drive models now sporting EPA estimates of 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. All-wheel drive models come in at a respectable 21/27/23, while the front-wheel-drive base model with the manual gearbox brings up the rear at 18/26/21.
Standard equipment on the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the all-wheel-drive Tiguan came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet -- an average performance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tiguan its top rating of "Good" for frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with most vehicles in the VW lineup, the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan boasts a premium-style cabin that approaches Audi in its overall sense of quality. High-end materials and solid craftsmanship (even actual metal trim!) enhance the premium feel. Most controls are large and well placed, and the available navigation systems feature a reasonably user-friendly interface.
Firm, well-shaped seats provide ample support whether you're logging lots of miles on a road trip or simply negotiating a freeway cloverleaf. The 60/40-split-folding rear seat has a cargo pass-through in the middle, so the Tiguan is adept at carrying cargo and passengers at the same time. The rear seat also slides fore and aft to improve either rear legroom or cargo space, and the seatback also reclines. This feature is common among larger compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, but rare among smaller ones like the Tiguan.
With the rear seats positioned as far forward as they'll go, the Tiguan can accommodate 23.8 cubic feet of cargo. With the second-row seat folded down, maximum capacity jumps to 56.1 cubic feet, although this is about 17 cubic feet shy of the space afforded by the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan might not have the most impressive acceleration in the segment, but the torquey power delivery of its turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes it feel lively around town. While cornering, the Tiguan feels confident and poised, absorbing bumps with ease. In general, this is one of the most enjoyable small crossovers to drive, aided in part by accurate steering and confidence-inspiring brakes.