The life of a Volkswagen designer must be a curious existence. While other brands parade a plethora of exotic styles, VW dishes up cars that differ little from generation to generation, or from model to model. The new 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan, for example, is a near facsimile of the larger Touareg and has evolved only slightly from the 2007 original. Right now, the VW design studio is not exactly a hotbed of creativity.
Nor, if we're honest, is the engineering division. It's all as cozily familiar as the 10th season of Friends, which is just the way VW's customers like it. More than 700,000 Tiguans have been built and VW reckons the current car has enjoyed the most successful run-out in the company's history. Volkswagen's customers know what they like and like what they know, so why fix what isn't broken?
The Outside The nose of the Tiguan has been brought in line with VW's new design language. Pinched from the Touareg, the new grille boasts two horizontal chrome louvers and is framed by the headlights. Choose the optional bi-xenon lamps and the nose is further distinguished by 14 LEDs that serve as daytime running lights. At the rear, the taillights contain an L-shaped illuminated portion common to all new Volkswagens. There are new alloy wheels, too, but that's about it. Viewed in isolation, the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan could easily be mistaken for a Touareg, which may not please those who've spent upward of $44K on the larger SUV.
In Europe, VW offers both on- and off-road versions. The latter has a different chin, which gives it an improved approach angle. The off-road car has a 28-degree angle of approach versus 18 degrees for its on-road-focused sister. For the U.S. market, though, Volkswagen will continue to offer only the "on-road" version.
The Inside The cabin is classic Volkswagen. It's nicely built using high-quality materials, and everything is sensibly arranged, but it's a bit dull. This is a car designed for a utilitarian purpose that imparts a quiet sense of satisfaction. A brace of 6-footers can sit in tandem without difficulty and the rear seat can be reclined by up to 23 degrees, which is a nice touch. The cargo area is a good size, too, ranging from 16.6 cubic feet to 53.3, and, by folding the passenger seat flat, you can accommodate loads up to 8 feet 2 inches long.
The Tiguan has always had a fine reputation for safety. It earned five-star ratings in both front and side crash tests and received four stars in rollover testing, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Drive Henry Ford would have been proud of the Tiguan's engine philosophy. You can have any engine you like as long as it's the 2.0-liter turbo. The excellent turbodiesels that dominate the European market are unlikely to be offered in the U.S., at least until the all-new Tiguan, which is due around 2015.
The familiar direct-injection 1,984cc turbo offers a modest power hike over the outgoing model. It now produces 207 horsepower (up from 200) between 5,300 and 6,200 rpm. Peak torque of 206 pound-feet is available from 1,700-5,200 rpm. VW claims zero to 62 mph in 7.8 seconds for the six-speed manual, or 7.3 seconds for the seven-speed DSG double-clutch automatic. The latter replaces the torque-converter auto found in the original Tiguan.
In Europe, this model is only available with 4Motion permanent four-wheel drive, but in the U.S. VW is likely to persist with offering both two- and four-wheel-drive options. The latter normally apportions 90 percent of the propulsive force to the front axle in the interests of fuel economy, but it can send almost 100 percent to the rear. All our test vehicles were equipped with this system.
The independent front suspension combines wishbone-type control arms with MacPherson struts mounted on an aluminum subframe, while the independent rear suspension features a four-link setup on a steel subframe. Like so much of this car, the handling should best be described as competent. Anyone expecting a jacked-up GTI will be disappointed, but body roll is well contained and as you'd expect with four-wheel drive, there's no shortage of grip. Likewise, the electromechanical steering is not full of feedback, but it's well-weighted and reassuringly precise for an SUV.
The ride, at least on our well-surfaced German test roads, was both supple and free of float. For a family-oriented SUV, the Tiguan offers a good compromise of comfort and control.
Final Thoughts The prices are likely to continue unchanged from the old model, so expect an entry sticker of around $24,000. Those parting with this sum will receive a thoroughly capable machine, and anyone wishing to downsize from a larger SUV will be able to do so without feeling the pinch. There is nothing about the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan that's truly exceptional, but it is also hard to criticize and goes about its business with minimal fuss.
It is, in other words, a classic Volkswagen.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Is the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2012 Tiguan featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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How do people like the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2012 Tiguan 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2012 Tiguan.
Review Purchased this SE model with FWD after about 5 months on the car hunt. AWD not necessary IMO & saved $2K. Looked at Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, Toyota even Audi & Merc. Benz. The car has good zip, the turbo kicks in when asked, and it rides smooth - suspension can feel a bit stiff though, so you feel some road bumps. Fit and finish are outstanding as are the ergonomics. It is very fun to drive, the navigation and audio package is very nice - IMO, no need to bump up to the next level of audio or trim. The leather-ette interior is very nice; most people think it to be real leather and I like the idea that it will clean up easier since I haul kids. Overall, very very pleased so far.
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What options are available on the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan?
Available Volkswagen Tiguan 2012 Submodel Types: SUV
Available Trims: SE 4Motion, SE, S, SEL 4Motion, S 4Motion, SEL, Sport 4Motion, SEL Premium, Wolfsburg Edition 4Motion, R-Line 4Motion, SEL Premium 4Motion, R-Line, SE 4Motion , Sport, Wolfsburg Edition, SE 4Motion w/Appearance, LE, SE w/Appearance
Exterior Colors: Pure White, Deep Black Pearl, Platinum Gray Metallic, Silk Blue Metallic, Reflex Silver Metallic, Deep Black Metallic, White Silver Metallic, Cardinal Red Metallic, Night Blue Metallic, Pepper Gray Metallic, Candy White, Habanero Orange Metallic, Alpine Gray Metallic, Dark Moss Green Metallic, Wild Cherry Metallic, White Gold Metallic, Panther Grey Metallic, Pacific Blue Metallic, Sapphire Blue Metallic
Interior Colors: Titan Black leatherette, Storm Gray leatherette, Black leatherette, Storm Gray cloth, Titan Black cloth, Black leather, Black cloth, Beige leatherette, Titan Black premium leather, Golden Oak/Black leatherette, Charcoal cloth, Charcoal Black leatherette, Charcoal leatherette, Storm Gray premium leather, Charcoal leather, Beige/Black leatherette, Sandstone leatherette, Beige leather, Charcoal premium cloth, Clay Gray cloth, Cornsilk Beige leatherette, Brown premium cloth, Sandstone leather, Sandstone premium cloth
Popular Features: Fold Flat Rear Seats, Post-collision safety system, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Aux Audio Inputs, Bluetooth, Trip Computer, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Back-up camera, Heated seats, USB Inputs, Power Driver Seat, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Alarm, Auto Climate Control, Keyless Entry/Start, Multi-Zone Climate Control, AWD/4WD, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Blind Spot Monitoring, Pre-collision safety system, Sunroof/Moonroof, Third-row seating, Navigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Remote Start, Upgraded Headlights, Leather Seats, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Parking sensors, 360-degree camera, Lane Departure Warning, Towing Hitch