At a time when crossovers -- or CUVs -- are booming in the U.S., the Volkswagen Tiguan has not been doing great guns. The reason is not so much to do with the quality of the ride or package, but rather the pricing, which tends to be a few thousand more than competitors like Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

What we like about the Tiguan is the refined road-manners. It is a joy to drive. And while a buyer can price out a Tiguan with just a few extras at around $25,000, to get the options people love (like heated seats, all-wheel drive and navigation) the cash register tilted at $35,780. What's the German word for "criminy"?

I drove the Tiguan for two weeks around Normandy, France with two other people. It was our road-trip car. Read on for the high and lows of the Tiguan.
The Basics

The Basics

Sticker price: $22,995 to $38,490
Invoice price: $22,075 to $35,073
U.S. Engine: Turbo 2.0L inline 4
Power: 200 horsepower, 207 pound-feet of torque

Euro Engine (as tested): 2.0 liter turbo-charged diesel
Power: 140 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6 speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front wheel drive
Seating: 5
Cargo:
 56.1 cubic feet
Fuel economy: 22 city, 27 highway for gasoline engine; 36 mpg combined for diesel (as tested in real life driving).
Exterior Design

Exterior Design

Volkswagen has so far not gone for the tapered cowls that Honda, Toyota and Ford have adopted for their compact CUVs. Instead, VW has given the Tiguan a tailored, sensible look. It's the classic blue-blazer of the category.

The front fascia and bumper were updated for the 2013 model year to get the car in line with VW's evolving brand-wide design scheme.
Interior Design

Interior Design

Volkswagen has long had among the very best interiors in the industry, so much so that every car company has copied them, making it harder for VW itself to stand out in this department.

As we drove a loaded Tiguan with a navigation system, we found the layout utterly sensible and organized properly; well labeled, and the switchgear has exactly the right German quality feel in your hand as the driver cycles through the settings on the radio and AC.

The glove box is nice and deep, ditto the center console. The cut out just behind the shifter was ideal for wallet and cellphone on all the driving we did where tolls popped up on the French motorways as often rest areas it seemed at times.

The cup-holders were plenty deep enough for a standard take-away cup of coffee (when we could find one) but don't try fitting a Big Gulp (not that we would).

Passenger and Cargo

Passenger and Cargo

We were three people traveling around the countryside of Normandy, in and out of the car frequently, and driving at times about 100 to 150 miles a day. I am above average in size, and found the front-seat knee and seat room to be ample and comfortable.

We had luggage for three, which fit behind the rear seat without any trouble and with room to spare. We could have done quite well with a fourth person and bag. During the weeks of driving, we didn't have the luggage, but we had a picnic cooler and used the rear cargo shelf as a table for cutting out baguettes and saucisson.

As adequate as we found it, the Tiguan's cargo space is less than its rivals. The CR-V delivers 2.5 inches more rear leg room and a full 13.4 more cubic feet of cargo area with the rear seats up. Likewise, the Escape is no slouch. The Ford serves up 36.8 inches of rear leg room to the Tiguan's 35.8, and 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space.

The soft-touch dash and leatherette-wrapped steering wheel are extremely well crafted. The driver and front passenger enjoy bolstered perforated faux-leather seats, while rear passengers get to take advantage of a flexible rear bench. The back seats slide fore and aft to maximize leg room or cargo area as needed, and the seat-backs themselves recline for a little additional comfort.
Driving Dynamics

Driving Dynamics

Full disclosure: Whle I have driven the 2.0 liter four cylinder gas-powered Tiguan in the U.S., our Normandy touring was in the Tiguan TDI diesel, which gets around 30-percent more miles-to-gallon/kilometers than the petrol version in the U.S.

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan TDI is powered by a direct-injection turbocharged 2.0L diesel engine that produces 140-horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to your choice of a six-speed dual clutch transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.

We would love to have the Tiguan TDi in the U.S. But it would drive up the cost and sticker price, so far away from the competition in the U.S. that company officials regret it won't be exported. Meanwhile, VW can hardly build the diesels fast enough to meet European demand, even in the middle of a recession on the continent.

We got the equivalent of 36 mpg over two weeks of mixed driving with the TDI. The U.S. petrol-Tiguan gets 18 mpg/city/26 mpg highway/21 mpg combined, according to the EPA. Our fuel economy beat the presumed 30 percent improvement over the gas engine.
Technology/Infotainment

Technology/Infotainment

The Tiguan SE and SEL trim levels come with Bluetooth, navigation and iPhone port, as well as satellite radio. The S trim level comes with Bluetooth connectivity and an MP3 player.
We used the iPhone jack to play our music library through the Tiguan's audio system. The navigation system worked flawlessly throughout our travels in Normandy and Brittany. It is amazing how well the system works navigating the smallest alley in the smallest village you happen to be driving through. Getting around France would be death without it.
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

The Tiguan really only suffers from its pricing, which owes to its European manufacturing home, and its parts and content that are priced in Euros. There are some who criticize the Tiguan for being smaller than its newer rivals. But I don't always think bigger is better. Bigger changes the driving dynamics. And I love the way the Tiguan feels like you can toss it all around the winding-roads of the countryside in Normandy.

We think VW will re-invent the Tiguan, and hopefully build it in Nashville, Tenn. If it does, it will build the car off the excellent Passat platform, thus probably making the CUV as big as a Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. And since VW is turning out plenty of diesel Passats, it should be no problem to give us a TDI version of whatever CUV they choose to give us.

In the meantime, the Tiguan, from a value standpoint, is probably only for VW fans who will pay a premium over other cars just for the VW feel and engineering of the cars they buy.


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