Reviews

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Walk Around

Volkswagen Tiguan styling was done in California, when compact SUVs looked like a good idea but hadn't reached the popularity they enjoy today, for practical reasons driven by fuel mileage. It's a nice size: 174 inches long, 71 inches wide and 66 inches tall, which Volkswagen calls the perfect size for city dwelling and country living. (We won't be wisecrackers and suggest that if that's true, then every other Volkswagen is either too big or too small for city or country living. Then again, maybe we will.)

The windshield is lightly raked, and the beltline creeps up almost imperceptibly. Side windows appear bigger than they are because of black frames. There's not much shape at the rear, with a thick C-pillar that's nearly vertical; meanwhile, the rear glass tapers a bit toward the roof, where there's a small spoiler, mounted on the glass not the roof, so it doesn't look like the Tiguan is trying to be racy.

Unlike many SUVs, even compacts, the tailgate doesn't look big and flat, because it's not. A ridge runs back from the squared-off rear wheel arches and wraps around the tailgate; imagine rainwater rolling down the rear glass, shooting off that ridge and flying rearward. Teardrop taillights add to the tidy back end, by not being blocky or radical. Plus, hooray, they're totally red: no clear, no white, no chrome.

The front overhang is short, and there's one clean horizontal swipe that makes up the grille and headlamps, sweeping slightly upward around the corners onto the fenders. Compared to that big dumb grin that the Mazda3 has tapered down (but will never live down), the Tiguan bears a forced stretched smile. The 14 LEDs at the corners of that smile are daytime running lights, and look cool.

Under the bumper there's a honeycombed opening in the fascia, and beneath that a gray panel like a skid plate, with three more openings. Integrated into the bumper at each side are honeycomb panels housing foglamps. Volkswagen has called it a tough new look for the urban jungle, forgetting that the days of the Hummer are over.

Interior

We love the clarity and simplicity of the Tiguan SE's touchscreen display and controls. Volkswagen gets it! Everything you need to know and do, especially with the radio and navigation, with no distractions while driving. Consumer Reports doesn't like the touch screen. Consumer Reports usually gets it right, but in this case we think they got it wrong. So we say yes to the Navigation option.

The speedometer and tachometer are big and beautiful. Between them is a multi-function trip computer that easily presents the information you use on a trip, especially fuel mileage and distance to empty. Bluetooth is standard.

Interior trim is soft plastic and faux brushed metal. Our Tiguan SE had the V-Tex leatherette, and you could have fooled us. The doors open wide for easy ingress and egress. There's only fair headroom and legroom for five adults, however. And there's an over-the-shoulder blind spot, because of the large C-pillar.

In the rear of the Tiguan, occupants get 35.8 inches of legroom, considerably less than the competition: for example the Chevrolet Equinox (39.9), Mazda CX-5 (39.3), Honda CR-V (38.3), and Subaru Forester (38.0).

The 40/20/40 folding rear seat might make up for the lack of legroom, especially for a young couple that's into outdoor activity, even if they have a kid or two. The cargo-carrying options of a 40/20/40 are many. There's a modest 23.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat; more if the rear seats are slid forward by their adjustable six inches.

Cargo space with the seats folded flat is 56.1 cubic feet, which is a bit light compared to the competition. At an event called Mudfest, held by the Northwest Automotive Press Association, the Tiguan got beat by the winning Mazda CX-5 in the compact SUV class, mostly because of its limited cargo space. However, like the Honda Fit, the Tiguan's front passenger seat folds almost flat to accommodate, say, a kayak or a stack of 8-foot-long two-by-four boards.

The liftgate is wide, and opens with the key fob on most models. Inside are cargo hooks and a 12-volt outlet.

Our Tiguan SE was equipped the panoramic sunroof, which is massive: triple the size of some others, including the VW Golf. One panel opens and another is fixed; it has a shade, and, according to Volkswagen, is aerodynamically and acoustically optimized. It's sweet, but not cheap. And it's the closest thing you can get to a convertible in a compact SUV. The Tiguan SE is a good choice with or without the panoramic sunroof.

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