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#9

in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $16,435 - $23,034
Original MSRP: $22,840 - $35,930
MPG: 18 City / 26 Hwy
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Tiguan gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2012, but reviewers are disappointed that it keeps the engine it had last year. Don’t get them wrong though, they do like the Tiguan’s peppy turbocharged engine, and say it’s one of the best in the class. They’re just disappointed it doesn’t have a diesel option like European editions. 

  • "Here's what the Tiguan is: a GTI on stilts. No surprise, then, that it earned best-handling status, backed up by the surest brake feel and perfectly weighted, accurate steering. Part of its goat-like nimbleness can be attributed to its diminutive dimensions." -- Car and Driver
  • "The refined turbo-4-cylinder engine is nearly silent at cruise and is never intrusive, even in rapid acceleration." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

Most automotive editors who have driven the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan flew to Germany and drove European models, and none of them had the 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that comes in the U.S. model. This engine is the same one that was available last year, so it’s unlikely that the Tiguan’s reputation as a fun-to-drive, powerful, though somewhat noisy, vehicle will change.

Shoppers can pair one of two transmissions with the Tiguan’s engine: a standard six-speed manual transmission (which reviewers say is more fun to drive) or an optional six-speed automatic. Two of the Tiguan’s biggest drawbacks are its need for premium fuel and low fuel economy ratings. Most drivers will average 22/27 mpg city/highway on models with an automatic transmission, according to the EPA. Models with a manual transmission will average a lower 18/26 mpg, and with all-wheel drive, the EPA says drivers should average about 21/27 mpg.

That means that if the Tiguan is already at the top of your price range, or you want to avoid SUVs that are expensive to fill up, you should take a look at the competition. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Chevrolet Equinox, and Hyundai Tucson all have higher fuel economy ratings than the Tiguan and use regular gasoline, though none of them can top the Tiguan’s high performance scores.

  • "In most situations Tiguan has ample power, but some turbo lag is noticeable - particularly when exiting a slow corner. The manual transmission has smooth shift and clutch action. The automatic shifts smoothly in automatic or manual mode." -- Consumer Guide
  • “Lively turbocharged engine." -- Edmunds
  • "We found the six-speed manual somewhat lacking, with long throws and too much play between gears." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "This VW might have given the Toyota (RAV4) a stronger run for its money but for a pair of faults. First, its turbocharged inline-four is strangely noisy - the Tiguan was loudest at a 70-mph cruise and at idle. Second, in straightforward ‘D’ mode, the automatic transmission proved dimwitted - agonizingly slow to kick down, agonizingly quick to grab fifth or sixth.” -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say the Tiguan handles extremely well and drives more like a car than an SUV. Basically, it’s just a larger version of the Volkswagen GTI, which reviewers praise for being one of the most fun-to-drive small cars on the market.

  • "The Tiguan's ride is fine so long as the pavement below remains smooth, and the steering response, braking and the overall drivability are above average for this class." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The steering feels a bit light at low speeds, but it is accurate on the road with little need for correction. Corners are handled with modest lean, and to its credit, Tiguan's road manners are more like a car than a trucky SUV. Brakes offer strong stopping power and good pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide

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