The name "Tiguan," attached to the company's new compact utility vehicle, is faux exoticism, splicing together the words "tiger" and "iguana." I wish I could have been at the product briefing where executives - including Dr. Moreau, I guess - explained how this "cute-ute," as the utility vehicles are called, combined the attributes of a fierce jungle cat and a lazy decorative reptile.
In fact, the Tiguan combines the attributes of a VW Rabbit, the compact runabout with which it shares its platform, and the larger Passat. (That would make it a "Rabat," wouldn't it? Isn't that a city in Morocco?) Fractionally smaller than the
Truly, though, the Tiguan's saving grace is its fortuitous slowness. Several years late to the cute-ute party, the Tiguan hits the market precisely as buyers are leaping out of mid-to-large utes and crossovers. This broad-based impulse of car buyers to go smaller and thriftier - call it demisizing - can only help the Tiguan. It's the fresh face in a crowd of mini-utes, so it feels like the car of the moment.
An aside: What I've noticed about demisizing in readers' e-mails is the desire not to find incrementally better fuel economy - say, 5 miles per gallon better or 7 miles per gallon - than their current car, but to double their fuel economy. I've probably gotten 50 e-mails from people saying they won't buy any vehicle that offers less than 40 miles per gallon. I had previously discounted the theory of peak demand - which argues that a fundamental shift in Americans' love of petroleum has occurred, irrespective of the price at the pump, but now I'm not so sure.
In any event, the Tiguan doesn't get anywhere near 40 miles per gallon. The Environmental Protection Agency figures the vehicle can wring 19/26 miles per gallon out of its turbocharged, 200-hp motor. This raises the first of a couple of caveats with the Tiguan. No diesel engine.
With a diesel, the Tig could raise efficiency to around 30 miles per gallon combined, but VW hasn't committed to putting a legal diesel in the Tiguan, as it has with the US-market Jetta (such powertrains are expensive to federalize). This greatly discomfits hard-core VW oil-heads, who would use diesel fuel as salad dressing if you let them.
The other caveat: price. The Tiguan starts at $23,200 (base two-wheel drive, six-speed manual transmission, S-trim), but if you start getting fancy you can easily run into the mid-$30,000s. VW in the United States has always been dicey as a value proposition. These days, with the euro trading about $1.50, VW is obliged to ask for European premiums for what are mass-market cars. Small wonder VW is looking to move more manufacturing stateside.
A diesel option would add an additional $2,500 or so to the already currency-inflated sticker price. Add navigation, leather, full-length panoramic sunroof, a 30-GM multimedia system with DVD, and rear-view camera and the Tiguan is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend some wheel time, to be sure.
The cabin is spare but sophisticated. The ambience is quiet and upscale. And it's pretty useful. The rear seat slides back and reclines, making life pretty good behind the front seats.
When the rear seats are folded, the cargo capacity expands to 56.1 cubic feet, relatively vast considering the trucklet's 174.3-inch overall length. Amazingly, VW offers an optional automated parking system - like that of the Lexus LS600 - to help drivers parallel park. If you can't park a 14-foot novelty such as the Tiguan, you should have your license cut into bits and fed to you like cereal.
Sporting around town, the Tiguan acquits itself nicely. The ride is firm and composed and the electromechanical steering direct and linear. The all-wheel drive system - VW's 4Motion - operates in front-wheel-drive mode unless and until the front slips. The system then shifts some engine power to the rear axles. Simple, transparent, but definitely useful when the weather turns ugly.
With all of its torque available from 1,700 rpm to 5,000 rpm, the Tiguan feels willing and spirited, if not mind-blowingly fast. It's quick, agile and compact. Not squirrelly, but definitely squirrel-like. It's also small and cute and plush, like a mink.
How about "Squink"?
This naming thing is harder than it looks.