As someone whose first two vehicles were Volkswagens, I remain a fan of the German automaker, and I’m not alone in my admiration. Volkswagen rose to prominence in the 1960s and continued to grow for two decades. The line began to falter in the early ‘90s, but Volkswagen has refocused and made a successful turnaround.
In the past decade, Volkswagen has kept rolling out hits. The latest is the 2009 Tiguan, a compact sport utility vehicle recently driven for a week. Like many of its predecessors, the Tiguan has received high marks in many areas. It’s understandable because VW is consistently again offering vehicles with refined handling and upscale accommodations.
Naming vehicles in not one of VW’s strengths. Like its predecessors — Phaeton, Touareg, Golf Rabbit, Passat — Tiguan (pronounced tee-guan) has an odd name. For the record, it derives from the melding of the tiger and iguana. Who knew?
Will VW ever learn and stick to conventional names? Maybe not. Already out in showrooms this fall is the Routon. It’s a minivan that’s arrived a little late for most people, considering it’s not selling well.
Forget about names. Let’s stick to facts. The Tiguan, VW’s first compact SUV, is solid. Volkswagen goes after class leaders — Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4 — and does a nice job. Car shoppers should give the Tiguan a serious look.
Offered in three trims, the Tiguan features a sporty exterior for a class that generally lacks that quality. It also has a comfortable, upscale interior, either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, handles well, has solid performance and good off-road qualities.
What may be a problem, especially in challenging economic times, is the Tiguan costs more than some competitors. The base S model starts at an estimated $23,200 and the high end SEL trim hikes to $32,940. The mileage (18-24 mpg) is less than most of its rivals. A more gas-conscious turbo-diesel model is sold in Europe. VW is not saying when that version will come to the U.S. market.
All Tiguans are equipped with a turbo-charged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder 200 horsepower engine and a smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission. For a four-banger, going 0-60 mph in just under 8 seconds is impressive.
The Tiguan is peppy and the ride is firm and composed, offering a comfort level for the driver and potentially five passengers (there is no third seat). Even with the turbo-charger kicking in, the ride is quiet.
The Tiguan has plenty of headroom, even models equipped with the optional sunroof. Legroom is good in front and back seats. What could be enhanced is cargo space. However, the second seat folds nearly flat, so adequate hauling space is still available.
FAST FACTS: 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
Power — turbo-charged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 200 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 18 mpg (city) 24 mpg (hwy); Standard Features — traction control, antilock, 4-wheel disc brakes, antiskid system, daytime running lights, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, center console, power windows, doors, mirrors; rear defogger; Warranty — Powertrain 5 years/60,000 miloes; Bumper-to-bumper 3 yeares/36,000 miles; Corrosion 12 years/unlimited miles; Free roadside assistance, 4 years/unlimited miles; Free scheduled maintenance 3 years/36,000 miles.
Article Last Updated: March 26, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.