2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion review: Get out, it’s not what you think

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion

There’s a funny thing about the Jetta we were driving. Every time we got out of it, we looked back and saw a Volkswagen Tiguan. If we walked away slowly and quickly looked back, there was a Tiguan. If we jumped out quickly and looked, there was a Tiguan. No matter what we tried, there was a 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL.

To be honest, the car we had walked up to and sat down in to begin with was VW Tiguan, but after driving it, that same vehicle morphed from the inside out into a Jetta. The only rational conclusion we can draw from that—at least as rational as we can be—is that the Tiguan just looks like a Jetta inside, it performs like a Jetta and feels like a Jetta.

 interior of the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion

The interior of the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion is tidy but plain. (click to enlarge)

Indeed, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Jetta share the same platform and the Jetta has the option of the Tiguan’s standard 2.0-liter turbocharged. And of course, Volkswagen has a strong design theme. If you’ve seen one Volkswagen you’ve seen them all. Well, not exactly, but the design force runs strong in this family, and it’s intentional. The VW current design theme under Volkswagen’s design chief Walter de ‘Silva’s leadership features the single band across the front encompassing the grille and headlight clusters,  updated on the 2012 model year Tiguan from the original design of the Tiguan when it debuted for the 2009 model year.

Overall the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan conforms to the two-box SUV configuration, with a rising shoulder line and the typical rear hatch. If there were any shapeshifting going on, the Tiguan could be a guilty partner with the Volkswagen Touareg, VW’s larger—and luxury priced—SUV.

And inside, much like the outside, if you’ve been in one VW lately, you’ve been in them all. The design is simple to the point of being austere. It’s the antidote to some of the rather florid interiors on today’s market. But to say it’s classic German is point on. One likes it…or not.

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion cargo

The 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion has less cargo room than competitors and the rear seatbacks don’t fold flat. (click to enlarge)

In the U.S., the only engine available in the Tiguan is VW’s ubiquitous 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder. Any less than the 200 horsepower of the two-liter four wouldn’t be acceptable to the American driving public, and forget the diesel that works so well in the Golf, Beetle and Jetta. The diesel would work just as well in the Tiguan, but the weight of the compact SUV pushes it into an EPA class that would require an expensive urea-injection system to meet EPA standards. It’s bureaucratic, not ecological, but there has to be a line somewhere. So the one gas engine it is.

That’s not unfortunate, or at least it’s fortunate in that the Volkswagen direct-injection two-liter turbo is as good as it is. While the 200 horsepower is satisfactory, it’s the 207 lb-ft of torque that arrives way down at 1700 rpm that makes the Tiguan rock. Our notes describe the performance in one word: quick. Listen closely and you can hear the turbocharger whistle. We like that, especially when there’s no turbo lag involved.

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL woofer

VW tucked the 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL’s Fender audio system’s woofer inside the spare tire to save room in the cargo area. (click to enlarge)

The 2014 Tiguan come standard with a six-speed manual transmission—rare in a compact SUV, or any SUV for that matter, but of course it’s on the base Tiguan S model. Our test Tiguan, however, had the six-speed automatic, require on the SE and above. The automatic has manual Tiptronic shifting, however, with a Sport mode, and Dynamic Shift Program that’s adaptive to the way the Tiguan is driven. Alas, the manual shifting is by tipping the shift lever. Stepping up to the Tiguan R-Line add paddle shifters, plus a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, special trim and such, but bumps the cost up as well, from a base $23,305 for the standard Tiguan 2.0T up to—hold your breath–$36,880, one of the biggest jumps between trim lines we’ve ever seen. On the other hand, our top-of-the-line SEL listed at $34,950. Not cheap.

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL 4Motion (click to enlarge)

But back to the Tiguan 2.0T, the automatic transmission was a smooth shifter, and in lower ranges almost felt like a continuously variable transmission, which would not have made us happy. We were happy, however, with the standard suspension. No doubt the R-Line is a gigglefest, but on our winding back roads, our test Tiguan felt more like a sporty sedan than a compact sport-ute.

The Tiguan gives up a little in interior room, particularly in cargo volume. Compared to a Ford Escape, the Tiguan has marginally less total interior volume, but while the Escape has 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row seat, the Tiguan measures only 23.8 cubic feet. Of course, there’s more room for stuff when the rear seatbacks are folded, but the Tiguan’s don’t fold flat. The front passenger seatback folds flat, however, for carrying whatever it is you have that’s 98 inches long.

Our test Tiguan had Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive which is offered only with the automatic transmission. The system has a Haldex center differential that can vary torque fore and aft, depending on which end is slipping. Normally, 90 percent of the drive goes to the front wheels, but with complete loss of traction at the front wheels, almost 100 percent of the power goes to the rear wheels. Most competitors systems limit front-to-rear transfer at 50:50, starting at 100 percent front. We could have used that during the record-breaking snows this winter. Here in the snowbelt, we couldn’t imagine an SUV with just front-wheel drive. Imagine the humility in getting stuck…

Continued on next page, plus specifications and window sticker