The compact SUV marketplace is overrun with competing models from nearly every major auto manufacturer and this can make it very difficult to know which one will best suit your needs. For instance, if you just were judging the 2010 VW Tiguan SE by the engine specs and exterior design motif you might be excused for thinking this is the compact SUV equivalent of a GTI hatchback.
In reality, the only thing the GTI and Tiguan share is a 2.0 liter 200 horsepower/207 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder. Unfortunately for the Tiguan SE, however, its standard 6-speed automatic is no match for the lightning quick reflexes of the optional DSG double-clutch automatic that has won such rave reviews in the GTI hatch.
The Tiguan’s 6-speed automatic isn’t the smoothest operator in the world and it tends to hesitate when you need a sudden burst of acceleration. But the most unforgivable aspect of this transmission is the fact that it gives the 2.0 liter turbo a wicked case of turbo lag. The GTI with DSG has zero turbo lag.
But I am being a little unfair here with my expectations of the 2010 VW Tiguan SE. Just because I have a soft spot for the much more fun to drive VW passenger car models, it doesn’t mean that I should expect this SUV to be immune to the laws of gravity and physics.
So in that mindset how does this compact SUV compare to its ever improving competition? Read on to find out.
The 2010 VW Tiguan SE is a very “upright” SUV with a really tall roof height in relation to its overall length. The end result is a compact SUV that looks a bit like a VW Golf hatchback that got stretched out in the dryer.
Although the 2010 VW Tiguan SE does not share the same “corporate face” as the 2010 Jetta Sportwagen, Golf, GTI and 2011 Touareg models, it does have a pleasingly upscale appearance. The oddly shaped headlamps, however, do give the 2010 Tiguan an appearance similar to people who have had one too many facelifts.
My SE test model came equipped with standard 17-inch alloy wheels that filled the wheel arches perfectly. So there really is no need to upgrade to a larger and more expensive alloy wheel size. The rear of the Tiguan features a pleasingly organic tail lamp design that makes this SUV instantly recognizable as a VW.
That said, I personally think that the Tiguan’s high roof height/short vehicle length design makes it look awkward. Every time I walked up to it the only thing I could think was that it looked like a giant roller skate.
The cabin of the 2010 VW Tiguan SE feels rather odd at first because it is both narrow and tall with enough available headroom for a 6 foot tall cowboy wearing 10-gallon hat. This unique interior setup also makes the 23.8 cubic foot cargo area very difficult to utilize.
The cargo hold is both narrow and shallow with most of the available room coming courtesy of the roof height. It sort of makes you wonder why most people wouldn’t decide to buy VW’s Jetta Sportwagen which has a larger, more usable cargo hold (with the second row folded).
The appeal of that attractively styled wagon also goes hand in hand with its more fun to drive nature. As an added bonus to the frugally minded, the 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen can be ordered with the frugal yet powerful TDI diesel engine.
As a side note, over 85% of Sportwagen owners pick the TDI engine because it is perfectly suited to SUV or wagon applications. It sort of makes you wonder why the TDI engine isn’t offered with the 2010 Tiguan.
Other than that, the interior of the 2010 VW Tiguan SE is a very pleasant place to spend time. The SE’s leather trim is of exceptionally high quality and the interior feels solidly constructed. There were no squeaks or rattles and all of the radio and climate controls were easy to use.
VW’s Bluetooth system (standard on the 2010 Tiguan SE) is simple to navigate but I have to say that I missed the much improved design of the 2010 Golf and GTI’s steering wheel mounted audio/Bluetooth controls. The Tiguan instead uses small circular buttons with stars and other odd symbols to control the same functions. To understand what all of the buttons mean requires a lengthy visit to the owner’s manual.
Pricing, Features and Economy
The 2010 Tiguan SE (with leather seats) isn’t listed on VW’s website but it slots beneath the most luxurious $31,000 SEL model and the much more basic $23,200 S variant. At $29,565 it is decently equipped but there are some very obvious omissions if you compare it with a similarly priced, top of the line 2010 Honda CR-V EX-L.
For instance, that price doesn’t get you dual zone automatic climate control, navigation, a moonroof, four-wheel drive or even a USB port for your iPod. Those are the kinds of features that sell buyers on a compact SUV. Why would anyone buy a 2010 Tiguan SE over the 2010 CR-V EX-L when the Honda gives buyers all of those desirable features and is way more fun to drive? (See Driving Impressions for more information.)
The 2010 VW Tiguan SE with leather seats does come with a lot of standard features such as air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, an electronic parking brake, a 12 way power driver’s seat, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, a touch screen AM/FM/6-disc CD audio system, tinted glass, heated front seats, steering wheel mounted audio/Bluetooth controls and even floormats.
The one feature I truly missed was the optional USB/iPod integration as VW’s touch screen audio system offers excellent user friendliness when surfing through artists, albums and playlists. The sound from the 8-speaker premium audio system, however, was excellent.
Considering how heavy the 2010 VW Tiguan SE is (3,500 pounds) it is no wonder that the 2.0 liter engine returns a rather mediocre 18 city/24 highway EPA estimate. I got a 19 mile per gallon average during my week with this SUV which isn’t as good as the 24 miles per gallon I got from the much quicker 2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6. I blame the Tiguan’s 6-speed automatic.
I have already discussed the 2010 VW Tiguan’s automatic transmission and engine issues in detail. Otherwise, this compact SUV is surprisingly dull to drive in light of how enjoyable most VW’s are to pilot. The Honda CR-V I tested around the same time had much better body control and steering feel all the while still offering up greater ride comfort.
The Tiguan doesn’t offer anything that makes you WANT to drive it. Instead it goes about its business in a manner that discourages any aggressive driving maneuvers. It is too bad because the Tiguan also has higher road noise levels than the far sportier and more stiffly sprung GTI.
Overall, the VW Tiguan could have been so much more. It’s sad that all it can offer can offer buyers is a means of semi-comfortable transport mixed in with a wholly uninspiring driving experience. So, are you sure you need an SUV?
How Dog and Kid Friendly Is It?
VW interiors are made from the highest quality leather and plastic trim, so the 2010 Tiguan SE with leather seats (a must for kids and dogs) is a great choice in that regard. There are plenty of cubbies, consoles and a nicely sized glovebox for junk storage but the 2010 Tiguan has no real innovations in regard to cargo carrying ability.
There is a decently sized 26.1 cubic foot cargo area but unfortunately it suffers from an elevated liftover height. A 2010 Honda CR-V has a much more convenient ride height that makes it perfect for people who routinely have to load heavy items like baby strollers.
The biggest issue I have with the VW Tiguan SE’s interior is the fact that the rear seats don’t fold completely flat. For some reason the oddly oversized center armrest remains elevated when you fold the rear seats thereby ensuring no dog can ride comfortably in the cargo area.
In the brutally cut throat compact SUV segment, automakers who shoot for anything less than market dominance invariably see themselves getting lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately for the 2010 VW Tiguan SE, it has far too many areas in which it is either mediocre or outright flawed. It doesn’t feel like VW’s best effort and if I needed this much room and utility I would buy a Jetta Sportwagen TDI instead.
But if you really have to buy a compact SUV for some reason there are better choices. Counted among them are the 2010 Honda CR-V, 2011 Kia Sorento and 2010 Chevy Equinox. Do realize, however, that I have tested a lot of compact SUVs and the 2010 VW Tiguan does outshine the Nissan Rogue, Jeep Liberty and Mitsubishi Outlander.
How you take the 2010 VW Tiguan SE’s mid-pack status among its peers, however, is up to you as a consumer. All I am saying is why buy something mediocre when you can have something terrific! Just think about it.
Vehicle Tested: 2010 VW Tiguan SE with Leather Seats
MSRP: $29,565 (including destination)
Options on Tester: None
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 200 horsepower/207 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-60: 7.8 seconds (VW)
Top Speed: 130 miles per hour
Fuel Economy: 18 city/24 highway
Economy as Tested: 19 miles per gallon
Fuel Tank Size: 16.8 gallons
Runs on: premium unleaded
Cargo Capacity (behind rear seats): 23.8 cubic feet
(Rear seats folded): 56.1 cubic feet
Tow Capacity: 2,200 pounds
Crash Test Ratings (IIHS): Top Safety Pick
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty
3 years/36,000 miles free maintenance
Assembled in: Wolfsburg, Germany