Volkswagen Tiguan tweaks their small SUV for mid-cycle refresh, gains momentum

After several years of lackluster sales, Volkswagen’s small, car-based SUV has finally taken off. With sales up nearly 30% over last summer’s sales, it seems customers have found the Tiguan endearing...finally.

With their mid-cycle refresh coming up for the 2012 Tiguan, it features a few upgrades. Things like park assist, ride control, and start/stop functions are a welcome (and frankly overdue) addition. The downside? Virtually none of the sweet tech upgrades will make it to U.S. shores citing cost reasons.

While the Tiguan is a great car, we think that when the complete model refresh happens (production should move the U.S. by that point), that will be the time to jump and snatch it up at a possible lower price.

Hit the jump to read the full review and thumb through the hi-res gallery.

When Volkswagen introduced the Tiguan to the U.S. market, it got off to a somewhat rocky start, despite being in a niche that is highly popular. Though the U.S. market dearly loves this small SUV sector with vehicles including the Toyota RAV4 and the hugely popular benchmark Honda CR-V, it was baffling as to why the Tig did not fly off the shelf with the same briskness as its Japanese counterparts.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior
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Several years and paradigm shifts later, the Tiguan has gained traction in the U.S. market, posting nearly 30% increase in sales in the summer months. As VW comes out with upgrades, it would seem that the Tiguan will continue on the up-and-up with American consumers.

The Engine/Transmission

The Tig is powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI four-cylinder engine, a carbon copy that energetically thrusts the GTI, generating a stout 200 horsepower between 5100 to 6000 rpm and 207 pound-feet of torque over a much broader 1700 to 5000 rpm. We are plenty pleased with this engine, and so is VW as it is used in a variety of models across the line.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Drivetrain
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While the get-up-and-go of the turbo 4-pot has never been an issue with consumers, the abysmal fuel economy has certainly deterred potential customers. Volkswagen has responded in their new model with several different small transmission changes that, added all together, make up for some much improved mpgs.

European models now feature Volkswagen’s trick seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but Tiguans that are bound stateside will not be equipped with their DSG rower. Instead, American models will get a new six-speed automatic gearbox that features an additional overdrive (bringing the total to two). In conjunction with the extra overdrive, the gearbox uncouples its torque converter when coasting reducing unwanted mechanical drag. The transmission software is also programed to have reduced shift points and a lower idle speed around 600 rpm.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior
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Volkswagen claims these changes can improve fuel economy 15-20 percent. That’s good enough to get to 23 mpg city and a fuel-sipping 30 mpg highway, a noticeable improvement over the 20/26 mpg that is observed on the current Tig. Unfortunately because of the turbocharged heart, the Tiguan stills requires 91 octane.

While European customers will get a whole bunch of options and trims with the engine and transmission—Euro-spec customers can have the 6-speed manual option on any trim level of both the front- and all-wheel drive forms—American customers can only dump their own clutch on the entry-level S model with front-wheel drive. This isn’t really a big deal to most, as less than 1 percent of the U.S. Tiguans are delivered with a manual 6-speed.

The Exterior

The 2012 Tiguan is nearly identical to the 2011 model, with only a few minor changes taking place. Though the exterior of old had a refined and modern look, VW is unifying their brand by sharing styles across their product range (the Tiguan even shares a platform and many underpinnings with the Golf).

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior
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The new double-split front grill presents the front end more aggressively than last years model. Add that with the sharp new headlamps that accent the corners beautifully, and the Tiguan suddenly rides a little lower and more GTI-like.

One addition that does stand out is the U-shaped LED daytime running lights surrounding the low beams. This decorative light phenomena was once solely featured on BMWs, which has still retained their signature halo rings on their headlights. Now though, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and a host of others have this LED adornment. We’re not saying it’s bad, we love more optical tinsel and having it on the Tiguan makes it that much more visually appealing.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Exterior
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Exterior
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The overall profile of the car hasn’t really changed though, it still looks like a tall Golf. Much of the same is going on in the rear. The tail lamps are fashioned to look more Golf-ish and uniform. Again, this isn’t a bad thing—the new Golf look great and it shows a unity within the brand. As a whole, the car looks stronger and more confident than the last Tiguan that held a few too many bulbous, swooping lines.

The Interior

Thankfully, the 2012 refresh largely carries over the interior from the previous edition. It is a comfortable place to be, the buttons and dials are clearly identified and the fit and finish is well constructed and put together. At times the dash pieces felt a little plastic, and some of the buttons did not have the tactile feedback we desire. But if you are worried the VW is pulling the same stunt as it did on the 2011 Jetta (making everything seemingly as cheep as possible), don’t be. The materials are still exquisite looking and it’s very much a German-made car. That being said, Volkswagen helped quell this complaint with a new multi-function steering wheel, and a cleaner, brighter data display located between the speedometer and the tachometer.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan High Resolution Interior
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2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior
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Cloth seating is standard on every entry-level S model, and it has proven to be a sturdy and comfortable trim—not getting too hot in the sun or freezing cold in the winter. Moving up to the SE level and the interior is fitted with a leatherette and the SEL makes the jump to real leather and a few extra luxurious lashings.

Interior and cargo space is not as large as the CR-V or the Ford Escape, measuring in at 23.8 cubic feet. With the seats down, the space swells to a 56.1 cubic feet.

Gadgets, but only for Europeans

Possible Tiguan consumers will have their choice of a host of new features. The mid-cycle refresh comes with adaptive ride control, active park assist, lane detection, and a start/stop function and none of those are going to be included on stateside bound Tigs. Volkswagen says this is in part because of cost, and also the American buyers would most likely not pay for such features, which would swell the already bloated price tag.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior
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Tiguans in the states are not completely without technological additions, but these are standard on most, even less expensive, cars these days: Bluetooth hands-free pairing, panoramic sunroof on S+ models (previously exclusive on higher-end trims), and USB audio inputs on SE and SEL trims. We think it’s about time that all cars come standard with auxiliary/USB inputs as it is inexpensive and second nature these days. Everyone has an mp3 player and we are tired of either having to buy a cassette adapter or a lousy FM transmitter.

Though there is hope for the U.S. Tiguans to carry these gadgets that are only available on the Euro-spec Tigs in the near future because VW is trying to move production of the Tiguan to the western hemisphere (possibly the new $1 billion Chattanooga, Tennessee plant). The move could reduce costs and would be enable VW to include all the bells and whistles for domestic Tigs.

Pull the trigger?

Volkswagen has done a good job in all the minor tweaks and facelifts for the 2012 refresh. That being said, there haven’t been any drastic changes for the U.S.-spec models that makes us jump out of our seats. The Tiguan is still a great small SUV: it handles well with minimal body roll, quick and fun acceleration, and overall good feel.

2012 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior
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The current price tag ($23,720) is one of the reasons it is not on the same selling level as the CR-V ($21,895), RAV4 ($22,475), Kia Sportage ($18,295), or Nissa Rogue ($21,460).

Bigger and better things await the next-generation refresh, which will likely become a much different animal as it stands now. Building the next-gen Tiguan in the U.S. seems like a great move to alleviate the problems associated with the current-gen Tiguan.

If you are not in severe need of a small SUV, your best bet is to wait for the next-gen to see if it will be everything we hope it is.

Deric Raymond
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What do you think?
Show Comments


  (613) posted on 11.25.2011

Even though it only looks so simple and ordinary on its platform and style, I must say that I would still prefer to have this one than to other overdressed vehicles. The practicality of this one is the most important. smiley

  (448) posted on 11.15.2011

The handling of this Tiguan is truly looks very nice, even its refreshing interior is absolutely looking so great! Well, I must say that in spite of having only a simple exterior detailing, I would still love to have it. smiley

  (428) posted on 10.24.2011

Tiguan is still impressive and appealing for me in spite of having a simple detailing, for the fact that it is so reliable on the road and very ideal as a family van.

  (399) posted on 10.10.2011

Tiguan really looks so simple and ordinary on its platform but despite that I still find it, a very appealing one and this kind of car is so practical to use in my everyday transportation that’s why I would still love to have this one.

  (692) posted on 09.26.2011

I’m always amazed with its engine, very powerful and reliable as always. They always impressed me in their engines, but not much with their model cars, just the functionality of it.

  (463) posted on 09.21.2011

The handling seems so nice even the dashboard looks so awesome. I’m not so impressed with the exterior design of this Tiguan, so simple and very ordinary.

  (256) posted on 09.16.2011

It seems not a concept for me, that platform and its design looks very ordinary but despite that I still find it oozing with car appeal and so practical to use in everyday transportation.

  (528) posted on 09.12.2011

The steering wheels and the dashboard of this Tiguan are quite impressive but I must say that the interior touch that it had seems too boring but as for the exterior, it is quite impressive.

  (336) posted on 09.12.2011

I’m quite astonish with VW’s design for this one, I’m not capable of seeing this car model, i only recognized VW on the beetle cars. But this, wow!

  (797) posted on 09.7.2011

Wow, its a good thing that VW has extend the production of their vehicle. At least, the have offered a SUV. I bet the updated version wil sell like hotcakes in the market.

  (466) posted on 09.7.2011

Comparing to the previous production, I have to say that I’m so impressed with the modification on this car.

  (530) posted on 09.6.2011

I was thinking on what are the possible competitor of this car? Well, I have to say that i’m really impressed on the styling of the vehicle. The exterior look so gorgeous but the interior is not that great.

  (484) posted on 09.6.2011

Wow, its great that VW is offering a newer version for this vehicle! I really like the red paint job of the car. I think they really improve the look as well as the figure performance of the Tiguan.

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