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2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

Smart and Functional

A three-quarter front view of a gray 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

In short: A sporty city-sized crossover.

With the downsizing of America hitting the SUV market hard, compact sport utes have become viable options for those who don't want to cram themselves into small sedans. Volkswagen's Tiguan could not have joined the fray soon enough. Already dubbed the GTI of compact sport utilities, the Tiguan does indeed look like a stretched version of the hot hatch, with the added benefit of 56.1 cubic feet of cargo room when the rear seats are folded down.

Slip into the driver seat and you’ll notice that the interior is classic V-Dub: functional and no-nonsense. Three trim levels are available — S, SE and SEL — and a sharp DVD satellite navigation system with a 30-gigabyte hard drive and backup camera is a $1,950 option on SE and SEL models. Also available on the top two tiers is a large panoramic sunroof, which lets in thirteen square feet of daylight for front and rear passengers. Vampires, beware: the retractable sun block is perforated, and doesn't offer an opaque option to block out light completely.

An interior view of a 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

Fire up the engine, pop the shifter in Drive, and hit the gas and you'll get decent acceleration from the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder. A speed of 60 mph is reached in a respectable 7.9 seconds, and the turbo's high-revving power makes the engine especially lively at the upper reaches of the powerband. Driving with a lead foot, however, will sacrifice the EPA-rated fuel economy of 18 city/25 highway mpg. The 4Motion all-wheel drive option, which is available on SE and SEL models, drops the highway figure by a mpg. A six-speed manual is available, but it only comes on the S model.

Handling is relatively agile for a 3,631-pound car, and if you allow the revs to rise, the Tiguan can be responsive and fun to toss around curvy roads, though the steering is a bit overboosted. Our drive covered the smooth-as-glass highways of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, so it was difficult to gauge how the Tiguan would handle irregular road surfaces; if other VWs are any indication, ride quality should be firm and controlled.

The Tiguan starts at an attractive $23,200, but the price can escalate into the thirties when creature comforts get piled on. Is VW's new compact sport utility vehicle worthy of the GTI moniker? Perhaps, if it eventually compensates for its added heft with a more powerful engine. Until that happens though, drivers will revel in the Tiguan's level of involvement, which is a welcome alternative to the likes of the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

A three-quarter front view of a blue 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

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Warranty/Service: Three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty; five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty; twelve-year/unlimited-mile warranty against corrosion perforation; four-year/50,000-mile roadside assistance; three-year/36,000-mile no-charge scheduled maintenance program.

Base Price: $23,200 / As tested: $28,875

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 5-door SUV

Engine: 2.0-liter, 16-valve turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual

Curb weight: 3,631 lbs
Wheelbase: 102.5 in
Length/Width/Height: 174.3/71.2/66.4 in
Turning circle: 39.4 ft

Brakes: power-assisted disc in front and rear, ABS, engine braking assist, electronic brake pressure distribution
independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar in front; fully-independent four-link with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and stabilizer bar in rear
electronic stability program, anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock

0-60 mph: 7.9 seconds
Top Speed: 131 mph

EPA City: 18 mpg
EPA Highway: 25 mpg

Safety: dual front airbags; front side thorax airbags; side head curtain protection airbags in front and rear; rear side thorax airbags; rear head restraints; pyrotechnic seatbelt tensioners; tire pressure monitoring system

Likes: a truly driver-oriented compact SUV

Dislikes: boot-like styling

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Text and photography: Basem Wasef

PSV021508 (Updated: 07/22/13 NW)