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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan: Like a Fine Wine

The first Tiguan appeared on the Canadian market in 2008. It arrived a little late to the compact SUV party that was already in full swing, but Volkswagen took its time to develop a competent product.

Eight years later, that same Tiguan is still on the market, and although it’s in need of a full redesign, it remains a competitive vehicle. Clearly, the German brand’s first foray into the small SUV segment wasn’t a rush job.

While some of its adversaries once boasted V6 engines, such as the Toyota RAV4, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Ford Escape, the Tiguan was pretty much the only one to offer a turbocharged engine. Today, it has become the norm. Was VW ahead of its time? Perhaps.

The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan is equipped with a turbo 2.0-litre four that develops 200 horsepower as well as 207 pound-feet of torque that peaks from 1700 to 5000 rpm. A six-speed manual is available, but only with the base front-wheel drivetrain, so it’s not all that interesting for the winter-stricken Canadian market.

Over the years, the Tiguan has frequently been qualified as the GTI of SUVs, and it’s not a far-fetched statement. With the six-speed automatic in Sport mode, the little ‘ute accelerates like a sporty compact car. Premium fuel is recommended for what the manufacturer calls “maximum performance,” but not required, although we suspect using the more expensive stuff will net a slightly higher fuel economy number. We fuelled up our all-wheel-drive 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Special Edition with super unleaded, and completed our week-long test with an average of 9.6 L/100 km, which included a round trip from Montreal to Toronto.

The Tiguan is also one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs in its category. It may have a ground clearance of 200 millimetres—one of the highest amongst compacts—but its handling characteristics make the VW feel like its hugging the pavement, without a firm ride. We like the high SUV driving position mixed with the road manners of a car, although the ride is harsher with the 18-inch wheels on the Comfortline and Highline trims—and even worse with the R-Line Package’s 19-inchers.

One indication of the Tiguan’s age is its dimensions, as its compact SUV rivals have all grown in size during the past eight years. Its wheelbase is even shorter than those of most subcompact crossovers, while interior space ranks dead last among compacts. On the other hand, that available volume is well laid out and the cargo area is nonetheless very accommodating, the rear seatbacks fold virtually flat.

And even though the Tiguan was designed a decade ago, the interior design is still fresh with good-quality materials and some updated components such as the multifunction steering wheel and infotainment system. Trendline and SE trim levels get a five-inch touchscreen, but a 6.33-inch screen is optional, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink integration. A neat touch in the Tiguan, which we have rarely seen in any other vehicle, is the number of adjustable dashboard air vents, eight of them in total.

The Special Edition model is competitively priced—but not a bargain—carrying an MSRP of $30,198 before freight and delivery charges. It includes popular features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. It’s also the cheapest Tiguan with the brand’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive. The upgraded infotainment system with navigation is an extra 995 $.

The 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan will soon be arriving in dealerships, and the Special Edition variant will be renamed the Wolfsburg Edition. This will be the final year for the small SUV in its current form, as the all-new 2018 Tiguan that’s already on sale in Europe will finally reach the Canadian market. The new-generation is bigger and is even offered in two sizes, although we’ll only get the longer one, which should come with optional seven-passenger seating.

For the moment, the Tiguan is one of the most playful SUVs in its segment, and has aged well, like a fine wine. However, it’s a little small compared to its more modern competitors, with no price advantage.

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