The 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover that does more with less. Its modest size suggests cramped accommodations, but in fact there's adult-sized room all around. Its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is rated at just 200 horsepower, yet the Tiguan feels quick. Although the badge on the grille says "VW," the driving experience says "Audi," as the Tiguan is impressively quiet and composed at speed.

But the Tiguan does tend to cost more money than its rivals, and not just when you first get the keys. The Tiguan's fuel economy is behind the times, and you also need to think about lifetime maintenance costs, which are generally higher on European vehicles such as this VW.

Still, we think the Tiguan is worth the extra cost. Every time you fire it up, you'll be reminded that you didn't settle for a run-of-the-mill crossover; you made the stretch and got one of the best. The Tiguan's unassuming Golf-on-stilts styling may set a humble tone, but there's a lot more to this crossover than meets the eye.

What's New for 2014?

The sporty R-Line model joins the team, and a handful of new standard and optional features are introduced, including VW Car-Net telematics.

What We Like

Peppy turbocharged engine; good fuel economy with automatic transmission; uptown interior; roomy back seat; smooth and quiet ride

What We Don't

Disappointing fuel economy; mediocre frontal crash-test performance; potentially pricey

How Much?

$23,860-$37,400

Fuel Economy

Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the Tiguan is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder rated at 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the front-wheel-drive S, but the Tiguan otherwise gets a conventional 6-speed automatic (not to be confused with VW's dual-clutch DSG automatic, which isn't offered here).

Fuel economy is just 18 miles per gallon city/26 mpg hwy with the manual transmission, while the front-wheel-drive automatic isn't much better at 21 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. Adding all-wheel drive yields 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. We expect more from a small turbocharged engine in this day and age.

Standard Features & Options

The 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan is offered in five trim levels -- S, SE, SE with Appearance, SEL and R-Line. Note that all-wheel drive is optional on every Tiguan except the S model with the base manual transmission.

The S ($23,860) starts with 16-inch steel wheels, an electronic parking brake, heated exterior mirrors, 8-way manual front seats with height and lumbar adjustments, cloth upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, reclining rear seats, a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and an 8-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input. Adding the automatic transmission to the S replaces the steel wheels with 16-in alloys.

The SE ($27,860) adds 17-in alloy wheels, heated front washer nozzles, leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, partial power front seats with heating, iPod connectivity and Car-Net telematics.

The SE with Appearance package ($32,440) adds 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, silver roof rails, chrome exterior trim, keyless entry with push-button ignition, leatherette upholstery, a rearview camera and the Premium VIII audio system with a 5-inch touchscreen display, satellite radio, a 6-CD changer, an SD-card reader and satellite radio.

The SEL ($33,535) comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, a navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control and a premium Fender audio system.

The R-Line ($37,400) boasts 19-in wheels, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a sport-tuned suspension, sporty R-Line styling cues, power-folding heated exterior mirrors, full power front seats with adjustable lumbar, driver memory functions and leather upholstery.

All Tiguans can be equipped with a trailer-hitch package that unlocks a 2,200-lb towing capacity.

Safety

The Tiguan comes standard with anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control and six airbags -- front, front side-impact and front and rear side curtain.

In government crash testing, the Tiguan scored four stars out of five, including three stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts.

Behind the Wheel

It's been said that the Tiguan drives like a jacked-up GTI, but let's be honest: This crossover is all about comfort, with a suspension that's tuned to isolate occupants from the elements. And you know what? We wouldn't change a thing. The Tiguan is a lovely car on the highway, suppressing road and wind noise so thoroughly that it might as well have an Audi badge on the steering wheel. It's equally at home on patchy urban streets, thanks to its combination of decent ground clearance and generous ride compliance. We can't think of a more pleasant compact crossover to drive at this price.

Under the hood, the Tiguan's aging 2.0T engine doesn't employ VW's latest technology, but it's still a gem, delivering sprightly acceleration almost from idle to redline. We appreciate that VW still offers a manual shifter, and it's a pleasant one that helps make the S model a real bargain, but most Tiguans will have the exceptionally smooth automatic.

Other Cars to Consider

Kia Sportage -- Check out the stylish Sportage's optional turbocharged engine; it's a great value for all that performance.

Mazda CX-5 -- Similar in spirit to the Tiguan, the CX-5 is a compact crossover with a premium feel, and it's got genuinely athletic handling. If you want to keep up with the Tiguan, though, go for the bigger 2.5-liter engine.

Ford Escape -- The Escape with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is a tough matchup for the Tiguan, though the Ford can get pricey, too.

AutoTrader's Advice

We think the Tiguan is at its best toward the low end of its price range. Our choice would be either the S with the manual or the undeniably better-equipped SE. Either way, you're getting a lot of crossover for the money. Pricier Tiguans compete surprisingly well with entry-level luxury crossovers, but remember that the S and SE have the same drivetrain and interior.

AutoTrader

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