The Business Insider Transportation team tests a lot of cars, everything from Ferraris to Rolls-Royces, with plenty of Hondas and Chevys and Teslas in between.
But we also own a few cars. I have a Toyota Prius, and until recently, Senior Reporter Ben Zhang rolled around in a well-seasoned Nissan Maxima.
As with all older vehicles, Ben’s Maxima was starting to show its age. I had the same issues with a 1998 Saab 900S that I said goodbye to in 2014, after almost a decade of Saab love.
In late 2016, we noticed that VW was running some appealing deals on its vehicles, so Ben investigated, and then one day headed over to a dealership in New Jersey to “check out some cars.”
He left with a new lease in a 2017 Tiguan, a compact SUV that has been in the VW lineup since 2007. We won’t get into the details of Ben’s deal, but it was pretty good, and in no way connected with his job at BI. When we buy or lease cars, we do it as civilians, not professional auto journalists. (I did poke fun at the guy for choosing a white Tig, but over time the colour has grown on me, although I would have gone for silver.)
As it turns out, because we use my driveway to host our test cars, Ben frequently drops off his Tiguan at my house — and I’ll do anything to keep from putting gas in his Prius. So I’ve been “testing” Ben’s car.
And I’m impressed! Compact SUVs are the hottest segment in the auto industry right now, and although even amid a US sales boom VW has struggled to add market share — and has been dealing with the fallout from its emissions-cheating scandal — the Tiguan is an ideal vehicle for it to be selling and leasing. We are often asked to make recommendations for folks in the market for a car, and of late, we’ve been suggesting a look at VW because economic conditions have made the prices quite appealing.
A base Tiguan (the name, bafflingly, combines “Tiger” and “Iguana” and makes one wish that VW would stop naming cars and just give them a numerical designation like all the other German automakers) will set you back about $US25,000. In the US, the vehicle is equipped with a peppy four-cylinder turbocharged engine that serves up 200 at-times noisy horsepower.
In its segment, the Tig faces some stout competition, especially against the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. Ben’s car is also the ageing first-generation version. It’s nice, but it doesn’t compare too favourably with the new CR-V, which has a reputation for indestructibility and is starting to come off as more premium than it has in the past. A new generation of the Tig is arriving later in 2017, however, so VW is keeping pace.
The sales pitch for the Tig is that it’s German engineering in a mass-market package, and it does suffer on its face from being pricey relative to the segment. That said, the realities of the US market mean that VW dealers seem to in a mood to deal, so any sticker shock could be offset if you’re willing to talk turkey over your costs.
I recently sampled the new CR-V, which is a very impressive small SUV. Where the Tiguan wins some points, of course, is in the driving. Honda vehicles are all easy to drive without being too compliant, but the German-built Tig is a poor man’s Audi Q3 (the next generation Tig will be built in Mexico, where VW has been operating for decades). My Prius isn’t really all that much fun to drive, which bothers me not at all given how infrequently I need to visit the gas pump. Enter the Ben’s Tiguan, which is quite fun to drive.
But it’s also versatile, with decent cargo capacity and the ability to transport four members of my family of five (things get a little too snug when my teenage daughter joins the crew). The vehicle can effortlessly absorb a week’s worth of groceries, and with some aftermarket additions, could haul bikes, skies, and even tow a light load (it typically carries only Ben’s must-haves: a roll of paper towels, a bottle of water, and single coat hanger). Ben upgraded to the all-wheel-drive version, so you have that in your favour when dealing with bad weather.
Ben was actually confronted with a classic question when he started looking for new ride: Hang onto a perfectly functional, but somewhat antiquated car that was jut starting to impose some maintenance costs that were making free-and-clear ownership less appealing; or take the plunge on a brand new car, get updated everything, but then manage the monthly payments.
In Ben’s case, I think he made a good call. He does work at our office in New York and so doesn’t need a car to commute, but he lives in New Jersey and requires a vehicle to cover his weekends when he doesn’t have a test car available. Honestly, we debated this question rather extensively, and if VW hadn’t been offering such good deals, he probably would have stuck with the Maxima.
And for me, it’s all gravy! I get to check out an extra car, on a sort of long-term weekend basis. If I were in the market, there’s no doubt that I’d consider a Tiguan. It does what it’s supposed to do quite well — and it’s kick to drive. The technology is up-to-date, although it could be better presented; the interface isn’t as effective as it is on it VW Group sibling, Audi. But that’s a minor complaint.
We’re both wondering about the Tig’s reliability versus its rivals, but because Ben leased the vehicle, that’s less of an issues than if he had bought. So there you have it: I like the Tiguan — I really like it. Ben made a great choice.
NOW WATCH: Reports say Volkswagen has agreed to buy back 500,000 cars — see if your car may be eligible
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.