2013 Volkswagen Tiguan vs. 2013 Mazda CX-5

By Teddy Field

Most small crossovers are designed to make a buyer’s life comfortable, and more convenient. A power liftgate that opens by telepathy. An infotainment system that can Google the tea prices in China, then post them to Facebook. Heated & cooled seats, which can fold into the floor, allowing you enough room to haul a water buffalo. And you get all of this modern activity enhancement, wrapped in bodywork that looks like a spaceship from the planet IKEA.

Modern CuteUTE’s have come a long way to be sure. But what if you’re the type of person that can still operate a door handle, and you couldn’t care less about Tweeting your Status on MyFace. What would you drive?

How about a small SUV that focuses on fun? The kind of loveseat-hauler that you can pitch into a curve, and come out the other side giggling like a hippy at a bong convention? Well, such vehicles do exist, and we’re about to show you two of them…

2013 Volkswagen Tiguan

Since most CUVs never leave the pavement, the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan was designed specifically for the Urban Jungle. It’s got an available Haldex 4Motion AWD system, which can send up to 100% of the engine torque to the rear wheels if slippage is detected. Otherwise, 90% of the power goes to the front paws. This system provides a fantastic driving experience, and the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL gets an even grippier suspension, with meatier 19-inch wheels. If you’re looking for a CUV GTi, the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL is for you. However, the massive tires and stiff suspension may be too uncomfortable for some.

2013 Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen says that the 2013 VW Tiguan has a 28-degree approach angle, 6.9 inches of ground clearance, and 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan 4Motion models get long-travel front springs for additional wheel articulation. But the AWD system doesn’t have low-range, and even VW admitted that the Tiguan is intended for “that rough road to the lake or a snow-covered driveway in winter”. This limited capability however, should be more than adequate for most buyers.

Volkswagen Tiguan

On the inside, people looking for European-style luxury won’t be disappointed. There’s soft touch-points, and high quality materials everywhere. An optional glass roof makes the cabin feel much larger than it is. The back seat slides 6-inches fore & aft, to maximize luggage space, and there’s built-in cargo tie-downs in the back, along with a 12v power plug. The aim of the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is to cater to people with an ‘active lifestyle’. Mountain bikes, hang gliders, muddy boots. It can even tow 2,200 lbs, which is enough capacity to handle most jet skis and small boats.

Powering the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is VW’s go-to 2.0L Turbo. In the Tiguan, it utilizes direct injection and an intercooled turbo to produce 200-hp & 207 lb-ft of torque at just 1,700 rpm. Those eager ponies are harnessed to a slick 6-speed manual in the base 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan S. The rest of the model line gets a Tiptronic 6-speed autobox. In normal driving, the automatic hunts top gear like Dog the Bounty Hunter. But if you leave the tranny in Sport Mode, it’ll hold gears longer, and make the little trucklet feel a lot more responsive.

If you want a Euro-flavored Urban Utility Vehicle that’s actually fun to drive, the 2013 VW Tiguan could be for you.

2013 Mazda CX-5

With tightening fuel economy regulations, car makers are scrambling to get their MPG numbers up. Each manufacturer has their own fuel saving strategy, like Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine program. Mazda’s fuel-sipping initiative is called SKYACTIV, and the 2013 Mazda CX-5 is the first of its vehicles to be designed around the SKYACTIV components.

2013 Mazda CX-5

The first part of the SKYACTIV system is the high compression (13:1) 2.0L engine (called SKYACTIV G). This ultra efficient little mill produces 155-hp & 150 lb-ft, which doesn’t sound like much on paper. But another part of the SKYACTIV system is weight savings and aerodynamic efficiency. The 2013 Mazda CX-5 weighs just 3,208 lbs when equipped with the manual transmission (which has also been lightened, and optimized to improve shifting response). And the new KODO design language (which replaces Mazda’s previous Grinning Idiot design language) is slipperier than a greased pig, yielding a drag coefficient of just 0.33. All of this adds up to a sub-9 second 0-60 time, which is on par with the heavier and more powerful 2013 Honda CR-V. The SKYACTIV-MT 2013 Mazda CX-5 can also achieve up to 35 mpg on the highway, which is one of the best economy figures in the segment.

Now, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 isn’t what you’d call fast. But the whole package is tuned to provide a responsive driving experience. The ride is firm, and body movements are well controlled. With such a low curb weight, the CX5 feels nimble, and easy to toss into a curve. The optional AWD system can handle most inclement terrain, and the towing capacity is an adequate 2,000 lbs. For a roomy CUV with just 155-hp, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 is fun-to-drive little trucklet.

2013 Mazda CX-5

With the social importance of ‘soft touch-points’, Mazda decided to include them in the 2013 Mazda CX-5. While Mazdas have always had nicely designed interiors, padded vinyl and other soft-touch materials had always been noticeably absent. But since Mazda has decided to start making relevant cars again, the interior department was told to ‘catch up with the times’. The resulting improvements have yielded a truly nice interior, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Mazda 929.

Although the 2013 Mazda CX-5 isn’t what you’d call ‘fast’, it’s still good fun to drive. And that’s a hard trick to pull off.

<strong>Car Comparison: 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan vs. </strong><strong>2013 Mazda CX-5</strong><br />

SPECIFICATION2013 Volkswagen Tiguan2013 Mazda CX-5
Fuel Economy18/26/21 2.0T / MT26/35/29 2.0L / MT
21/26/23 2.0T / AT26/32/29 2.0L / AT
20/26/23 2.0T / AT – AWD25/31/28 2.0L / AT – AWD
Suburban Snob Factor9 / 10 Camrys9 / 10 Camrys
NHTSA RankingTop Safety Pick = YTop Safety Pick = Y
NHTSA Ranking4 / 5 Stars4 / 5 Stars

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Volkswagen and Mazda.)