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Sporty VW's price stings

| Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

When Volkswagen released its year-end sales figures this month, it tried to put a happy face on some pretty abysmal news: Retail was down for each of its 13 models except for the Beetle convertible.

Ouch.

Chalk it up to European pricing, stiff competition and names that are downright odd.

The Tiguan — named after a nonexistent animal, a tiger combined with an iguana —was least affected. Sales of the midsize crossover were down, but only by 5.4 percent in 2013, due to the popularity of the small SUV segment and a 2014 model refresh that added a subscription safety system and made the Tiguan available with VW's R-Line sport trim.

The Tiguan starts at a reasonable $23,305, but the price quickly ratchets up as customers add options that upgrade the cloth seats and 16-inch wheels of the base model to add more substantial rims, navigation, a backup camera, heated seats, keyless entry, push-button start and other features that are increasingly standard on vehicles from other manufacturers.

The R-Line, with its panoramic roof, premium audio, emergency telematics and sport styling, is the top-of-the-line Tig with pricing to match: $36,880.

Its terrific and punchy little engine offers a lot of driving satisfaction, especially when paired with the six-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters.

Sprite and satisfying as the GTI engine is, it has a bugaboo for the price-conscious. It runs most efficiently on recommended premium fuel, but doing so yields fuel economy that is merely average: 23 mpg combined.

.Susan Carpenter writes for the Orange County Register.

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