2015 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 12, 2015

The 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan delivers on all of the important small-crossover promises, although it's not as exciting as some other VWs.

The Tiguan is Volkswagen's smaller SUV, slotting in below the Touareg. It's a right-size two-row crossover that performs well, wrapped in conservative styling that has aged gracefully. However, the Tiguan is not stunning or exceptional in any way; it won't win any awards for its interior packaging, price tag, or tech features.

While the Tiguan is one of the more tame offerings from Volkswagen, it doesn't skimp on interior quality, especially when compared to others in its class of compact crossovers. The interior is also nicer than those of many other Volkswagen small cars, making it seem as though the designers and engineers spent the most time on the Tiguan's interior. The exterior sheetmetal is reminiscent of a taller version of a VW Golf–clean lines, but a little unexciting in this segment. Larger wheels offered on the upper trims of the Tiguan help it look a little tougher than a smaller hatchback.

As part of a mild refresh for 2012, VW increased the Tiguan's level of standard equipment; base models remain more expensive than many rival vehicles, in part due to a larger complement of standard features. All Tiguans include a decent sound system with a CD player, an iPod adapter, SiriusXM satellite radio, and hands-free Bluetooth calling. Mid-level SE models add fog and cornering lamps, heated seats, and VW's V-Tex vinyl seating—which to us is no upgrade from the cloth upholstery, so be sure to try them both. The SEL trim includes leather seats and push-button start, along with a sport suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, LED running lamps, and automatic climate control. For 2015, all trims feature roof-rack rails. Those interested in a manual version of the Tiguan will have to settle for the base model, while the other trims include an automatic transmission as standard equipment.

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The Tiguan doesn't hide outstanding performance behind its homely exterior. Although the specs sound promising--a 200-horsepower turbocharged four, optional all-wheel drive--this is a vehicle tuned for family duty, not for the precision expected from a Golf GTI. It's more nimble and responsive than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, for sure, but the goods simply aren't here to satisfy driving enthusiasts. The Tiguan can tow up to 2,200 pounds—good for jet-skis or ATVs. And all-wheel-drive versions make good picks for those in snowy climates, and only require a small fuel-economy sacrifice.

The Tiguan is essentially a very tall small car with a lot of utility, an affordable price, and good gas mileage. This vehicle is probably the best fit for a growing family that wants something with a little more flexibility, or to the older driver who likes the easier entry/exit and seating position of a city-oriented crossover. The Tiguan also delivers a no-nonsense, versatile, and comfortable interior package. Front seats feel sporty yet supportive, with good comfort and an excellent driving position, while the second-row seats slide and tilt, leaving ample space for adults and the ability to increase cargo space when no one is in back. With the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded, you get 56 cubic feet of cargo space, and nearly 24 with the seat up. Those with a lot of items to secure will appreciate the small 'hidden' storage bin under the floor as well as the twin-compartment glovebox and various other cubbies throughout the vehicle.

If you're okay with the simple look, it's hard to find a fault in the Tiguan. While it's no design leader, a quick glance around the cabin should be enough to understand where this crossover really shines: Materials and details feel polished, assembly gaps are tight, and overall there's a sense of quality that's usually the domain of a premium brand like Audi.

Some of the Tiguan's crash-test results are subpar, although Volkswagen does offer a few more safety features than are typically found in a small crossover such as this. Front and side airbags are standard, while rear side thorax airbags—not often available in this class—are an option here. On all-wheel-drive versions, hill descent control is also included, to help maintain speed on steep slopes, while hill-hold control and an electronic parking brake are now included on all models.

For 2015, the Tiguan receives a host of standard-feature upgrades. A rearview camera, roof rails, VW's Car-Net connected services, and satellite radio are standard on all models. A large panoramic sunroof is now included on SE models with the Appearance package, while all SE models receive heated front seats bundled with heated windshield-washer nozzles. The R-Line trim now comes with a unique rear bumper design.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Styling

The VW Tiguan looks like a high-quality piece, but its styling is mostly forgettable.

The Tiguan is one of Volkswagen's more conservatively styled current offerings. What it might lack in curb appeal it more than makes up for in excellent attention to detail, especially in the interior. It almost seems as if the Tiguan was designed from the inside out. It's a straightforward vehicle with upright design and a clear presentation, but it also features nicer appointments than those in many of VW's small cars.

Inside, the Tiguan has a lot more charm, and it's not because the styling is a design triumph but because the cabin is so well finished. It's very simple but richly textured, with nice materials and big round gauges, framed simply. The interior feels like it belongs in a vehicle from a premium brand, a step up from the somewhat cheapened interiors of the Jetta and Passat sedans.

There's really nothing adventurous or exciting about the Tiguan's exterior design. It looks a lot like a vertically stretched version of the Golf, with only the larger wheels of some models helping make it a more obvious member of the crossover category and lending some visual interest to the exterior. While the overall look is subdued—it's not particularly sporty or rugged—the front end is crisply defined and reminiscent of VW's other recently redesigned vehicles.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Performance

The Tiguan is small, powerful and relatively light on its feet--but doesn't feel like it.

The Tiguan doesn't quite live up to VW's reputation for better-than-average driving dynamics, but that's not a huge surprise due to its utilitarian nature.

Like most small crossovers, it's meant more for hauling people and things than for pleasing the driver. The 200-horsepower turbo four and standard manual transmission might suggest sporting intentions, but they don't really deliver. The Tiguan is more responsive than a Toyota RAV4 or Hyundai Tucson, but it's just not the enthusiast's option that you might expect from VW.

The Tiguan's main advantage over a small hatchback is an ability to tow 2,200 pounds--good for toting a small trailer with recreational toys. Its Haldex all-wheel-drive system (branded as 4Motion by VW) is great for wintry climates; it delivers 90 percent of torque to the front wheels most of the time for better fuel economy, and only once slip is detected does it send more to the rear wheels where it's needed.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four has a broad, flat torque curve, and can be teamed with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Most will come with an automatic, as it's included on all but the lowest trim level. The auto takes good advantage of the engine's output to keep even the daily commute interesting. The manual gearbox is atypically light and imprecise, disqualifying it for enthusiast duty.

The Tiguan has the road manners you'd expect from a tall wagon. Ride and handling are tuned for comfort, not hot-hatch dynamics, so it's better suited to long highway trips than twisty roads. The steering can feel a little light and lacking in feedback sometimes, and if you push it too hard in corners the multi-link rear suspension skews toward absorbing impacts in favor of providing handling precision. There's a lack of zeal and tenacity, and the Tiguan is simply not meant to satisfy serious driving enthusiasts. It's safe and responsive enough for most needs—even nimble-feeling compared to other crossovers—but just not what you might expect from a VW.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Comfort & Quality

The Tiguan's high-quality interior has excellent room for four adults.

The VW Tiguan works well for the family in need of a little more utility, as well as older drivers who may prefer its height over smaller, tougher-to-exit city cars.

There are three different upholstery materials used in the Tiguan, and in each case they're tastefully done and have a high-quality look and feel. Base models get cloth, while mid-line models have a vinyl 'leatherette' and top-of-the-line models get true leather. Most versions also have seats with adjustable lumbar support and height, as well as a power rake adjustment for the driver's seat, but not the passenger seat.

At about 173 inches long and 73 inches wide, the Tiguan has a smaller parking footprint than most compact sedans. Yet its height of 66.5 inches and carlike layout provide lots of cabin space—including very good head room—as well as good cargo capacity.

There's no third row available on the Tiguan, but it does have a very spacious and flexible second row. Headroom is plentiful, while shoulder and leg room are adequate. The seatbacks adjust for more passenger room or cargo space, with a 60/40-split folding design as well as the ability to slide the bottom cushions and tilt the seatback. With the seats folded, the Tiguan provides 56 cubic feet of cargo space, and nearly 24 with the seat up. For more smaller items, there's a small 'hidden' storage bin located under the floor as well as a two-compartment glovebox and various other cubbies throughout the vehicle. 

Most crossover shoppers also want an interior that's straightforward and versatile—as well as comfortable—and the Tiguan delivers on those expectations. Front seats feel sporty and supportive, with good comfort and an excellent driving position, while the second-row seats slide and tilt, leaving ample space for adults.

Throughout the Tiguan, there really isn't a hair out of place. And while it isn't a design leader in any way, just a quick glance around the cabin may be enough to understand where this crossover really shines: Materials and details feel polished, assembly quality is tight, and overall there's a feel that this could conceivably be a vehicle from a premium brand like Audi.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Safety

The Tiguan posts lower crash-test scores now, thanks to the IIHS' newest regimen.

The NHTSA gives the VW Tiguan an overall rating of four out of five stars, with five stars for side-impact crashes, four for rollovers, but only three stars in frontal crash tests.

The Tiguan's Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-test result have fallen with the introduction of new tests. In recent years, Volkswagen's small crossover earned top 'good' results in all categories of testing from the IIHS, but in the new small-overlap test, it earns just a 'marginal' score. That said, it still scores 'good' in the IIHS's four other crashworthiness tests. 

It's worth noting though that outward visibility is better in the Tiguan than in many of the its competitors; thank the tall seating position and relatively low beltline.

In addition to the usual front and side airbags, the Tiguan offers rear side thorax airbags—not often seen in this class—as an option. On models equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, hill descent control is also included, which helps maintain speed on steep slopes, while hill-hold control and an electronic parking brake are standard on all models. Beginning in 2015, a rearview camera is now standard equipment on all Tiguans. Top-spec R-Line models also include bi-xenon headlights with adaptive programming, which swivel to illuminate the road through turns.

Because it is an older design. the Tiguan lacks any of the newer advanced-safety features, such as parking sensors, blind-spot detection, and lane-departure warning. These features, which might help to avoid an accident, are beginning to become available in other mainstream compact crossovers.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Features

Many of the latest tech and safety features are missing from the Tiguan, despite its premium price tag.

There are four available trims on the Tiguan–S, SE, SEL, and R-Line–with a big price spread between each. The base S starts around $24,000 before options, while a loaded R-Line model with 4Motion all-wheel drive can approach $40,000.

All models include leather trim for the shift knob and steering wheel, although leather seating is reserved for the top trims. A full-power passenger seat is also reserved for the higher-spec models; SE trims include a partial power passenger seat—the fore-aft adjustment is still manual.

SEL and R-Line models provide a level of equipment on par with entry-level luxury-brand models. Here, the 2015 Tiguan includes 19-inch wheels; a sport suspension; leather seating surfaces; a power driver seat; pushbutton start; keyless entry; a power panoramic sunroof; automatic climate control; LED daytime running lights; and a navigation system.

Included with the base S are 16-inch wheels; power windows, locks, and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD player with eight speakers; cruise control; Bluetooth; cloth upholstery; lumbar adjustment for the front seats; a trailer hitch prep kit; split-folding rear seats; and floor mats. SE models gain leatherette trim, heated seats, and an iPod adapter, along with 18-inch wheels; a multi-function steering wheel; power-recline driver seat; satellite radio; and fog lights.

For 2015, Volkswagen has once again increased the level of standard equipment on the Tiguan. A rearview camera, roof rails, VW's Car-Net connected services, and satellite radio are now standard on all models. A large panoramic sunroof is now included on SE models with the Appearance package, while all SE models receive heated front seats bundled with heated windshield-washer nozzles. The R-Line trim now comes with a unique rear bumper design.

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2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Fuel Economy

The Tiguan doesn't do as well in the EPA's fuel-economy ratings as it should.

You might expect a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed transmission to return respectable fuel-economy numbers, but EPA testing tells us otherwise. Gas mileage can range from as high as 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway, or as low as 18/26 mpg for the front-drive manual S model. Opting for all-wheel drive drops fuel economy just 1 mpg in the city cycle, to 20, leaving the highway number at 26 mpg.

Those numbers are near the bottom of the crossover class, compared to other four-cylinder compact crossovers. They also lag behind some newer V-6-powered small crossovers. In addition, the Tiguan also requires premium fuel to generate its advertised power and torque numbers.

There are other options, even within the VW fold, for those who deem low fuel economy unacceptable: The Volkswagen Golf TDI SportWagen offers a clean-diesel engine that's just as perky but returns up to 42 mpg highway.

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January 31, 2016
For 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

does its job without complaint

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I chose the Tiguan match with the 140 bhp manual 4 wheel drive . I had the factory fitted tow bar and the optional zenon lights. The vehicle was chosen for its ability to tow my caravan and its discreet style... + More »
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July 12, 2015
2015 Volkswagen Tiguan 2WD 4-Door Automatic R-Line

Great high-quality car for small family, a couple, or anyone who enjoys practicality combined with a fun driving experience.

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I owned a 2012 Tiguan SEL, then traded up to a 2014 Touareg with the V6 engine. Both cars were great, but the Touareg was somewhat awkward for me, as I'm an older senior and mostly drive in town. Besides, my... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

great ride

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very reliable, well built, easy to drive. good ride
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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Fuel Economy 6.0
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