The Car Connection Volkswagen Tiguan Overview
The Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover SUV that can seat up to seven.
Unlike its decidedly small predecessor, the Tiguan straddles the line between traditional compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson and those on the larger end like the Chevrolet Equinox and Nissan Rogue. The Tiguan, like the Rogue, offers a third row of seats—although these are best considered "occasional use" for anyone other than very small children.
With the Tiguan, Volkswagen has a crossover that should appeal to more U.S. buyers than its last offering.
Volkswagen left the Tiguan alone in its second model year, 2019. In 2020, it added standard automatic emergency braking.
MORE: Read our 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan review
With the introduction of the larger Volkswagen Atlas, the German automaker now has a much better grip on crossover wants and desires in the United States. By contrast, the outgoing Tiguan was designed primarily for European buyers who placed a larger emphasis on small dimensions and a sporty ride.
The new Tiguan is nearly 11 inches longer than its predecessor, with much of that space going toward cargo. Front-wheel-drive models come standard with a third row of seats for 2018, while all-wheel-drive variants make that extra capacity optional. All models make use of a 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine rated at 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only gearbox on offer. All-wheel-drive variants include on- and off-road driving modes for their traction control system.
Inside, the larger Tiguan has a premium tone thanks to upscale trim panels, a shapely dashboard design, and high-tech options. Its optional infotainment system sits high on its dashboard, which almost looks as if it was plucked from the company's Golf line of hatchbacks. That infotainment screen boasts Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even MirrorLink compatibility.
The automaker's innovative post-collision braking system is standard; it holds the crossover's brakes after it detects an impact to prevent it from rolling into another vehicle. Full automatic emergency braking is optional.
Volkswagen Tiguan history
The Tiguan put a tall-wagon body on Golf-based mechanicals for a compact crossover slotted below the larger Touareg in VW's U.S. lineup. It could be had with all-wheel drive, which makes it an all-purpose 'ute delivering moderate off-road ability and all-weather traction. It drove well, but VW's lack of investment in the Tiguan over the first generation's abnormally long run made it feel quite outdated by the mid-2010s.
Inside, the Tiguan took a people-first approach to packaging, making it a comfortable around-town car that fits right into urban environments while also providing highway comfort. The design was relatively staid, but both rows of seats were very comfortable, with enough room in the rear for kids three wide or a pair of adults. The front seats especially were supportive, offering good visibility form the driver's seat, while the materials felt solid and expensive with a well-built feeling running throughout. There was decent cargo space in the rear, with folding rear seats that allow for hauling of larger items when no one's in the back. Several additional stash spots included twin glove boxes and a storage compartment that's hidden under the cargo load floor.
Though its smoothed-over yet upright sheet metal took after Volkswagen's Touareg SUV, the two were decidedly different in real-world performance. With suspension and steering tuned for the road rather than the rocky trail, and much lower weight, the Tiguan felt a bit like a soft-riding small car on stilts. Overall length was about the same as a subcompact sedan's, making the Tiguan the right size for the city and allowing it to fit easily in compact-only spots. The 200-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine provided enough pep to scoot energetically into gaps in traffic yet cruise in a relaxed manner on the highway. In front-wheel-drive versions you had a choice of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, depending on model year, but with the available 4Motion all-wheel-drive system they were all automatics. Fuel economy ratings were as good as 21 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined.
The standard equipment list was lengthy, but safety fell behind the competition as the Tiguan received mediocre marks from both the NHTSA and the IIHS toward the end of its model run, the Tiguan also lacked many of the active safety features that filtered down to the compact crossover class.
For 2010, Volkswagen offered a value-oriented Wolfsburg edition of the Tiguan. In the 2012 model year, the crossover's styling was updated with a slimmer front end and new taillights, and improved drivetrain efficiency helped boost gas mileage as high as 22 mpg city, 27 highway. The 2013 VW Tiguan had a few other minor feature changes, most notably, the premium Dynaudio sound system and high-end navigation system were removed from the options list.
A Tiguan R-Line version was introduced for 2014, offering a long list of appearance upgrades, including unique trim and a flat-bottom steering wheel, plus a sport tuned suspension, bi-xenon headlights, and LED daytime running lights. For 2015, all Tiguan models were given roof-rack rails as standard equipment.
The 2016 Tiguan added equipment to most models, and the model lineup was shuffled to make the sportier R-Line model more attainable. It was shuffled again in 2017, and for the little crossover's final year, the model lineup consisted of S, Sport, Wolfsburg Edition, and SEL models, all with front- or all-wheel drive. All models also have upgraded infotainment systems with larger touchscreen displays and, finally, a USB port.
For 2017, the Tiguan saw a hefty shakeup of its trim levels, but was functionally identical to the previous model.