They 2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan represent two different takes on the people’s crossover. The five-seat Honda CR-V shoots for the mainstream with its versatile cargo area and refined, upmarket interior. With its 2018 Tiguan, VW courts shoppers who might want seating for two more—as long as they’re pint-size.
We rate the CR-V a hair higher than the Tiguan: 7.0 for the Honda compared to 6.8 for the VW, but there’s some fine print worth reading here. The Honda has been thoroughly crash-tested by independent and federal testers, while we’re still awaiting some scores for the VW. It may wind up being a draw.
Both crossovers rely on turbocharged power for most versions. The base CR-V LX uses a non-turbo 4-cylinder engine, but the vast majority of CR-Vs shoppers will find on dealer lots have a 1.5-liter turbo-4 under their hoods instead. With 190 horsepower sent to either the front or all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), it’s the little engine that could. The CR-V is brisk around town and has decent highway-passing punch.
VW fits the Tiguan with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s neither particularly powerful nor fuel efficient. Its 8-speed automatic transmission makes the most of what power is available, again shuttled either forward or to all four wheels in all-wheel-drive versions. The CR-V rates an impressive 29 mpg combined with all-wheel drive, while the Tiguan is rated at a less-miserly 23 mpg combined.
Neither relishes spirited driving, but these two crossovers are calm and collected in town and on the highway. The Honda is the more hushed of the two, but only by a hair and it lacks a branded audio system like the Fender unit available in the Tiguan.
VW took a conservative approach when it came to designing the Tiguan. Its shape is devoid of excess flair, and we think that will help it age well even if its proportions are awkward when viewed from the side. The CR-V is overdone, but not necessarily unattractive. It’s the more distinctive of the two, an admittedly backhanded comment.
Inside, the CR-V’s expressive dashboard is nearly overwrought when compared to the Tiguan’s buttoned-down, precise design. Honda makes better use of high-end materials and offers leather upholstery at a more reasonable price point. Conversely, the Tiguan’s infotainment system’s software is easier to navigate and its interior can be swathed in more expressive shades. Both crossovers have comfortable front seats, but neither offers much adjustment for the passenger seat. Riders in the rear seat will find stretch-out space in either. Only the Tiguan offers a third row of seats—standard in front-drive models and a $500 option with all-wheel drive—but that space is suited only for kids and there’s little cargo room behind with it deployed.
Speaking of space, the Honda is deceptively roomier—by a lot. Its maximum capacity is nearly 76 cubic feet, which outpaces the VW’s 65.7 cubes. Even with the second row upright, the Honda comes out ahead by a couple of cubes. Moreover, the Honda has an especially low load floor.
Both crossovers come with the goodies buyers expect, like power windows and locks, alloy wheels, and tinted rear windows. The Tiguan goes a step further in its base S trim level with a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, and it’s available with a reasonably priced suite of safety gear including automatic emergency braking. Getting that level of gear on the CR-V requires stepping up to the EX trim level, which runs about $29,400 with all-wheel drive. An equivalent Tiguan stickers for about $29,000 with synthetic leather upholstery but without a moonroof.
Loaded up, the Tiguan tickles $40,000, but we don’t necessarily recommend going there—other choices make more sense at that price point. The swankiest CR-V Touring, at about $35,000, represents a solid value for the money, which is why it earns our nod.