2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
April 30, 2016

Buying tip

If you like the Tiguan's space but put a premium on fuel economy, try the Golf SportWagen. It's nearly as roomy but can return mileage in the 30-mpg range.

While it's not as fun as other VWs and the old design leaves it behind in terms of safety, technology and fuel economy, the 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan delivers on most of the important small-crossover promises.

The Tiguan is Volkswagen's smaller SUV, slotting in below the Touareg. It's on the small side for a compact two-row crossover, but it performs well and is 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.

Near the end of its product cycle, the 2016 Tiguan adds equipment to most models, and the model lineup is shuffled to make the sportier R-Line model more attainable. The model lineup consists of S, R-Line, SE, and SEL models, all with front- or all-wheel drive. All models also add Volkswagen's new MIB II infotainment system this year and finally get a USB port.

Standard equipment in the base S model includes 16-inch wheels, a decent AM/FM/CD sound system with eight speakers, satellite radio, VW's Car-Net connected services, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, heated seats, lumbar adjustment for the front seats, a trailer hitch prep kit, roof rails, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and keyless access with keyless ignition. The R-line gets a sport suspension and 19-inch wheels, while the top-of-the-line SEL adds those features plus leather seating surfaces, a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, a navigation system, and memory for the driver’s seat.

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While the Tiguan is one of the tamer offerings from Volkswagen, it doesn't skimp on interior quality, especially when compared to others in its class of compact crossovers. A quick glance around the cabin should be enough to understand where this crossover really shines. Interior 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. The interior is also more attractively simple 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 cabin. The exterior sheet metal is reminiscent of a taller version of a VW Golf. It has clean lines but is a little unexciting in this segment. Larger wheels offered on the upper trims help the Tiguan look a little tougher than a smaller hatchback.

The Tiguan doesn't hide outstanding performance behind its homely exterior. Although the specs sound promising—a 200-horsepower turbocharged inline-4, 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, which is enough to haul jet-skis or ATVs. All-wheel-drive versions make good picks for those in snowy climates, and they 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. The 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 cubic feet with the seat up. That's good, but much less space than the likes of the Honda CR-V or Ford Escape. Those with a lot of items to secure will appreciate the small "hidden" storage bin under the floor as well as the twin-compartment glove box and various other cubbies throughout the vehicle.

Some of the Tiguan's crash-test results are subpar, and it lacks many of the active safety features that have filtered down to the compact crossover class in recent years. It does, however, offer rear side thorax airbags. On all-wheel-drive versions, hill descent control is also included, to help maintain speed on steep slopes, and hill-hold control and an electronic parking brake are standard on all models.

The Tiguan's fuel economy numbers aren't impressive, especially when compared to other small SUVs in its class. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Tiguan are 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined with front-wheel drive and 20/26/23 mpg with VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive.

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Styling

The Tiguan's aging styling looks like a raised and bulkier version of a last-generation Golf.

The Tiguan is one of Volkswagen's more conservatively styled current offerings. There's really nothing adventurous or exciting about the exterior design. It looks a lot like a vertically stretched version of the last-generation 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.

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 cabin with upright design and a clear presentation, but it also features nicer appointments than those in many of VW's small cars. The look is very simple but richly textured, with nice materials and big round gauges.

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Performance

The Tiguan is meant more for hauling people and their things than pleasing the driver.

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 turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 and European tuning might suggest sporting intentions, but they don't really deliver. The Tiguan is more responsive than a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, but it's just not the enthusiast's option that you might expect from VW.

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, 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 overtly sporty.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four has a broad, flat torque curve, and comes exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The auto takes good advantage of the engine's output to keep even the daily commute interesting. However, this is the lesser of VW's two 2.0-liter turbos and a recent drive revealed that it plateaus after feeling strong initially. Most competitors' naturally aspirated fours offer about the same power and rivals' turbo options are considerably more powerful.

The Tiguan's main advantage over a small hatchback is an ability to tow 2,200 pounds, which is enough to tote 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.

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Comfort & Quality

The cabin is straightforward and versatile, with substantial materials, and good space for four adults.

Throughout the Tiguan, there really isn't a hair out of place. 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.

Most crossover shoppers want an interior that's straightforward, versatile, and comfortable, and the Tiguan delivers on those expectations. The 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. Base Tiguans upgrade to leatherette upholstery this year, while 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 car-like layout provide lots of cabin space, including very good head room and decent cargo capacity.

There's no third row available on the Tiguan, but it does have a very spacious and flexible second row. Shoulder and leg room are adequate. The second row seats 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 seats. With the second-row seats folded, the Tiguan provides 56 cubic feet of cargo space, and nearly 24 cubic feet with the rear seats up. Rivals like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape top 70 cubic feet of cargo room. For smaller items, there's a small "hidden" storage bin located under the floor as well as a two-compartment glove box and various other cubbies throughout the vehicle. 

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Safety

On older design, the Tiguan lacks the latest safety features and its structure can't handle the newest, most stringent crash tests.

In addition to the usual front and side airbags, the Tiguan offers rear side thorax airbags as an option. On models equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive, hill descent control is also included, which helps maintain speed on steep slopes. Hill-hold control and an electronic parking brake are standard on all models. Starting last year, a rearview camera became standard equipment. SE and SEL 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 monitors, lane-departure warning, and forward collision alert. These features, which might help to avoid an accident, are available in other mainstream compact crossovers.

In government crash tests, the NHTSA gave 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 IIHS crash-test results are all the highest rating of "Good," except for the newer small overlap front crash test in which it scores only "Marginal." That result, along with the lack of forward collision mitigation, prevents the Tiguan from earning Top Safety Pick honors.

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

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Features

Despite a premium price tag, the Tiguan lacks many modern tech features, though it finally adds a USB port this year.

As the Tiguan ages, Volkswagen has to add reasons for customers to buy it. That's why this year most models add equipment while the model lineup is shuffled to make the sportier R-Line model more attainable. From bottom to the top the lineup now contains S, R-Line, SE, and SEL models, all with front-wheel drive or VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive.

The base S starts around $26,000 before options, while a loaded SEL 4Motion model can reach $40,000.

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; lumbar adjustment for the front seats; a trailer hitch prep kit; split-folding rear seats; leather trim for the shift knob and steering wheel; a rearview camera; roof rails; VW's Car-Net connected services; and satellite radio. New for 2016 are V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, heated seats, heated washer nozzles, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless ignition, and the new MIB II infotainment system with a 5.0-inch touchscreen and a USB port.

The R-line adds a 6.3-inch touchscreen for the MIB II infotainment system, 19-inch wheels, and a sport suspension. It also gets appearance upgrades, including unique trim and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

SE models come with much more equipment this year, including a panoramic sunroof; 18-inch alloy wheels; bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and the Adaptive Front-lighting System; LED rear license plate lights; fog lights with cornering function; a full power driver’s seat; power passenger seat recline; and chrome interior switches, exterior door trim, window surround, and roof rails. Also standard are a multi-function steering wheel and satellite radio.

The SEL provides a level of equipment on par with entry-level luxury-brand models. Here, the 2016 Tiguan includes 19-inch wheels with wheel-arch extensions, a sport suspension, leather seating surfaces, a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, a navigation system, memory for the driver’s seat, and power folding door mirrors.

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2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Fuel Economy

The Tiguan's turbocharged four-cylinder isn't as thrifty as it should be, with ratings near the bottom of the compact crossover class.

You might expect a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 and 6-speed automatic transmission to return respectable fuel-economy numbers, but EPA testing tells us otherwise. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Tiguan are 21 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined with front-wheel drive and 20/26/23 mpg with VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Those ratings put the Tiguan near the bottom of a compact crossover class that has seen several fuel efficient engines introduced since the Tiguan was new in 2009. The ratings are lower than most four-cylinder-powered compact crossovers and even some V-6s. In addition, the Tiguan also requires premium fuel to generate its advertised power and torque numbers.

For those who deem low fuel economy unacceptable, there are other options, even within the VW fold. The Volkswagen Golf SportWagen sports a 1.8-liter inline-4 that reaches into the mid-30s for highway mileage.

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February 29, 2016
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 4MOTION 4-Door Automatic R-Line

Poor MPG and random failures

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I get my cars as part of a lease scheme so models are pre-determined by the lease criteria. With the Tiguan being back on the scheme at the change point I'd applied and happily was offered one. Unfortunately... + More »
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January 7, 2016
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 4MOTION 4-Door Automatic R-Line

Tiguan Surprises Even My Skeptical Wife

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Before making our purchase decision on the Tiguan 4Motion R-Line we began our search for a small SUV to replace our 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman. We needed a little bit bigger car to accommodate our... + More »
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November 16, 2015
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 2WD 4-Door Automatic SE

Powerful, stylish and fun to drive.

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I traded in my15 GLI because we just had a kid. It's easy to manipulate a car seat in and out of the back seat. It moves down the road pretty well, considering it's only 200hp and 207lbs ft. of torque. My only... + More »
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November 9, 2015
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 2WD 4-Door Automatic SEL

Stands Apart from the Crowd

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The exterior is an older design but does not look dated. It stands out from the typical angular Asian offerings. Ford Escape is worse in crash ratings. The great thing here is the Tiguan is built in Germany so... + More »
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November 1, 2015
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 4MOTION 4-Door Automatic S

Nicest, smoothest small SUV on the market for 2016

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I test drive every small SUV in the area. I bought the Tiguan. It drives smooth but sporty. The acceleration surpassed the others by far. Feels solid and handles great n traffic or on the freeway. Lacks in... + More »
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October 22, 2015
For 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

I feel comfortable during driving high ways

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Highly quilfied as regard safety and quality , economic , i use 92 fuel in egypt . It is volex vagen quality , we like it in egypt .
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