2021 Volkswagen Tiguan

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
August 15, 2020

Buying tip

If three rows are a must-have, the Atlas is a better fit than the VW Tiguan.

features & specs

2.0T S FWD
21 city / 27 hwy
23 city / 29 hwy
21 city / 27 hwy

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan compact crossover is spacious and comfortable, and also the league-leader in modesty,

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan plays the numbers.

Its 185.1-inch body is larger than most of its compact crossover competitors. It has a cavernous, 37.6 cubic foot cargo hold and room for up to seven in its conservatively styled confines.

It costs less than $27,000 to start and all-wheel drive, which VW calls “4Motion,” is available on every trim. The digit that matters? The 2021 Tiguan gets a 6.2 TCC Rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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That’s mostly good for the Tiguan, which faces stiff competition from the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and the future. Next year, VW will overhaul the Tiguan for shoppers in the U.S. with more tech and better materials, although the looks won’t change much.

The trim levels for the 2021 Tiguan haven’t changed much since last year, either. Available in S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, with an R-Line appearance package available on SE and standard on SEL Premium, the Tiguan clocks up to $40,000, fully loaded. We value what’s in the middle, where the Tiguan impresses with space, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and synthetic leather upholstery.

All are powered by an acceptable 184-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive costs $1,300 extra. The Tiguan’s gift is a smooth ride and unobtrusive performance; it’s competent, not thrilling, and comfortable.

Inside, the Tiguan is comfortable for anyone in rows No. 1 or 2. A third row is standard on front-drive crossovers, and optional on all-wheel-drive Tiguans. It’s short, tough to get into, flat, mostly unusable for adults, and cramped; leave it for cargo or leave people-hauling to the bigger Atlas.

Every Tiguan gets automatic emergency braking, although crash-test scores are incomplete. The IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick last year, and optional extras such as adaptive cruise control and active lane control are reserved for top trims, unlike Toyota and Honda.

Cloth seats, 17-inch wheels, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with smartphone software are standard on base versions. For less than $30,000 the 2021 Tiguan SE with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, three USB ports, synthetic leather upholstery, and heated seats can be had. That’s a good number, too.


2021 Volkswagen Tiguan


The Tiguan is stylistically a conservative pick among crossovers.

The 2021 Tiguan is inoffensive like flatware. It’s similarly useful and requires less thought. What you see is what you get. It’s a 5 for style.

The Tiguan is one of the biggest among its competitive set and looks the part. Its doors are big and wide, with only a few small creases running down the body for any visual interest. In front, VW drapes a modest grille on the Tiguan’s snout and reserves the dressiest LED headlights for the top trim that tempts $40,000. R-Line models play the angles with big wheels and some exterior accents, but it’s still mostly conservative compared to the Toyota RAV4 or even Jeep Cherokee.

Inside, the Tiguan is dressed in black or gray shades—a two-tone black and orange is available and better than it sounds. The cabin can be stark, and there’s not much personality, but an available panoramic sunroof can open up inside for more interest if needed.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan


Not thrilling, but also comfortable and competent.

It’s not thrilling, but the 2021 Tiguan is competent. Acknowledging that every day isn’t race day, we give it a 6 for performance based on an easy ride.

Every crossover is equipped with a 184-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 and 8-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is a popular upgrade.

Its four-wheel independent suspension is worth bragging about, and even on top SEL Premium models with 20-inch wheels, the ride is calm and mostly smooth.

The Tiguan steers easily down the road without much drama, the wheel is light and mostly fuss-free. There are a few selectable drive modes that slightly change the crossover’s behavior although we’re not convinced the buttons aren’t just placebos anyway.

The turbo-4 isn’t overwhelming but will accelerate at highway speeds fairly easily. Same goes for its 8-speed automatic; its greatest gift is that it gets out of the way.

In case you’re not picking up what we’re putting down: The Tiguan is just comfortable and calm. There are better driving crossovers, or better crossovers for off-roading, but the Tiguan just…is.

That’s the point.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan

Comfort & Quality

The VW Tiguan is bigger inside than most of its competitors.

Bigger than most of its rivals, the 2021 Tiguan earns points above average for its roomy first and second rows, and capacious cargo area. Among compact crossovers, it’s one of the few that could hold up to five adults—albeit perhaps not big adults. It’s an 8 for comfort.

The front seats are firm but supportive, with good outward vision. All but the base model get good synthetic leather upholstery or real hides, and heated front seats.

The rear seats offer 38.7 inches of leg room without a third row installed, or 36.5 inches with the wayback included. A third row is standard on front-drive models, and optional on all-wheel-drive versions. We suggest skipping the third row altogether: not only does it offer scant 27.9 inches of leg room with a knees-up seating position, which is only advisable for children, it’s also a challenge to climb aboard, the seats aren’t comfortable, it robs cargo space, and the Atlas is better for that family mission anyhow. Buh-bye third row, you won’t be missed.

With the first two rows in place, the Tiguan holds 37.6 cubic feet of cargo. With the backseat folded forward, that expands to 73.5 cubic feet.

Tiguans look mostly handsome inside and are fitted with high-quality materials, but they’re stark and uninteresting. An optional sunroof helps brighten it, and we’d spring for it.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan


Crash-test scores are incomplete, but what’s in is good.

Federal crash testers haven’t comprehensively tested a Tiguan for reasons that we don’t know. (It should have been crash-tested by now.)

Luckily, the IIHS has fully tested a Tiguan and gave it a Top Safety Pick award. That, combined with standard active safety features, net the Tiguan a 7 for safety.

What federal tests have been performed are headscratchers. Federal testers gave the Tiguan a four-star rollover score, which is common among crossovers. For side impact safety, the feds gave the Tiguan a top, five-star score but noted that a door was unlatched during testing, which could increase the risk of injury in a severe crash. Last year, a spokesman for Volkswagen said the automaker would address those issues, but the crossover hasn’t yet been retested.

The IIHS gave the Tiguan top “Good” scores in its battery, including the notoriously tricky driver- and passenger-side small overlap crash test. Those scores, combined with a standard automatic emergency braking system rated “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes with other vehicles, should be peace of mind for shoppers.

Blind-spot monitors are standard, and a surround-view camera system, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control are available on top trims.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan


Value-packed, the Tiguan is better toward the base end and has a good warranty.

The 2021 Tiguan hits most of the compact crossover basics: automatic emergency braking, a 6.5-inch touchscreen with smartphone software, one USB port, and cloth seats for $26,440, including mandatory destination charges. All-wheel drive costs $1,300 more.

Those are base features good enough for a point above average on our scale and the touchscreen narrowly misses out on another. It gets another point for a generous warranty that covers the Tiguan from bumper to bumper for 4-years/50,000-miles and includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance, which is better than most rivals.

Volkswagen offers the Tiguan in S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trim levels. An R-Line appearance package is available on SE and SEL Premium versions. All-wheel drive is available for every trim level for $1,300 more, except SEL Premium, where it’s standard equipment.

Tiguan SE models step up to an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless ignition, three USB ports, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and synthetic leather upholstery for $28,590, including destination, for a front-wheel-drive model. It’s the one we’d pick.

A panoramic sunroof is available for $1,000, and an occasional-use third row seat is standard on front-drive versions or a $595 option on all-wheel-drive versions. (Ed’s note: Skip it if you can.)

Top SEL Premium versions go silly with the creature comforts but cost more than $40,000. Value walked out the door $10,000 ago, we say. But Tiguan SELs include navigation, 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, premium audio, a digital instrument cluster, a surround-view camera system, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.

One nitpick: We wished VW made premium audio an option on more affordable Tiguans. The base audio system is pretty lousy.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan

Fuel Economy

Rivals are more efficient than the 2021 Tiguan.

Among competitors, the 2021 Tiguan is big, and it doesn’t use any tricks to eke out better gas mileage.

According to the EPA, with front-wheel drive, the 2021 Tiguan rates 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 25 combined. That’s a 4.

Adding all-wheel drive sinks fuel economy to 20/27/23 mpg.

The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V hit about 30 mpg combined or more, and that’s before we’ve discussed their hybrid versions that are even more fuel-efficient.

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MSRP based on 2.0T S FWD
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Expert Rating
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Styling 5
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 7
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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