Review of: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Highline
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan: Bigger. Better?
By Chris Chase
Dec. 19, 2017
At one time, you could argue that Volkswagen owned the market for light-duty diesel vehicles in North America, thanks to its TDI engines. That was before the 2015 diesel emissions scandal: a university research lab discovered that a TDI-equipped car they were testing pumped out way more pollutants than VW said it should.
The company had lied about how clean-running those diesels were, and that revelation killed the reputation of one of the brand’s best-known technologies.
Since then, VW has turned its focus to the lucrative SUV and crossover market. The first step was the Golf Alltrack, a compact crossover derived from the Golf wagon with a lifted suspension and AWD. The next is this vehicle, the second-generation Tiguan.
Pros & Cons
- + Value for money
- + Generous low-end torque
- + Rear seat space
- - Engine lacks personality
- - Understated styling
- - Driveline vibrations
With the Alltrack occupying the entry-level spot in VW’s crossover range, the company was free to make some changes to the Tiguan, and they’re big ones. Not only does the new Tiguan look very different, but it’s also significantly larger and can be optioned with a third row of seating. That’s a rarity among crossovers starting below $30,000: In that group, only the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Rogue can also carry passengers in three rows.
While that third row is among the most notable additions to the Tiguan’s option list, our tester came without it. Five-seat variants still get an adjustable second row that slides fore and aft. Push it all the way back, and rear-seat legroom rivals that of full-size sedans and probably bests that of some mid-size crossovers.
Otherwise, the Tiguan feels pretty ordinary inside, space-wise. Headroom in our Highline-trimmed tester was good but not great, thanks to a panoramic sunroof that brings the headliner down lower than we expected, given the car’s overall size.
The lack of third-row seats left us with loads of cargo space and a height-adjustable trunk floor that adds a bit of volume at its lower position, and creates a flat load floor with the folded rear seats in its upper setting.
The first piece of tech you’ll notice is an all-digital gauge cluster. It’s made to look like a set of traditional analog gauges, but can be customized to show the driver a variety of information. There’s also a big touchscreen with touch-sensitive controls around it that displays a nice-looking navigation system and supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone platforms.
Highline trim also includes LED headlights that swivel with the steering. We’re surprised that active safety items like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and lane-keeping assist are extras in this nearly $40,000 trim, but automatic emergency braking is included starting in the mid-range Comfortline model.
Highline models also get a hands-free tailgate activated by kicking a foot under the back bumper. It worked most of the time but refused to do so when I walked up to the car carrying a large box I wanted to load inside. Still, the Tiguan’s tailgate was more responsive than the one in the larger Atlas I tested a few months earlier.
Volkswagen loyalists who pine for the diesel engines that were never offered in the old Tiguan may be happy that VW has created a new four-cylinder gas engine that is reminiscent of one in some ways.
Normal acceleration is accompanied by a mild clatter that sounds remarkably like the last-generation TDI diesel four-cylinder. Pushing the gas pedal harder brings out this motor’s generous low-end torque and lack of high-end power, characteristics that make the Tiguan feel strong in city driving but less impressive on the highway, where high-rev pull is what you want for passing maneuvers. At idle, the engine transmits a surprising amount of vibration into the cabin.
While 10.8 L/100 is a not very diesel-like fuel consumption average for a week of city driving, it is perfectly respectable for this class of vehicle and in line with VW’s estimates (11.3/8.8 L/100 km, city/highway) for a Tiguan with AWD.
Bumping the shift lever into the sport drive mode improves powertrain responsiveness by curbing the eight-speed transmission’s enthusiasm for shifting into its top gears at the earliest opportunity and keeping the engine revving a bit faster.
The Tiguan’s handling is on the entertaining side of average for this class, but it’s not as much fun as the smaller Mazda CX-5.
If you’re after a lot of interior space for your crossover money, then the Tiguan is possibly the best buy in its class. But it gives up some value to a car like the Honda CR-V, which packs a full suite of standard active safety kit into its $38,500 Touring trim, where a Tiguan optioned with its driver assistance package winds up well above $40,000.
The new Tiguan is the latest member of a family of crossovers that straddles segment borders to appeal to a wider variety of buyers. While the huge Atlas is priced to compete with mid-sizers in a nearly full-size body, the Tiguan accomplishes the same feat in the compact and mid-size classes.
It’s a gamble to make such a drastic change to a well-known vehicle, but with little to lose in the wake of the disastrous diesel scandal, it’s one we think was worth the risk. Aside from the new engine’s dull performance, the Tiguan is just the kind of well-executed crossover that this embattled company needed right now.