Volkswagen has an uphill battle to win back buyers in the wake of its messy diesel-emissions scandal, and the Tiguan is dead weight in that battle: It's cramped, inefficient and irrelevant in a class of winners.
Versus the competiton:
The Tiguan's peppy engine and pleasant ride are strengths, but many other compact SUVs offer those things plus better gas mileage, higher crash test scores and more space — for less money.
It competes in a crowded class that includes sales leaders like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. Compare all four here.
For 2017, the Volkswagen Tiguan’s base S model gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which mirror select smartphone apps on the dashboard touchscreen. Compare 2016 and 2017 models here. A new Tiguan is coming soon, though VW has released few details.
Exterior & Styling
If you’ve seen the 2012 Tiguan, you’ve seen the 2017 Tiguan. Aside from a minor face-lift in 2012, it hasn’t seen an update since it debuted for the previous generations 2009 model year. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look dated; it wears a version of Volkswagen’s streamlined, stylish grille and sleek LED-accented headlights.
The smart and sporty-looking R-Line version is, however, gone for 2017, replaced by the Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg edition (which is code for extra badges, inside and out).
How It Drives
The Volkswagen Tiguan’s road manners redeem it somewhat; it’s among the more fun-to-drive compact SUVs, with its lively engine, precise steering and nimble handling. Its suspension does a great job balancing sport and comfort, with a compliant ride and excellent maneuverability.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission are well-matched. There’s only a smidge of turbo lag from a stop, and the pair provides strong pep off the line and smooth turbocharged reserves of power for passing.
Where it falters big time is fuel economy. In front-wheel-drive trim, the new Volkswagen Tiguan is EPA-rated at just 20/24/22 mpg city/highway/combined; all-wheel drive sacrifices 1 mpg in the combined rating. Most competitors perform much better: In base FWD trim, the Escape is rated 21/29/24, the CR-V 26/32/28 and the RAV4 23/30/26 mpg. Even worse, the Tiguan prefers premium gasoline; apart from some luxury compacts, regular gas is the norm in this segment.
As the mom of three young kids, I’m no stranger to compromise and sacrifice, but what is strange is having to sacrifice to fit in the front of an SUV given that I’m 5-feet 6-inches tall. I could not fit comfortably with my toddler’s rear-facing car seat installed behind me; my seat was set awkwardly upright and my knees were squashed into the steering wheel housing. The numbers back this up: The Tiguan has just 40.1 inches of maximum legroom in the front, a couple of inches short of the CR-V, Escape and RAV4.
The situation is the same in the backseat. Although that seat helpfully slides and reclines, the Tiguan’s 35.8 inches of rear legroom again put it well behind the CR-V (40.4), Escape (36.8) and RAV4 (37.2).
The Tiguan underwhelms in terms of cabin finishes, too, with a bland but serviceable black-on-black design and hard plastic panels throughout. One bright spot is the huge moonroof that’s standard on the Wolfsburg model. It adds a feeling of airiness to an otherwise cramped cabin.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The controls and multimedia system are refreshingly simple. The 6.3-inch touchscreen is responsive and the nearby buttons are well-laid-out. The touchscreen is standard on all models this year. One new tech addition adds some relevance to the system: The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems are standard, meaning you get in-dash navigation without stepping up to a Sport or SEL trim, on which a factory nav system is standard.
Cargo & Storage
In front, the Volkswagen Tiguan offers enough places to stash small items, including a narrow but deep center console storage box. Cargo room behind the backseat, however, is lacking. With just 23.8 cubic feet of storage space, the Tiguan trails competitors by double digits. The CR-V has 39.2, the Escape 34.3 and the RAV4 38.4 cubic feet of space.
The VW Tiguan’s backseat folds easily in a 60/40 split and it has a pass-through behind the center armrest that’s useful for carrying long items, but other compact SUVs get more creative when it comes to cargo room. The Nissan Rogue, for example, is available with underfloor storage and a handy cargo management system, and the Mazda CX-5’s backseat folds in a 40/20/40 split, making it more versatile for carrying people and stuff.
The Volkswagen Tiguan misses again in the safety department, both in terms of available features and crash-test ratings.
It earned a score of marginal (out of a possible good, acceptable, marginal or poor) in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front test, and it got four out of five stars overall in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s crash tests. Many compact SUVs in the class ace both groups’ tests.
A backup camera is standard, but the VW Tiguan lacks several safety features that more modern compacts offer, like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Value in Its Class
The Tiguan doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of fuel economy and cargo, but where VW’s logic really falters is price. At $25,860 including destination, the base price sits at the top of the compact SUV class despite delivering less of almost everything and no top-of-the-line features. With a new model coming soon, Volkswagen Tiguan shoppers should put on the brakes.