Sedona, Arizona- During an early March get-away to the greater Grand Canyon region of Northern Arizona, Volkswagen's compact Tiguan crossover came along as our automobile ambassador, ranking up more than 600 test miles while encountering summer-to-winter temperature ranges and ear-popping elevation changes within a seven-day span.
Europe's largest automaker debuted its smallest five-door crossover in the U.S. back in the 2009 model year, and a decade later finds itself in a noticeably roomier second generation effort. Gen Two came onboard recently in the 2018 model year with an all-new modular platform shared with multiple VW models. Updates for 2019 are minimal.
The MQB (Modularer QuerBaukasten in German speak) platform, translates from German-to-English to 'Modular Transverse Matrix.' No matter the native tongue, underpinnings feature a more ridged chassis and a scalable architecture shared among many VW family vehicles and brands reducing costs through economics of scale. This second-generation Tiguan boasts larger dimensions than the first effort.
Our tester's Habanero Orange Metallic hue (one of our tester's few factory extras at $295) contrasted artfully with Sedona's iron infused 'red rock soil' and majestic mountain formations.
Tiguan offers a plentiful six trim levels from which to choose (S, SE, SEL, SEL Premium, SEL R-line and SEL Premium R-line). Four of the six lower trims come standard with front-wheel drive while '4Motion' (VW speak designating permanent all-wheel drive) comes standard in SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-line. Add $1,300 for optional 4Motion in S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Four selectable terrain grades join 4Motion drivetrains.
The lowest-priced Tiguan checks in at $24,295 (for a front-drive S), with bottom lines blossoming quickly when traveling up the trim ladder. During our Sedona stay, this base trim with standard eight-speed automatic served as our guide, providing more than capable results. At the spectrums other end, a SEL Premium with R-Line package lists at $38,895.
The bottom line after adding a highly recommended $450 driver assist package (forward collision warning autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring and rear traffic alert) and aforementioned exterior color tint added to a tidy bottom line of $26,035 including a $995 destination charge. Tiguan's driver assist package comes standard in all upper trims.
The ride remains soft, not harsh while responsive and light steering results from electronic power assist. Our two-wheel-drive Tiguan remained firmly planted while negotiating narrow mountain roads connecting Sedona and Flagstaff replete with hair-pin turns. Substantial elevation changes from the Phoenix valley north to Grand Canyon territory (a 7,000-foot swing) worked the engine vigorously noticeably hunting for proper down shift gears during steep up climbs.
The S trim's Titan comfortable black cloth interior adorned supportive six-way front bucket seats, manually movable via easy-grab, outboard under-seat pull loops. Height adjustment benefits taller-status folks. Dashboard and side door top portions include soft-touch materials while a harder plastic composite adorns the lower three quarters.
The interior is noticeably quiet compared with Gen One, a benefit of VW's MQB structure. Another plus, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard (through VW's branded Car Net Smartphone interplay) allowing Smartphone application interaction with the user-friendly, mid-size, multi-color 6.5-inch in-dash touch screen. Three circular dials below easily monitor HVAC direction, temperature and fan speed with push-buttons above summoning air conditioning and defrosters. A cove below serves as a resting plateau for Smartphones compete with a plug-in power port.
The easy-glance, familiar instrument panel features two circular, deep-set analog gauges (tachometer, speedometer) with diminutive inside bottom inserts (temperature, fuel). A digital info window resides in between.
Tiguan also serves as one of a handful of compact crossovers with third-row seating, standard in front-drive models and a $595 price premium on 4Motion selections. Tiguan's sizeable compact dimensions (185 inches in length) allow for three rows and seven-passenger (in theory) seating.
The most practical use of VW's three-row-seating is best found in the newly-introduced, mid-size Atlas crossover (with 198.3 inches of overall length), providing ample room in the wayback for adults as well as tykes. Tiguan's two-passenger third row serves pets and side-saddling small pre-teens best as any assemblance of third-row leg room needs coordination with manually sliding 60/40 second-row seats and first row buckets.
When cargo room takes priority, manually-folding 50/50-split third row backrests upon seat cushions, expands cargo room to a usable 33.0 cubic feet of room. Backside looped cloth straps easily return to a prone position with a gentle tug.
The sole four-cylinder powertrain returning from 2018 is a 2.0-liter turbocharger teamed with an eight-speed automatic generating 184 horsepower. Both drivetrains (FWD or 4Motion) come close to reaching 30 miles per gallon highway with front-wheel drive editions generating an estimated 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, a substantial increase when stacked against the first generation, but far from class leaders including Honda's CR-V. Subtract one mile in city travel if opting for 4Motion. The tank holds 15.3 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel.
Start-stop technology (SST) comes standard contributing to Tiguan's increased fuel numbers. At prolong stops, the four-cylinder slips into a quiet rest mode, resuming duties with a noticeable engine cranking sound once the right foot lifts from the brake pedal. A push button left of the floor-mounted transmission shifter disengages SST if desired.
As with Generation One, Gen Two opts for rather conservative exterior dynamics. One returning constant: the circular V over W logo centering the narrow front grille overlaying long horizontal slats traversing the entire grille length. The rear hatch, which when opened proves enough head clearance for those six-foot-two inches and shorter, also features the fixed chrome orb logo.
Volkswagen's doomed subcompact Beetle, retiring at the end of the 2019 model year, offers a lift-disc chrome logo in back, doubling an unlocking mechanism, a fun feature Tiguan may consider incorporating in future efforts. Beetle celebrates seventy years of U.S. sales in 2019.
Back to Tiguan, horizontal side character line runs from the thin 'A' pillar bottom to the top of wrap-around narrowish tail light housing in back while cutting through strap-like body-colored side door handles. The S trim includes black framing around sizeable side windows, providing drivers with decent side and rear views.
Tiguan qualifies for Volkswagen's six-year/72,000-mile "People First" warranty; a bumper-to-bumper, limited warranty covering the powertrain, transmission and mechanical parts which is fully transferable between owners, adding to resale value. By comparison, South Korea's automotive duo (Hyundai and Kia) offer a non-transferable 10-year 100,000 miles powertrain warranty good for the original owner. Another peace-of-mind perk; 24-hour roadside assistance covering towing, jump starts and lock-out situations for three years or 36,000 miles.
At a Glance
Price as tested: $24,035
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Overall Length: 185.1 inches
Overall Width: 72.4 inches
Overall height: 66.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,721 pounds
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Assembly: Pueblo Mexico