2019 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2019 Volkswagen Tiguan - Offering a third-row seat and very American manners, Tiguan surprises.


The Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact-to-midsize crossover SUV. It seats up to seven passengers and comes with front or all-wheel drive. Tiguan first appeared as a 5-passenger SUV for the 2007 model year. It was most recently redesigned in 2018 when it grew almost a foot in length and added an available third-row seat. Key competitors include the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV-4.

Tiguan is offered in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. Additionally, there are option groups offered on the SEL that include R-Line, Premium and Premium R-Line. All come with a 184-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four. It mates to an 8-speed automatic that has a manual shift mode. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive being optional across the board. Towing capacity is 1500 pounds.

Front-drive models come standard with 3-row seating; all-wheel drives get 2-row seating with an optional third-row seat. The front-drive S starts at $24,295, while at the other end of the spectrum, SEL Premium R-Line models list for $38,895. Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, cruise control, 6.5-inch or 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and rear-view camera. Available safety features include forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitor, rear-traffic alert, lane-keeping system and adaptive cruise control. Options are limited to a panoramic sunroof and the third-row seat on all-wheel drive models.

Tiguan's 2.0-liter engine is a bit overmatched by its 3,700-pound curb weight (100 more when fitted with all-wheel drive). That said, a trip from 0-60 MPH takes a leisurely 9 seconds, clearly a step below the class leaders. In addition, the engine feels a bit lethargic around town and sloppy transmission downshifts add unwanted excitement in passing situations. It should be noted that most competitors offer more-powerful optional engines, but their standard engines fare no better than the Tiguan's.

On the flip side, Tiguan can prove to be quite frugal. While EPA ratings of 22 MPG city and 29 MPG highway are class average, but the Tiguan easily matches or surpasses the EPA estimates in routine suburban commuting. Plus, a large 15.3-gallon fuel tank can give Tiguan a highway range in excess of 400 miles. On one all-highway trip, Tiguan was able to average 35 MPG.

Tiguan's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for extreme off-road use. It does prove very capable in delivering power to the wheels with the best traction on slippery roads, and has several driver-selectable off-road modes. For most Chicago-area buyers, front-drive will provide plenty of traction.

Where the previous-generation Tiguan was one of the more athletic compact crossovers, the new Tiguan favors ride comfort over sports-car-like moves. Tiguan has a very compliant ride that's more in tune with American tastes. While there is a fair amount of body lean in quick maneuvers or hard braking. thankfully there's little bobbing or bouncing from the suspension on badly broken roads. Overall, the Tiguan provides the kind of ride comfort American buyers, and its passengers, will appreciate.

Steering lacks overall road feel and there's a lot of play on center when driving on the highway. Brakes have good stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate. Interior noise levels are quite low, near the best in class. There's almost no tire noise at highway speeds and engine and wind noise never intrude.

Inside, Spartan materials and a practical design dominate. That said, the cabin can feel upscale on higher trim levels -- especially when fitted with the larger touchscreen and the digital instrument cluster. One advantage of the clean design is a very workable interior. All of the buttons and switches fall close to hand and are clearly marked. The infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play and is very easy to operate. Overall, Tiguan is a vehicle that you can jump into and get comfortable in a heartbeat.

The front seats provide adequate support and comfort, no more. Head and leg room are generous up front. Second-row seats are also quite roomy. They also slide fore-and-aft up to seven inches, providing ample leg room when the third-row seat is not in use. Unfortunately, that third-row seat isn't adult friendly. Getting in and out is a snap thanks to wide and tall door openings. It's a bit of a contortion to access the third-row seat, but that's the case for all vehicles of this size. Outward visibility is unmatched in the class.

When the optional third-row seat is deployed, there's a scant 12 cubic feet of cargo space in the hatch area. Folding the rear seat is a snap that expands cargo capacity to 35 cubic feet. Second- and third-row seats folded provides 65 cubic feet -- about class average. The load floor is low and flat and the rear seats fold in a snap. Interior storage is just average with a few open and covered bins throughout. The Tiguan's ace in the hole are the sliding second-row seats that add quite a bit of versatility.

Bottom Line -- The Tiguan is utilitarian to a fault. The spacious interior and comfortable ride are a great departure from the previous generation, which cramped and jostled passengers. Unfortunately, the weak engine and flaccid suspension provide uninspired performance. Great real-world fuel economy is a welcome plus. Versatility is Tiguan's greatest strength and the available third-row seat is a novelty in this class and the sliding second-row seat is icing on the cake. A comprehensive suite of safety features and solid infotainment system help VW's compact crossover stay competitive in a very crowded segment.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.