2020 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan - Compact Tiguan offers seating for seven


Timing is everything

Volkswagen debuted  it's Tiguan in 2007, at a strategically optimal arrival time as consumer attention and interest for compact five-door crossovers was gaining steam. By the second-generation's arrival in the 2018 model year, compact uni-body (car platform) crossovers were about to surpass mid-size sedans as the most popular non-truck segment in the U.S.

Tiguan remains an outlier, in regards to available three-row seating.  Compact crossovers rarely squeeze in an additional row behind the second one, leaving that particular job to mid and full-size crossovers.

Tiguan performs this slight-of-hand magical third-row trick with help from a rather generous platform length. Worldwide, Tiguan promotes two different-sized wheelbases with the U.S. privy to the longer of the pair.  Measuring in at 185.1 inches of length, Tiguan finds itself at the stretch-ier end of the compact crossover segment.  

For the 2020 model year, Tiguan updates include its cadre of radar-based safety features (lane keep assist, rear traffic alert, etc.) now standard in all trims along with optional wireless charging opportunities for gotta-have Smartphones.  Additionally, a WiFi hot spot comes standard. Volkswagen also tweaks its powertrain warranty across its U.S. lineup.

When stacked against the competition, Tiguan doesn't necessarily excel in any one specific category, but successfully delivers a competent and comfortable overall package delivering confident handling.  Turning radius checks in at a nicely tight 37.7 feet. To meet global Tiguan demand, VW utilizes four manufacturing facilities across the globe.  Tiguan's bound for the U.S. enjoy a Mexico production home.

Conservative exterior styling returns with prominent side character lines/creases following a straight regiment from the front fender through pull-type, strap-like door openers, through the passenger-side square fuel door and continuing to the rear's narrow wrap-around tail light housing. Round wheel wells get protection from a black composite material also framing lower door ends. The duo-bar front grille stretches from side to side with Volkswagen's simple, but recognizable circular V atop the W logo smack in the middle.

Our SEL Premium R-Line tester included VW's convenient Adaptive Front-Lighting system that illuminates what's in front when turning. It's housed inside a clear, narrow band with bejeweled day time running framing the bottom and merging seamlessly with the front grille's horizontal bars. Volkswagen introduced its R-line body kit to upper Tiguan trims in 2018 with a lower and wider front bumper.  

Trim levels include S, SE, SE R-Line Black, SEL and SEL Premium R-Line.  Front-wheel drive comes standard in all but the SEL Premium R-line, featuring all-wheel drive (which VW markets as 4Motion).  Those desiring 4Motion in lower trims need to cough up an additional $1,300, but enjoy a varied selection of driving modes (snow, on-road, off-road and off-road custom) accessible via a chrome dial between supportive, not overly cushy front bucket seats.  It's a wise investment especially here in the upper Midwest where weather forecasting continues as an inexact science.

Front-drive models come standard with three-rows of seating.  All 4Motion offerings opt for two seating rows standard, but for an additional $595 will add a way back 50/50 split folding third row.  

All trims power from the same standard internal combustion engine utilized in 2019; a serviceable 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder generating 184 horsepower and connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission.  It's suitable when traversing Chicago's vast suburbia to transport kids and/or groceries.  

With a zero-to-60 time of 8.2 seconds (front-drive models), kids and groceries arrive as scheduled, but no sooner. Start-stop technology comes standard, allowing the engine to rest and save fuel at extended stops.  A push of a button adjacent to the automatic transmission shifter deactivates SST if desired. No gas-electric hybrid or all-electric Tiguan is yet available in the U.S.

When measured against the segment's many worthy competitors, expect so-so fuel mileage results as highway estimates just miss tickling the 30 mile per gallon plateau, a suitable benchmark for this grouping. Front-drive estimates hit 22 miles per gallon city and 29 mpg highway. Opt for 4Motion and both categories drop by two.  The fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel.

Starting price for a base S trim checks in at $24,945. Our top-line SEL Premium R-Line boasting 4Motion and just about every available goodie stared at a hefty $38,795. Bottom line ended at $40,410 after adding the third-row seat package and $1,020 destination charge.

It's not uncommon for some German automakers to over complicate simple tasks.  Volkswagen in general and Tiguan specifically adhere to a 'simplicity is beautiful' interior execution.  The dashboard layout continues simple without overwhelming the pilot.  Three easy-grab dials anchor HVAC controls with a row of black push buttons nearby for intricate jobs such as heating front seats (a standard perk in SEL). Even the in-dash multi-function touch screen (upsized to eight inches in SEL trims) easily swipes with large icons with which to interact.

Standard push-button electronic start is easily reachable and unobstructed near the gear shifter between bucket seats.  The hatch backs remote latch is found on the door social distanced away from other tabs. The SEL Premium R-line comes standard with a highly digital instrument panel providing several different layout choices selected via steering wheel face push buttons.

Despite some initial misgivings, this aging 6-foot frame gave third row seating a shot. Third-row 50/50 split seat backs manually fold up and down while back side doors offer wide swing outs.  Row two seating gets split 60/40, each manually sliding forward and backward with a forceful tug. After an un-gangly right-foot in, left-foot out, my torso lifted up and twisted all about.  This Hokey Pokey move landed my greater self into row three with limited head room. Make friends with folks in the first two rows because to enjoy any semblance of leg room, seats in the first two rows need to be slid far forward. Bottom line; row three's best left for preteens and/or small pets.

The Hokey Pokey foot kicking execution also comes into play when opening the power lift gate in the top-trim SEL Premium R-Line.  If one finds hands and arms full, a simple foot swipe under the cargo bed signals the power door to motor upward.

A privacy cover that stretches across the cargo area with the third-row folded, includes removable framing that neatly pops off, before effectively stowing under the cargo floor, near the temporary spare tire (a value-added proposition as many competitors have scrapped this fifth wheel).

Tiguan qualifies for Volkswagen's updated-for-2020 four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty covering the powertrain, transmission and mechanical parts.

In 2018 and 2019, VW highly touted its "People's First," warranty incorporating a substantially longer time/mileage horizon of six-years/72,000 miles. While time frame and mileage limits adjust downward in 2020, VW has added two years/ 20,000 miles of "Carefree" maintenance covering regularly-scheduled items including periodic oil changes.

Volkswagen's four-year/50,000 mile specs for 2020 still beat the three-year/36,000 mile versions offered by Ford, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and what VW itself promoted prior to 2018.

Another peace-of-mind perk returning from last year; 24-hour roadside assistance for situations we wish never to encounter, but are prepared for just in case.   Coverage is for three years or 36,000 miles and includes jump starts, tire changes and towing.

At a Glance

Price as tested:  $40,410

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four

Horsepower:  184

Wheelbase: 109.8 inches

Overall Length: 185.1 inches

Overall Width: 72.4 inches

Overall height: 66.3 inches

Curb weight:  3,847 pounds

Fuel economy:  20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Assembly: Pueblo, Mexico

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.