Redesigned for 2018, Volkswagen Tiguan is a bit larger for its second generation. The all-new 2018 Tiguan is a tall compact crossover that stretches toward midsize in interior space, and is well equipped for its price.
Volkswagen Tiguan competitors include Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, each of which can beat the Tiguan at one thing or another (maybe handling, fuel mileage, popularity), but overall the Tiguan does it all well.
It comes as front-wheel drive with a small third row, or all-wheel-drive with an optional third row that’s even smaller.
Cargo space is improved over the previous model, and ride quality remains outstanding.
The new styling is a change for Volkswagen. It’s sharp, chiseled and intimidating. Volkswagen is now copying instead of leading, as if they’ve decided that the world doesn’t want soft edges any more. Tiguan has struggled to establish an identity, so maybe the new styling is intended to address that.
Its third row is small like the Nissan Rogue, so it’s not known for that convenience. The Tiguan does come with an excellent warranty, six years or 72,000 miles, that is transferable. Maybe the Tiguan will become known for that. It worked for Chrysler, many years ago, when they came out with the 5/50, totally unheard-of at the time.
All models of Tiguan are powered by a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Volkswagen has a long superlative history with its 2.0 turbo engine, it’s been around and flawless for 25 years. This new one actually makes less horsepower than the previous, only 184 hp as opposed to 200. But it makes more torque, from 207 pound-feet to 221 lb-ft. That means the acceleration around town will be stronger, but out on the freeway at 70 mph it will be working harder.
Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, Tiguan returns an EPA-rated 24 Combined miles per gallon city and highway. That doesn’t sound like much to us, for a so-called compact with a four-cylinder engine, especially in 2018. We drove the Tiguan in Colorado, not gently, and got 23.7 mpg, so at least those numbers will hold up and probably then some.
The Tiguan isn’t light, at about 3800 pounds. And that mileage is about average for a compact crossover. Honda uses a smaller 1.5-liter turbo in the CR-V to get 30 mpg, and you have to go to a hybrid like in the Toyota RAV4 to get 32 mpg.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan models are the S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available. All models come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and eight-speed automatic.
Tiguan S ($25,345) has rugged fabric upholstery, six-speaker audio, rearview camera, USB port, Bluetooth, 6.5-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all models along with VW’s telematics services. Tiguan SE adds leatherette seats, 8.0-inch touchscreen, power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless ignition, dual-zone climate control, three USB ports, and option like the panoramic roof.
Tiguan SEL adds remote start, power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, and navigation. Tiguan SEL Premium upgrades with leather seats, Fender audio, advanced safety features, hands-free liftgate.
Even though the new Tiguan is extremely angular and the nose is intimidating, a character line running back from the front fender is the only modern touch.
The front (grille, bumpers, fascia) is the same as the full-sized VW Atlas crossover, the only difference being small creases in the hood.
Unlike the Atlas, the Tiguan doesn’t have blocky wheel arches to pose as a tough guy in profile. The window line is low and the rear doors wide. Most crossovers today have a high window line, so the Tiguan clings to some separation here.
Designers got the rear end right. More glass in the liftgate avoids the wedgy look most crossovers have.
The Tiguan cabin is simple, clean and functional, presented in subdued hues. Comfort in both rows is near the top of the class, firm and supportive, although the padding in the front seats is thin.
The rear seats have exceptional legroom when the sliding rear seat is back. The Tiguan may be larger than before, but three adults in the rear seat will still be a squeeze.
An 8.0-inch center touchscreen dominates attention in SE models and higher. SEL Premium models swap out the center gauges for a 12.3-inch driver information display that’s sharp.
Tiguan S comes with a six-speaker stereo, good for listening to the news. SEL Premium models have a wonderful Fender audio system.
There’s nothing wrong with the durable fabric upholstery in the Tiguan S, but the Tiguan SE adds a synthetic leather that could pass for real, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen that draws attention away from some hard black plastic.
The third row, standard with fwd models and available with awd, isn’t suitable for adults.
The rear liftgate is wide, making loading easier, into a cargo space of 37.6 cubic feet with the rear seats down. That’s a couple of cubic feet less than the Honda CR-V.
Turbo or not, the power-to-weight ratio of the Tiguan is not high, and the eight-speed automatic transmission can’t help it feel faster. The power is smooth at lower revs when accelerating, as torque is strong as early as 1600 rpm. The Tiguan takes off like a rocket, but at higher revs it runs out of breath.
The eight-speed automatic is tentative about downshifting for acceleration, and in fact seems a bit dull about most needs. The upshifts are crisp, although it’s programmed to short shift a lot (meaning it upshifts early at low revs), to gain fuel mileage.
The ride is easy and the handling competent. It feels softer than before. So does the steering, which is light, and doesn’t seem to get tighter or quicker in Sport mode.
The Volkswagen Tiguan offers convenience in a compact crossover with nice ride and handling. We like the entry-level Tiguan S, though the sound system is lackluster. The fabric upholstery is just fine, and the instrumentation is clean and adequate. But we’re still disappointed in the fuel mileage.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.