2018 Volkswagen Tiguan first drive review

All grown up, VW's new Tiguan piles on features along with the pounds

The all-new 2018 VW Tiguan perfectly reflects VW’s new focus on the family SUV segment.
The all-new 2018 VW Tiguan perfectly reflects VW’s new focus on the family SUV segment.
The all-new 2018 VW Tiguan perfectly reflects VW’s new focus on the family SUV segment.

Highs

  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Quiet and smooth ride
  • Available 4Motion AWD
  • 58 percent more cargo capacity
  • New third row seating

Lows

  • High-priced at desirable trim levels
  • Relaxed acceleration

VW brought out the first generation Tiguan for the 2007 model year as a compact SUV to compete with the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and the Ford Escape. The original Tiguan was built on the same platform as the VW Golf and Jetta, and carried a two-liter engine. The model has been popular, selling over 700,000 units worldwide in the last 10 years as a small sport-oriented crossover.

The new Tiguan reflects Volkswagen’s stated goal to move solidly into the family sedan and SUV market segments. Together with the Atlas, the 2018 Tiguan is designed first and foremost to be a family vehicle. The changes VW has made are all oriented towards making the Tiguan an appealing proposition for growing and active families.

What’s new

The 2018 Tiguan is an all-new vehicle, designed specifically for the American market and built on the resizable MQB platform shared with vehicles as diverse as the midsize VW Atlas SUV and the Golf hatchbacks and wagons. The new Tiguan is 10.6 inches longer and larger in every dimension than the outgoing model. The result is an SUV that is 300-400 pounds heavier, but which offers 58 percent more cargo volume than last year’s model.

Engine power still comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rated at 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, with the buyer’s choice of front-wheel-drive or VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The Tiguan is rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds.

One more new feature to note is that the new Tiguan is backed by a six-year, 72,000 mile warranty, which is fully transferable to help the vehicle retain value.

Trim levels & features

The 2018 Tiguan is available in the basic S trim, or in SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trims. Options are few at each trim level, and generally offer select components that are standard in the next higher trim level.

The 2018 Tiguan is designed first and foremost to be a family vehicle.

Standard features at all trims include LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, start/stop engine, rear view camera, roof rails, and automatic post-collision braking.

The base S trim offers a traditional car stereo, while all other trims come with an 8-inch touch screen infotainment interface that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as VW’s native Car-Net smartphone app system.

Moving up the trim level walk adds features like a panoramic sunroof, 480-watt Fender sound system, upsized wheels to 20 inches, power liftgate, and a long list of safety and convenience features. At the high end, Tiguan trims include all expected amenities like front and rear heated leather seats and heated steering wheel, and a special 12.3-inch entirely digital dashboard.

The exterior of the Tiguan does not generally reflect trim changes unless you choose the optional R-Line Package, slated for late availability in the model year. R-Line is strictly an appearance pack designed to make the Tiguan look sportier. But the basic vehicle is good-looking, with an entirely up-to-date design.

Technology overview

The Tiguan technology story is much improved from the outgoing model. Assuming you buy the volume SE trim or higher, you’ll get an 8-inch touch screen interface for infotainment and available navigation. Climate controls are still operated by buttons and dials on the dash, which is nice for easy adjustment without having to work your way through several screens.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan console screen
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

At the top SEL Premium trim level, there’s an available 12.3-inch entirely digital dashboard, which gives the driver the ability to bring the navigation view and other information over from the center stack display.

The available 480-watt Fender sound system does the job well, with 9 speakers located around the cabin. The Tiguan offers the usual array of entertainment sources, including a CD drive in the glovebox, satellite, and USB or streaming Bluetooth. You get the standard 3.5mm aux input that few people ever use, as well as 2 USB ports located at the bottom of the dash next to the 12V port.

Interior fit & finish

The new Tiguan is well-made and the interior design has been thought through carefully. Touches like keeping the climate controls out of the touch screen interface help make living with the Tiguan easy and pleasurable.

The seats are comfortable, with full power adjustments on the driver’s side including lumbar support and seat memory. Leather is included at the top trim levels, and both the front and rear seats may be heated, along with the steering wheel. As an added bonus the second-row seats recline and slide front to back.

Cargo capacity has been improved by 58 percent over the outgoing model, which translates to 73.5 cubic feet of interior volume in the two-row models with all the seats folded down, or 37.6 cubic feet with the rear seats in use.

The most important interior feature is the addition of available third row seats, allowing the Tiguan to carry up to seven passengers. The third-row seats are standard in FWD models, and optional in AWD models. You wouldn’t want to put adults into the third row, but for growing families it’s a great option to have. In the three-row models, you get 12 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row, and 33 cubic feet behind the second row, and 65 cubic feet with all rear seats folded down.

Driving performance & MPG

The larger body of the 2018 Tiguan doesn’t come for free – the new SUV has gained 300-400 pounds over the outgoing model. And at the same time, the 2.0-liter turbo engine has lost 14 horsepower and gained 14 pound-feet of torque. Finally, VW went from a six-speed automatic transmission in the last generation to an eight-speed automatic in the new Tiguan.

The net effect of all those changes is that the performance envelope of the Tiguan has stayed about the same as the last generation. You need to step up to a Touareg if you want impressive power. Yet if you think back to VW’s stated goal for the Tiguan, this is a family SUV and for that purpose it’s got plenty of performance.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan trunk
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

The Tiguan is easy and pleasant to drive. It’s predictable and solid-feeling on the road (a gift of that extra weight) and it corners well. Most of all, it’s smooth and quiet inside. You’ll enjoy the Tiguan and find that it’s a relaxing and confident vehicle.

The 2018 Tiguan is rated at 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway in front-wheel-drive configuration, and you only sacrifice 1 mpg in city driving to get the 4Motion AWD system. In real-world combination driving, including some serious hill-climbing, we saw just about 22 mpg overall, and 21.7 mpg after climbing several thousand feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Safety

As a family SUV, the new Tiguan offers just about every safety feature you can name. You can have forward collision warning with pedestrian monitoring, automative emergency braking, automatic post-collision braking, a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, lane keeping assist, surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with automatic stop-n-go, reversing assistance with automatic braking, and automatic high-beam headlights. You also get a standard rear-view camera or the optional surround-view camera.

Also, the 4Motion AWD system includes four driver-selectable modes, including on-road, snow, off-road, and off-road customizable, which allows you to set parameters as you like them. Realistically, most owners will only ever use on-road and snow. That’s enough to get the benefit of safety and confidence in all weather conditions.

Conclusion

The new VW Tiguan is admirably suited for the needs that VW designed it to meet. This is a compact crossover SUV that’s as big as it can be and still be a compact. That’s what American families have been buying, and if you need to haul the kids, make box-store expeditions, go camping, and do family things, the Tiguan is a great choice. It’s also a great choice for singles or couples who live an active year-round lifestyle.

But to get the features you want, you’re going to have to shell out some cash. The most basic Tiguan retails for $26,245, and that rises by $1,300 if you want AWD. There’s a $4,000 jump to the volume SE trim, which will set you back $31,280 for AWD. By the time you get to the top SEL Premium trim where a lot of the desirable features live, you’re looking at $38,450, with another $1,495 on top of that if you want the R-Line appearance pack.

The bottom line on the 2018 VW Tiguan is that there’s a lot to love, but also a price tag to match.

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