2019 Volkswagen Tiguan review

The Volkswagen Tiguan is a small SUV with big ambitions

The 2019 Tiguan walks the tightrope between luxury and practicality with finesse.
The 2019 Tiguan walks the tightrope between luxury and practicality with finesse.
The 2019 Tiguan walks the tightrope between luxury and practicality with finesse.

Highs

  • Nice interior
  • Good performance
  • Capable AWD
  • Quiet cabin
  • Premium looks

Lows

  • Reduced legroom in the second row
  • Other SUVs offer more cargo space
  • Priced higher than market leaders

The second-generation Tiguan has played a key role in Volkswagen’s recovery. It competes in one of the most cut-throat segments of the market, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve to stand out from the competition.

The Tiguan is notably one of just two compact SUVs available with three rows of seats for seven passengers. The other is the Mitsubishi Outlander. The optional third row means the Tiguan can be a solution for growing families who would ordinarily be forced to pay up for a mid-size SUV. The third row option is standard on all front-wheel drive Tiguan trims, and it costs $595 on all all-wheel drive trims

The Tiguan is available in several trims, ranging from the basic S model to the luxurious SEL. The trim walk has more steps than most brands, but that just means you can customize the Tiguan to your liking. You start with cloth or vinyl seats and some basic dashboard tech in the cheap seats, and work your way up to leather and the digital dash in the top trims. The Volkswagen Tiguan starts at $24,295, which is on par with rivals, but you can plus it up all the way to $38,785 if you pick the SEL Premium 4Motion with the optional third row seat. You can still upgrade from there by adding the R-Line sport appearance package, with the most expensive Tiguan coming in at a luxury car-like $40,485.

Interior and exterior design

The Tiguan was among the first of VW’s line to get the current design language, and it’s a handsome vehicle. Hood ridges and generally dynamic lines express the brand’s current image. The thing to notice about the VW Tiguan from the outside is that it looks more expensive than it is. It’s also longer than most other compact SUVs, which either allows for the optional third row of seats or delivers some extra cargo space in the back. That’s never a bad thing.

Inside, the Tiguan offers a great front row experience. VW’s interior treatment is laid out in sensible German fashion. Don’t expect to be blown away with artisanal open-grain wood or a bunch of dark chrome bling. Instead, the Tiguan offers functional controls that feel good to the touch.

The second row is where we noticed the compromises necessary to include a third row. The Tiguan offers almost four inches less second-row legroom than the Honda CR-V, 1.4 inches less than the Nissan Rogue, and 1.3 inches less than the Toyota RAV4. Those measurements apply even if you order the Tiguan with only two rows. Our notes from the first drive of the three-row Tiguan remind us that the third row is best suited to children, but that’s true for many mid-size seven-passenger SUVs as well.

When it’s time to carry cargo, the Tiguan provides 37.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and up to 73.5 cubic feet with the second row folded down. By comparison, the segment-leading Toyota RAV4 gives owners 69.8 cubic feet behind the front row, and up to 37.6 behind the second row. The Honda CR-V offers 75.8 cubic feet with the rear seats down and 39.2 behind the second row. Nissan’s Rogue has 70 cubic feet maximum, and 39.3 behind the second row.

Tech features

Volkswagen provides all the usual driver assistance features, available in stages as you move up the trim walk. The base S trim comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen audio system, and all other trims upgrade that to an 8.0-inch screen; this is standard in the Tiguan’s segment. Adaptive cruise control and navigation come in with the mid-level SEL trim. Lane keeping assistance, high beam control, and overhead view camera are included in the high end SEL Premium trim.

The Tiguan package offers good acceleration, crisp cornering, and confident traction.

VW’s infotainment system is good, supporting both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Depending on the trim, you’ll enjoy voice control and navigation. The optional Fender premium audio system sounds pretty good, too. Serious audiophiles will always want to choose their own speakers, however. The best thing about the infotainment is that you get real knobs to control volume and tuning, plus dedicated touch-sensitive buttons on the side to go straight to navigation, radio, media, voice, and phone services.

Top trim levels also include VW’s digital instrument cluster, which allows you to customize the driver information display to your liking, or to display your navigation map between your gauges. This is a nice feature, and with the price of screens continuing to come down over time, we expect to see more cars simply adopt this feature as standard equipment.

Driving impressions

All trim levels of the 2019 Tiguan come with the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine. VW has been developing this basic plant for decades, and it’s a solid performer at 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The Tiguan transmission is an eight-speed automatic, with your choice of front-wheel-drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive in almost all trim levels. The top SEL Premium trim comes only with 4Motion.

2018 volkswagen tiguan 2019 review 1

Other brands may boast higher horsepower numbers, but the Tiguan package offers good acceleration, crisp cornering, and confident traction. Don’t expect the performance you might find in a premium brand, but know that this SUV feels good in your hands. The Tiguan comes with a longer wheelbase than the competition; up to five inches longer than the Honda and over three inches longer than the Nissan. That length helps give the Tiguan a noticeable upgrade in ride quality compared to the competition.

In our week with the Tiguan, we crossed a couple of low mountain ranges in winter weather with no trouble at all. The Tiguan never gave up an inch of pavement, and felt confident in all conditions. Through it all, we found the EPA-estimated fuel economy of 21 MPG city, 29 MPG highway, and 24 MPG in combined real-world driving to be about accurate. Those figure are on the low side for the segment; the RAV4 and the CR-V both boast better fuel economy.

Rivals

In the crowded compact SUV market, the three market-leading vehicles to beat are the Toyota RAV4, the Nissan Rogue, and the Honda CR-V. Including non-negotiable fees, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 ranges in price from $26,595 up to $35,995. Excluding the hybrid, the 2019 Nissan Rogue ranges from $25,965 to $35,855, and the 2019 Honda CR-V sells between $25,395 and $35,195. As we noted at the top, the Tiguan can be taken a bit higher, starting at $24,295, ranging as high as $40,485 if you pick the SEL Premium R-Line 4Motion with the optional third row seat.

Compared to the market leaders, the Tiguan feels like a definite step up in performance and comfort. In many economy crossovers, the rear suspension feels like an afterthought, where the Tiguan feels supple and controlled. We’d put the Tiguan in the same class as the Mazda CX-5 Signature or the Audi Q3 for performance and comfort. It punches above its weight.

Peace of mind

VW has one of the best warranties on the market, covering the 2019 Tiguan from bumper to bumper for six years or 72,000 miles. That’s twice as long as the Honda or Toyota, so that advantage goes to VW in this area.

When configuring the Tiguan, think about configuring down from a luxury model rather than up from a competing economy brand.

It’s hard to find a vehicle on the market this year that doesn’t offer a full suite of advanced safety tech. The question has become what’s offered as standard equipment and what’s going to cost you extra. VW offers stability controls and anti-lock brakes as standard, along with a locking differential and the intelligent crash response system that unlocks the doors, turns off the fuel pump, and activates the hazard lights. You also get a rear-view camera and tire pressure monitoring on all trims.

To get features like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and rear traffic alert, you need to buy the driver assistance package on the base S trim. These features are included starting at the SE trim level and above. Adaptive cruise control starts with the SEL trim and above. To add context, Toyota offers more standard driving aids on the RAV4 (including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning system, automatic high beams, and dynamic cruise control.)

How DT would configure this car

When configuring the Tiguan, it might be helpful to think about configuring down from a luxury model like the Audi Q3 or the Infiniti QX50, rather than configuring up from a competing economy brand. For example, if you take the as-tested configuration: SEL Premium trim, 4Motion, and a two-row cabin, you’ll save about $2,000 compared to a similarly-equipped Audi or more than $4,000 against a comparable Infiniti.

That works for us, because we don’t need the third row very often, but we frequently need the extra cargo capacity of the Tiguan. By the time you’re up to the SEL trim with its heated leather seats and steering wheel, you’ve got a good tech solution in the dash. Unless you’re very particular about your audio, this is a good package for the sticker price of $38,190.

Our Take

The 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan covers a lot of bases. Whether you’re looking to haul a bunch of kids or a bunch of cargo, there’s a good solution here. This is an SUV you can be proud to park in your driveway, and you can be confident that you’ll get where you’re going. In a week of near-constant use, we found that we liked the Tiguan more every day, and driving it never felt like a chore. That’s not something we can say about every compact SUV, and even fewer mid-size crossovers.

Should you get one?

You should buy the Tiguan if you are looking for an attractive compact SUV with good performance and potentially the capability to carry a few extra people. You have to be willing to pay more for this SUV, but you’ll get more for your money.

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