When the Nissan Rogue Sport I was going to receive was involved in a minor fender bender, Volkswagen was nice enough to step in and allow me to drive their all new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan. Given the short notice of the change-up, I had few expectations. I will say, when I went to stick my golf clubs in the back, a third row was definitely not one of them.
The lines of the new Tiguan are clean and simplistic much like the rest of the Volkswagen Auto Group portfolio; truth be told, if the badges were changed, it would fit right Audi line without a second thought. When parked alone, its size is not apparent, but the first hint of a much bigger vehicle shows itself when parked next to other vehicles. When I said the Tiguan has gone big, I meant it. For the 2018 model year, only the long wheel base is sold in the U.S. That means in the US, it is 11 inches longer than the last generation at 185.5”. The updated styling is great, but it does look gargantuan compared to the last generation. They think they know what we want.
The corporate headlights are quite attractive and the rest of the front end, while a bit plain, is handsome and unobtrusive. The 18” wheels on this spec were not my favorite at first but grew on me as I was around the vehicle more and more. The “Platinum Grey Metallic” paint is quite attractive on this car but the optional “Habanero Orange Metallic” would add some much welcomed spice to the overall look while also showing off some of the hidden lines much better.
Interior and Features
Since this is a near top of the line Tiguan SEL, you might expected it to be fairly nice inside. For the most part, you would be correct. Options included in the SEL include adaptive cruise control, remote start, navigation unit and V-Tex Leatherette. The “Saffrano Orange” seats and door cards bring a touch of color and character to the expanse of black leatherette, high quality plastics, and aluminum looking trim. Buttons are nicely laid out and limit excessive visual clutter. The Tiguan definitely takes advantage of it’s luxury family as many of the buttons are exactly the same used in Audi products.
The SE and SEL trims provide you an 8” touch screen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink. The screen feels nice; though when turned off, fingerprints are a huge nuisance. The redundant buttons along the outside do make switching between options a breeze. Thankfully, a physical volume and tuner knob are also supplied, which is becoming ever so rare these days. HVAC controls are tucked under the navigation screen providing ease of use, while remaining out of the way when not needed. Safety features include blind spot monitoring, automatic brake assistance and pedestrian warning system.
As was mentioned in my introduction, the new Tiguan comes standard with three rows of seats on the FWD model. There is an option for these to be removed when buying the 4motion all wheel drive though. The second row seats provide nice foot room and feel nearly as comfortable as the front seats. The third row is seemingly in case of emergency only. With the third row up, cargo space is severely limited, barley allowing room for a small set of clubs. Leg room in the emergency 3rd row is limited to children and adults under five and a half feet tall that don’t mind some aerobics.
When jumping up to the SEL Premium trim level, real leather, a Fender sound system, and the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit (similar to Audi’s setup) are standard. For just under $2000 more on this SEL trim, the R-Line package can be added; this modifies the bumper, upgrades the wheels to 20”, and adds pedal covers and scuff plates to the interior.
The biggest complaint I have with the Tiguan is the “feel”. This now rather large crossover shares a front end clip (steering wheel, subframe, and and engine) with the much smaller Volkswagen Passat. This leads to the a car that is quick enough around city streets, but leaves much to be desired when merging onto faster roads and interstates. The engine will get the car up to speed, but there is no feel of grunt. The 8 speed transmission does a very good job of wringing out all 184 hp from the 4 cylinder, with clean shifts and a much more enjoyable experience then a CVT comparable vehicles deliver.
Where the platform really shines is in the handling. While this is still a large car on a small platform, the handling characteristics really shine when jumping around city streets. The electronic steering is extremely over boosted, which is fine for city driving, but anything beyond that it becomes numb. After driving 2018 Golf at the local dealership for comparison, I know what this car can be, and it made me very hopeful. I still never fully lost confidence in its ability to continue to turn without understeer. It does all this while having a smooth ride and handling large bumps like expansion joints with ease.
The other issue is the Volkswagen Start-Stop System. When getting in the car it was religiously the first thing I turned did; the system shuts the engine off quickly at a stop but shakes the car a decent bit when releasing the brake and initiating the restart. Even if I owned this car, and could realize a bit of a MPG bump, I would still disengage it every time. With a little bit of smoothing, I could start to live with it.
Value and Verdict
At the $34,000 suggested MSRP on this particular model, the Tiguan is not a cheap vehicle, but relative to the class it is in a good spot. EPA has the fuel economy at 22 city/27 highway which relatively poor compared to the Rogue(26/33) I was supposed to drive, but with the 8 speed instead of the notorious CVT it leads to a much better driving experience. Also, it looks like economy might actually been underrated as my Tiguan read over 28 mpg average and I have talked to 2018 owners who have seen over 32 mpg when traveling.
The Volkswagen Tiguan was quite enjoyable over my week span and is a good buy in my opinion. There is no point in spending an extra $4000 for the SEL Premium; for most needs the SEL with 4motion and 3rd row delete would be perfectly capable a value for just over $32,000. Feel free to build your own here and let us know in the comments how you would spec yours!