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VW’s Tiguan: From the People’s Car – THE PEOPLE’S CROSSOVER

Car Reviews

VW’s Tiguan: From the People’s Car – THE PEOPLE’S CROSSOVER

VW’s Tiguan: From the People’s Car,


Four carmakers stepped up to place ads in this year’s Super Bowl. And of those four – BMW, Kia, Toyota and Volkswagen – none resonated quite like Volkswagen’s ad, which used the time and space to commemorate VW’s 75 years – of both time and space – in the U.S. With the somewhat ironic help of Neil Diamond’s I Am…I Said (‘L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home, New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more’), Volkswagen’s spot chronicled its arrival in New York at the end of the ‘40s, and its spread – both physically and culturally – across these United States in the following years. And nothing quite says ‘American’ like a compact crossover – spec’d and priced for Americans – such as VW’s Tiguan.

Now in its second generation, the Tiguan is a decidedly European take on the compact crossover, generally defined by Honda’s CR-V, Toyota’s RAV4 and – to a not insignificant extent – Nissan’s Rogue. They all sit on roughly the same wheelbase, are powered by 2.0 liter fours and weigh roughly two tons. If the Tiguan varies from the more oft-seen Asian formula, it’s with the restraint of its design, the generous greenhouse providing excellent visibility and the ease with which it goes about the daily commute or errand running. 

The obvious disconnect between the Tiguan and its immediate competition is in the simplicity of its spec – for better or worse. VW elects to offer but one drivetrain – its 2.0 liter turbocharged four – with no hybrid or plug-in hybrid options. To be sure, if you want electrification Volkswagen will provide it, but – as of now – only in the guise of its ID.4 EV. The ID.4 occupies a similar footprint to the Tiguan, and with recently added incentives, would come close – depending on trim – in its on-the-road pricing. 

In your initial meet-and-greet you’ll perceive an almost quiet demeanor to the Tiguan’s sheetmetal. This isn’t, by any means, a wallflower – but then, neither is it Beyoncé. The best thing about sheetmetal without affectation is that it wears well; I’d see no issue in driving a Tiguan – with appropriate maintenance – from your kid’s first day of school to that same kid’s high school graduation. VW not only builds family cars (see its Super Bowl ad!), but its cars invariably become part of the family.

Inside, our test vehicle’s SEL R-Line trim is comfortably appointed, but it’s obviously appointed with a bottom-line orientation. In the vehicle’s dash the speedometer seems almost an afterthought, and while ventilation controls are independent of the infotainment screen, changing radio stations can be a two-step process; that’s better than three steps, but obviously not as efficient as just one. The best thing about the seating position is the commanding view of the road and all that’s around you; if you hit something in the Tiguan, Buddy, it’s on you!

In combination with two comfortable buckets up front is a generously proportioned rear seat. And while most rear seats in compact crossovers are best left to two, you can actually imagine a third adult added for a lunch hour. And if you have more than 2.5 kids, VW offers an optional third row for the third or fourth in a car pool, and that’s applicable whether it’s the parents’ Tiguan – or the grandparents’ Tiguan.

Under the hood is VW’s venerable 2.0 liter turbo four, delivering 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, and driving either the front wheels or all wheels via an 8-speed automatic. When I last drove a Tiguan I found the drivetrain almost wheezy, but there was none of that in this one. 

To be sure, 184 horsepower working against two tons makes for leisurely acceleration (Car and Driver arrived at 60 in about 9 seconds), but it’s not lazy acceleration. And its effort is essentially effortless. You’re not, of course, behind the wheel of VW’s GTI, but then, neither is it my ’66 Beetle. And with a true automatic, there’s nothing fussy in its gear change, unlike many of its Asian competitors, saddled with the CVT. And in combination with a responsive throttle you’ll enjoy accurate steering and stable cornering.

You can buy a Tiguan S for as little as $30K, or spend almost $40,000 on our test vehicle’s SEL R-Line. My preference would be for something in the middle, the SE with all-wheel drive and (perhaps) the optional third row. That third row won’t accommodate your high school basketball player, but will work for younger kids or grandkids, something that CR-V or RAV4 don’t provide. 

Nor do either of those crossovers come with 75 years of history.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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