• Car Review

Review: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

By David Undercoffler | April 2, 2018

Autolist rating: 2/5
But would we buy it? Probably not
Price range: $25,495 - $38,450

Key takeaways

  • Excellent interior space, comfort and refinement.
  • Engine needs more power since it’s a heavy crossover.
  • Not a great value compared to rivals.
  • Styling and driving characteristics left us underwhelmed.

What is it?

The Tiguan is Volkswagen’s compact-ish crossover; it’s smaller than the huge Atlas and the upscale Touareg.

For 2018, VW stretched the Tiguan’s length more than 10 inches. This means VW can cram an optional third row of seats in the way back; the feature is standard on front-wheel-drive models and $500 on all-wheel-drive models. But a warning to the claustrophobic; adults will find the third-row legroom in short supply.

A third row of seats -- however cramped for adults -- makes the Tiguan unique in its segment. Nearly all of its competitors including the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue (for 2018) and Jeep Compass are two-row only.

The Tiguan is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower.

It comes standard with front-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive, which VW calls 4Motion, is another $1,300.

There are four trim levels to the Tiguan: S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium.

What’s good

TLDR: Euro-style refinement on the cheap; plus space!

The refinement. Volkswagens have long been known for bringing a touch of upscale German engineering to the masses and the Tiguan continues that trend. The interior is comfortable and quiet -- from the buttons on the dashboard to the hearty sound the doors make, everything on the Tiguan feels one level above its competitors.

The space. The third row of seats may feel like a penalty box for adults but they’ll love the middle row. The seats slide forward and back and also recline. And with the third-row folded (or missing entirely), there’s more than enough room in the cargo area for your gear.

What’s bad

TLDR: Needs more power, safety and style.

The power. Or lack thereof. On paper, the Tiguan’s 184 horsepower is competitive with its rivals. But that doesn’t take into account how heavy the Tiguan is -- it’s hundreds of pounds more than other compact crossovers. This means the Tiguan often feels slow in acceleration.

The safety gear. This Tiguan needed more of it. The $30,280 SE model we tested lacked things like adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning and assist. These features are all included on comparable models with similar tags from Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda.

The looks. Call us superficial but we were put off by the Tiguan’s face. It’s boring and too nose-heavy in a segment that has a variety of stylish alternatives like the Mazda CX-5, Jeep Compass and Chevy Equinox.

5 stars of execution

Safety? Yes

  • We were mixed on whether to give the Tiguan a star here.
  • The good news is that its rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t crash-tested it yet).
  • Plus, all models come with an innovative feature that applies the brakes after a collision to prevent you from a second impact; most models also come with pre-collision warning and braking and blind-spot monitoring.
  • But many of the Tiguan’s competitors offer more standard safety equipment.

Value? No

  • While the Tiguan outpaces most of its competitors for interior refinement, this comes at the expense of amenities.
  • As mentioned, our $30,280 test model lacked tech-based safety gear that its competitors have standard; it also was missing goodies like a sunroof or a power liftgate.
  • A fully-loaded Tiguan can top out at nearly $39,000, a big asking price for the mainstream compact crossover segment.

Efficiency? No

  • The Tiguan is rated by the EPA at 21/27/23 MPG city/highway/combined.
  • That’s within the range of its competitive set, though there are multiple competitors that beat it -- some by a wide margin.

Driving experience? No

  • The Tiguan’s heft isn’t matched by its power, so it generally feels slow in daily driving.
  • It also feels slow on initial acceleration from a stop; blame the lag on the turbocharged engine.
  • No one buys crossovers like this for the driving dynamics, but overall the Tiguan was more boring to drive than most.

Execution? Yes

  • The build quality of the Tiguan is excellent; it has a certain level of refinement that’s refreshing for this segment.
  • This meant that while it was boring at times to drive, the comfort and quiet the Tiguan affords is excellent.
  • The practicality of this model is hard to overlook. It will hold and haul everything you need.

Total Rating: 2 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The Tiguan starts at $25,495 for a front-wheel-drive S model. That gets you the turbocharged engine, three rows of seats, a 6.5-inch color touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and a backup camera.

The SE is next in line and it starts at $27,650 for front-wheel-drive. It adds an eight-inch color touchscreen, keyless access, dual climate control, faux leather seats that are heated up front, pre-collision braking and blind-spot monitoring.

The version we would choose is the SEL. At $31,990 it’s not cheap -- especially compared to rivals -- but it’s a nice balance of key amenities and safety features that we liked. These include a panoramic sunroof, remote start, a more robust infotainment screen with navigation, a power liftgate and adaptive cruise control.

At the top of the range is the SEL Premium, which starts at $37,150. It piles on extras like a fully-digital color instrument panel, LED headlights, actual leather seats, a premium audio system, 360-degree camera, lane-keeping assist and parking sensors.

All-wheel-drive is another $1,300 for all models listed.

Also consider

Compact crossovers like the Tiguan are one of the most competitive segments in the industry so nearly every brand has a model worth looking at.

Our favorites in this segment are the Honda CR-V for all-around performance and the Mazda CX-5 for style and driving dynamics.

The Hyundai Tucson, Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Jeep Compass and Toyota RAV4 are also well-rounded models worth considering.

Skip the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester.

Final thoughts

While we generally liked the VW Tiguan for its refinement and practicality and there was no strong reason to avoid it, we would spend our own money on something else. There are just too many competitors that do everything this VW does, but better. So shop around.