Iraj Khan
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Review: 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan 

Fuel Type
Gasoline
Engine
4 Cylinder
Transmission
Automatic
Drives
4 Motion
MSRP
$30 870
City MPG
7.5
Highway MPG
5.9
OVERALL RATING 4.275 of 5.0
  • Performance
    4 of 5.0
  • Comfort
    4.2 of 5.0
  • Interior
    4.5 of 5.0
  • Exterior
    4.4 of 5.0

What’s new

  • Revised trim levels and feature availability for 2019
  • Part of the second Tiguan generation introduced for 2018

Pros

  • Offers a lot of space for passengers and cargo
  • Three-row seating is useful in a pinch
  • Tech interface is intuitive to use
  • Longer warranty period than most competitors

Cons

  • Subpar acceleration and responsiveness
  • Ranks low in fuel economy for the class
  • Optional larger wheels make for a bumpy ride

Expert Review

Overall rating 7.3 / 10

Volkswagen redesigned the Tiguan just last year. The new Tiguan is a lot bigger than the previous model, and VW used that extra size for greater cargo and passenger space. In fact, few vehicles in the small SUV segment offer what the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan does: an optional third-row seat. Popular competitors such as the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 are two-row-only offerings.

Whether you can benefit from that third-row seat is another matter, however. Headroom and legroom in the way back are in short supply, so it’s a seat you’ll want to use on an occasional basis only. Another potential concern relates to the Tiguan’s engine. Acceleration is underwhelming, as is fuel economy.

Otherwise, the Tiguan is appealing. It boasts a comfortable and quiet interior and plenty of features for the money. For example, even the base trim level comes with smartphone connectivity, and there are lots of available safety features on upper trim levels. Overall, we think the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan represents a distinctive choice in the small SUV class.

2019 Volkswagen Tiguan configurations

The 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan is a two- or three-row SUV that comes in six trim levels: SSESEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line. All Tiguans are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque) that’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. Three rows of seating come standard with front-wheel-drive models, and two rows are standard on all-wheel-drive models, with a third row available as an option.

Standard features for the Tiguan S include 17-inch wheels, roof rails, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, USB port, and a six-speaker sound system and VW’s Car-Net App Connect, which controls select smartphone apps from the touchscreen and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

An optional Driver Assistance package adds forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The SE includes those Driver Assistance features, plus heated washer nozzles, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, simulated-leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, voice commands, and two extra USB ports. A panoramic sunroof is optional on the SE.

The SEL comes standard with the sunroof and adds 18-inch wheels, a power liftgate, remote start, adaptive cruise control, navigation, and front and rear parking sensors, Car-Net Security & Service (which offers remote access to the vehicle through a smartphone app, automatic crash notification and monitoring services for young drivers), and Car-Net Guide & Inform (which displays real-time traffic, weather and nearby fuel prices).

Finally, the SEL Premium adds adaptive LED headlights, automatic wipers, a hands-free liftgate, a digital gauge cluster, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a nine-speaker premium Fender sound system, and extra driver assistance features including a surround-view parking camera system, lane departure warning and intervention, and automatic high-beam control.

The SEL R-Line and the Premium SEL R-Line build on the SEL and the Premium SEL trim levels, respectively. The R-Line versions of those trim levels include larger wheels (19-inch for the SEL, 20-inch for the SEL Premium) and sportier exterior styling elements.

Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium  (turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder | 8-speed automatic | AWD).

Driving 6.0

The Tiguan underdelivers even by the segment’s modest performance potential. Most of the blame lies with the clunky, unresponsive transmission. Handling is similarly uninspiring.

Acceleration 5.0

The turbocharged four-cylinder has decent power specs, but the transmission’s reluctance to downshift makes it hard to tap into it. Acceleration is lethargic, especially when accelerating from a stop with less than maximum throttle. In our testing, the Tiguan covered 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds, which is slow for the class and 2 seconds slower than the previous model.

Braking 6.0

The brake pedal has good initial resistance so it doesn’t feel mushy. But it requires a deliberate effort to bring the Tiguan to a smooth stop. Our test Tiguan stopped from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is average for this type of vehicle.

Steering 6.5

The steering wheel’s light-effort makes it easy to wield the Tiguan around parking lots, but a large turning radius hampers maneuverability a bit. Out on the road, the steering provides little to no feedback. Sport mode supposedly increases steering effort, but we didn’t notice.

Handling 7.0

The Tiguan is controlled in long, sweeping corners, but pronounced body roll begins to manifest around tighter turns. If you enjoy a more spirited drive, this is not the ideal vehicle. Competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5 do a better job of maintaining composure.

Drivability 4.5

The transmission’s delayed responses and stumbling in lower gears mar the driving experience. Shifts are clunky at low speeds but are oddly smooth at full acceleration. Eco mode makes the transmission even less responsive; selecting Sport mode and tapping the transmission lever into S provides the most natural driving experience.

Off-road 7.5

You get 7.9 inches of ground clearance with the Tiguan, which is average. Optional on all models is the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, which also adds hill descent control, hill start assist and a terrain selector knob with snow, on-road, off-road and custom off-road settings.

Comfort 8.0

The Tiguan scores well on comfort thanks to supportive seats and overall pleasant ride quality. Lower trim levels have smaller wheels, which translates to a cushier ride over poorly maintained roads. The cabin is well-insulated from most types of noise and the outside temperature, too.

Seat comfort 8.0

The front seats are comfortable, with good side bolstering and thigh support. The passenger seat is height-adjustable, but there are no lumbar or power adjustments, even on the top SEL Premium trim. Second-row seats are well-shaped and feature several recline detents. Road trips should be no problem, as long as you steer clear of the third row.

Ride comfort 7.5

The Tiguan feels a little jittery over rough pavement, and sharper impacts, like manhole covers, are also prominently felt. We blame the SEL Premium’s 19-inch wheels. Lower-trim Tiguans ride on smaller wheels with more tire sidewall and may help smooth out the bumps. Otherwise, the Tiguan feels composed and comfortable on most road surfaces.

Noise & vibration 7.5

Wind noise is minimal, and road noise is only apparent on atypical road surfaces (like traveling over train tracks or hitting bumps). The engine is quiet while cruising, but the transmission’s odd shifting behavior may cause drivers to wring out the engine to get up to speed. The engine gets vocal above 2,000 rpm, and you’ll hear a fair amount of turbocharger whooshing.

Climate control 8.0

The heated front seats and steering wheel warm up nicely without getting overly hot. The automatic climate control is effective but often sets the fan speed higher than it needs to be. Rear air vents help maintain backseat comfort.

Interior 8.0

The Tiguan is one of few three-row small SUVs available. There’s an abundance of room in the first and second rows, though the third row is only suitable for kids. It may take some time getting used to the instrument panel’s many features and controls.

Ease of use 7.0

The climate and driving controls are clearly labeled and easy to understand. But you may find the layout of the steering wheel’s cruise control buttons and the ones controlling the SEL’s digital instrument panel confusing. Our staff was split regarding its intuitiveness.

Getting in/getting out8.0

Thanks to the Tiguan’s large door openings and abundance of legroom, access to the first two rows is easy. There’s a decent-size pass-through to the third row, but actually getting seated requires flexibility because of the lack of legroom.

Driving position 8.5

The driving position is a little upright, but the front of the seat bottom has a raised angle that makes the driver feel planted in the seat. There’s plenty of adjustment range from the steering wheel, so drivers of all sizes should find a comfortable position.

Roominess 8.0

First- and second-row passengers enjoy a generous amount of legroom. Headroom is also good, even if the Tiguan has the available panoramic sunroof. The third row is a kids-only zone.

Visibility 9.5

The tall windows and relatively narrow pillars provide clear visibility all around. The rear-quarter windows are large and genuinely help reduce blind spots. Second-row headrests barely intrude on the view out the back. The optional surround-view camera system is also useful for parking.

Quality 7.5

The Tiguan’s interior is understated and nicely appointed. Dashboard plastics are soft-touch. The overall impression is of quality, but it’s not opulent. Our test vehicle had mysterious rattles inside the cabin that manifested on rough roads.

Utility 8.0

Even though the Tiguan doesn’t have the biggest cargo area in the class, there’s plenty of room behind the Tiguan’s second row to store several large suitcases. A sliding second row and deep pockets near the hatch door make this space more versatile.

Small-item storage 8.0

There are numerous places to store items, such as sizable cutouts in the doors that can hold two water bottles. The center console bin is deep but narrow. Front cupholders have an anti-tip design.

Cargo space 8.0

It’s tight behind the third row, at 12 cubic feet of space. But the cargo area is pretty roomy at 37.6 cubic feet when you pull the remote levers that fold the third-row seats flat. You must remove the cargo cover to raise the third row; it fits in a slot beneath the cargo floor. Maximum capacity is 73.5 cubic feet.

Child safety seat accommodation 8.5

Two exposed, easily accessible LATCH anchors are located on each of the second-row outboard seats. Tethers are found at the bottom of each of the 40/20/40-split second-row seatbacks. They require a stretch to reach, but you can access them without removing the cargo cover.

Technology 7.5

The infotainment system is one of the best in the segment, and the Fender premium audio system is also quite good. Lots of advanced driving aids on this model, but they don’t feel fully baked yet. You have to sift through menus in the instrument panel to turn the driving aids on and off.

Audio & navigation 9.0

The 8-inch touchscreen is clear, crisp and easy to understand. The system abounds with neat touches. You can preview artists and songs without actually switching radio stations. Some navigation tools disappear from the screen until the system senses your finger moving toward it again.

Smartphone integration 7.5

Tiguan SE models and above feature two front USB ports and one in the rear, behind the center console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board. We had some trouble with CarPlay; podcasts would sometimes play with no audio, especially immediately after plugging in a phone.

Driver aids 6.0

The SEL Premium comes with the Tiguan’s full suite of driver aids. Actual performance is lackluster, however. The adaptive cruise system is late to recognize cars merging into your lane and slow to react to the car in front leaving the lane. We also experienced some unwarranted inputs from the lane-keeping assist system in our test vehicle.

Voice control 6.0

The built-in voice controls aren’t intuitive. You have to follow a strict menu structure, and the system is often confused. Navigation is limited to full addresses, recent addresses, home, or the address of someone in your contacts list. There is no point of interest or “find the nearest x” searchability.

 

Author
Iraj Khan

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