Volkswagen gives its Tiguan crossover long overdue makeover for 2018

By Paul Borden

(December 6, 2018) Having debuted as a 2009 model as Volkswagen’s first compact crossover SUV, the Tiguan moves into its second generation as a 2018 model, which is bit longer than usual between redesigns. But it was well worth the wait.

The new Tiguan is bigger than its predecessor with 57 percent more cargo capacity, an 8-speed automatic transmission (replacing a 6-speed), an engine that can run on regular fuel, and more available safety features that include adaptive cruise control, forward collision and lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, and blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert.

There’s also third-row seating that is standard on front-wheel-drive models and optional on models featuring VW’s four-wheel-drive, 4MOTION system. (If you don’t need that third row for little kiddies, stick to two-row models and you’ll get over 37 cubic feet of stowage capacity in the back.)

All that makes the Tiguan a more attractive option for buyers, especially those “looking for something different.”

The 2018 Tiguan comes in S, SE, and SEL trims. The former R-Line model is now a package of exterior and interior design features offered on SEL and SEL Premium trims. It replaces standard 18-inch wheels with 19-inchers and adds Park Distance Control (ParkPilot) at a cost of $1,795 for SEL and $1,495 for SEL Premium models, which already include the larger wheels and ParkPilot as standard.

All Tiguan models come with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. That’s less horsepower and a bit more torque than its predecessor, and if not neck-jerking numbers, they are at least adequate enough to provide a comfortable ride around town or on the highway.

With South Florida’s flat terrain, it wasn’t possible to get a feel for what the Tiguan might  be like driving in hill country.

AWD models offer a selection of driving modes that include sport, eco, comfort, and personal as well as off-road. You can select gears manually, but without paddle shifters, that is kind of a waste. The only advantage for that would be to set the transmission in second or third gear for extra pulling power or going up steep inclines. Towing capacity on the 2018 Tiguan is only 1,500 pounds so it could use some help there.

Usually, with low power numbers, you are compensated with better fuel mileage numbers, but the Tiguan checks in at only 21 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway with AWD and 22/27 with FWD. But, as mentioned earlier, at least you aren’t required to use premium fuel for top performance as with the 2017 Tiguan.

The SEL trim gets features like Halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, silver roof rails, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 40/20/40 split folding second-row, rear-view camera, Bluetooth communications, push-button start, and navigation along with many of the safety features that are optional on lower trims as standard. MSRP starts at $32,390 for the SEL.

My Tiguan SEL for the week came with the R-Line package and a special orange metallic interior which, along with a $995 destination and delivery fee, ran the total price to $35,325.

But the Tiguan S starts at $25,345, not including destination and delivery, and the SE starts at just over $30,000. SEL Premium models start at $36,250.

An aside here: Volkswagen is selling a 2018 Tiguan Limited that essentially is a carryover from the  2017 Tiguan. With it starting at just over $23,000, it will save you some money over even the 2018 Tiguan S, but it won’t have the updated features the new models feature.

Consider yourself forewarned.

What I liked about the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL: The 8-speed automatic is one of the smoothest-shifting transmissions you can experience. It almost feels like a CVT. There is nice stowage room in the back for five-passenger versions, and the radio and A/C are adjustable with easy-to-use knobs.

What I didn't like about the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL: Fuel economy is only so-so.

Would I buy the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEC? Yes. It could use a little more power, but it’s fine for navigating urban streets. It offers a nice alternative choice for those who want an SUV but don’t need one the size of VW’s Atlas.