VW Tiguan — Competent, spacious compact SUV


By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(November 7, 2021) The Volkswagen Tiguan, which started life in 2009 as a compact crossover, was well received by the critics as a solid value, but it never resonated with buyers in North America because of its small cargo and passenger space compared to competing vehicles in the segment.

Volkswagen rectified the situation for the 2018 model year putting the Tiguan on the same platform as the Golf and three-row Atlas crossover stretching it 10.6 inches with a 7.3-inch longer wheelbase giving it more cargo space, more legroom and even an optional third-row seat for the family that has a couple kids. The current Tiguan actually pushes into mid-sized territory.

So the question is — did it make a difference? The answer comes in rather startling sales statistics. The Tiguan sold 46,983 copies in 2017, the last year on the shorter platform, and jumped to nearly 110,000 in 2019, a 134 percent gain. It added 100,705 more in the pandemic year of 2020. And through the first nine months of 2021, the 85,004 copies of the Tiguan have been sold — on pace for another six-figure sales year — trailing only the mid-sized Atlas by about 7,000 vehicles.


Although the 2021 Tiguan remains almost the same as the 2020 model, VW has made a few upgrades. The base S and mid-range SE models receive new 17-inch wheel designs and the SE gets standard adaptive cruise control. The top-trim SEL Premium R-Line model gains a power-adjustable front passenger's seat.

Bigger changes are on tap for the 2022 model, which arrives by the end of this year. For 2022 the Tiguan gets an exterior styling refresh and the cabin receives updates including a new steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, heated seats across the lineup, and a new climate control panel.

But the big thing here is that the drivetrain remains the same, as does the overall layout and if you can land a new 2021 model even after the first of the year it will probably come in at a better price than the 2022 Tiguan. And you will get basically the same crossover — sans the slightly new look.

The 2021 Tiguan comes in five trim levels — S, SE, SE R-Line Black, SEL and SEL Premium R-Line. All models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. A third row of seats is standard on front-wheel-drive models and optional on all-wheel-drive versions.

Choosing a Tiguan trim is only about features and convenience equipment. There are no powertrain options. The jump from SE to SEL is a significant one, adding about $5,000, but all the extra features it adds, including a panoramic sunroof, remote start, power liftgate, and larger 18-inch wheels, may be worth it to you. Adding all-wheel drive, which is available on any trim, costs about $1,300 on the SEL, but makes the third row optional. If you're in the business of hauling kids, we'd spend the extra money to make the Tiguan a seven-seater.

The room for hauling cargo rather than little tykes came in handy during ou test week when we packed it with household items for a close relative who was moving cross-town. The cargo area with all seatbacks folded into a flat floor measures 65.7 cubic feet, making us happy that the Tiguan was in our driveway.

At times we wished for a bit more performance, especially when merging and passing. But the Tiguan proved sprightly in around-town driving up to 45 mph. In fact, in slower-speed situations, the Tiguan feels better than its recorded time from 0-to-60 of 8.2 seconds, about average for the segment, with a quarter mile time of 16.3 seconds at 86 mph.  

All-in-all the Tiguan's excellent driving dynamics combined with a comfortable suspension should please most people. And gas mileage, although not stellar, is adequate, measured at 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 combined on regular gas in front-wheel drive. Mileage suffers slightly with AWD at 20/27/23.

Inside, at the dash-center  is VW’s 10-inch touchscreen. It’s easy to understand and can be controlled with voice and simple volume and tuning knobs. Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto plus two USB ports up front ease connection and management of smart devices. If you like excellent sound in your car, the 480-watt Fender audio option is worth the money. Heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and rear air vents are easy to control.

The Tiguan offers a suite of driver-assistance technology. Available features include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist); Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Traffic Alert; Adaptive Cruise Control; Lane Keeping System (Lane Assist); Park Distance Control; High Beam Control; and Overhead View Camera.  

The Tiguan starts at $26,920 for the base S trim. Perhaps the best value for the money is the SEL trim level that comes with a plethora of standard equipment in front-wheel drive for $33,740. That's the model we drove for a week, and the only thing we would add if it were our daily driver is the upgraded Fender sound system. The lineup tops out at $39,095 for the SEL Premium R-Line with AWD.

2021 VW Tiguan


Base price: $26,920; as driven, $33,740
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 184 @ 4,499 rpm
Torque: 221 pound-feet @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3/2
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length: 185.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,721 pounds
Turning circle: 37.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 12 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 65.7 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.3 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 23 city, 29 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 8.2 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage

The Good
• Abundant standard safety
• One of few in segment with third row seating
• Ample second-row legroom

The Bad
• Firm ride

The Ugly
• Only one engine option