Since it debuted in 2007, Volkswagen’s Tiguan SUV has gradually become a mainstay in the compact SUV category – even if these days the model has grown to the point where it would surely fail to pass a weigh-in for eligibility in that segment, if there were such a thing. Its big growth spurt of course came with the overhaul of the model for North America for 2018. And lo and behold, the model was Volkswagen Canada’s top sell that year.
For 2019 the changes are few and not particularly noteworthy for this now-thoroughly American Tiguan.
Classic and functional
In a nutshell, the Tiguan is one of those vehicles that deftly wed comfort and functionality. And while in those respects it does marvellously well, it’s clear that the focus on creating a version friendly to U.S. consumers and their preferences means that quite a lot of oomph has been lost in the translation.
As mentioned, the 2019 Tiguan is little changed from 2018. Most of what’s new is in the options and the trim levels.
Three versions are on the menu this year: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. The bigger new Tiguan comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, which can be switched out for 18-inch wheels with the Highline version.
The Trendline comes with LED daytime running lights, as well as power, heated side-view mirrors. A good number of functionalities can be had in the higher trims, for example keyless entry and puch-button start and rain-detecting wipers for the Comfortline. The Highline version can be upgraded with the addition of adaptive LED headlights, dynamic headlights for curves and remote starter.
Inside, no surprise to discover that this Volkswagen looks and feels exactly like a Volkswagen. We’re definitely in traditional, functional terrain here, and there’s not much whiff of chic. That said the interior is well laid-out, the materials are generally soft-touch and a highlight is the big panoramic sunroof (optional on the Comfortline and included with the Highline).
The Tiguan is fitted standard with cloth-covered, manually adjusted seats. Opting for either of the other two versions will get you 8-way power-adjustable seats in leatherette or, in the Highline, leather.
The front section includes two USB ports and an array of user-friendly buttons, well-placed and simple of use. The Comfortline version brings heated front seats, while a heated steering wheel is available in the Highline.
Out of the box the Tiguan base model comes with a basic, functional 6-speaker audio system and 6.5-inch touchscreen, on which can be accessed Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps.
I’m pretty fond of Volkswagen infotainment interface, which for starters I find elegant with its integrated buttons on the glass screen. But beyond that the menu is intuitive to navigate. The standard screen, from our jaded 2019 perspective, a little small for all the operations you can do on it now, and fortunately it grows to 8 inches as of the Comfortline trim. The Highline version, meanwhile, adds a much-superior 9-speaker Fender audio system.
A third row that’s not for everyone
The Volkswagen Tiguan can officially welcome up to seven occupants if you go for that option. But like all three-row people movers in this class, compromises had to be made that affect back-row spacing and even cargo space.
Specifically, and most pertinently, as you would expect with a 7-seater (or I should say a 5+2 configuration), the third row is pretty much off-limit to adults, save in an emergency. Before you go for this model in its 7-person configuration, best to do some honest self-appraisal to see if you’ll really need that many seats regularly. Maybe you’d prefer increased cargo space, keeping in mind that the “invisible” components required for a third row result in an elevated floor in back.
The Tiguan can be had with a wide range of drive assist functions, though many of those only kick in with the top two trims. You will find the basics in the entry-level Trendline version, however.
The Comfortline is better-endowed, featuring automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind spot detection with rear traffic alert, etc. The highline comes with park assist and options like the 360-degree backup camera.
My tester for the week had the R-Line package, which a purely esthetic beauty-enhancing package that does something to boost the looks of the SUV, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the extra cost ($1,960). The upgrades include distinct bumpers and front grille, 19-inch alloy wheels and aluminum door sills featuring R-Line badging. Inside, you get an available leather-wrapped, heated sport steering wheel, black headliner and stainless-steel brake pedals.
All Tiguan models run on a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine generating 184 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, working in combination with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
By default the 2019 Tiguan Trendline comes with a front-wheel-drive configuration, but VW’s 4Motion AWD system can be optioned in on it, and it’s included in both the Comfortline and Highline versions. Yes, I know that for some motorists, even Canadians, all-wheel drive is not an all-consuming concern or even a necessity day-to-day, but odds are there will be days this winter you’ll be glad you have it – or rue the day you chose not to pony up the extra dough for it.
The front-wheel-drive configuration gives fuel consumption figures of 10.7L/100 km (city) and 8.0L/100 km (highway), while you do very slightly worse with the AWD version: 11.0L, 8.1L). For my part, my week in a Highline R-Line with the 4Motion system resulted in an average of 12.8L/100 km, skewed to city driving by a 60/40 ratio.
On the road
Essentially, driving the Tiguan is a pleasant enough experience as long as you’re not too demanding. It’s certainly comfortable, and it checks off most of the expected boxes for a vehicle of this type. Push a little and things go a little sideways, however, starting with the steering that’s not very crisp or precise, and some lag as the transmission works its way up the scale. Plus, the bigger Tiguan is more prone to roll when pushing into corners aggressively - I’d say more prone than even some other models in its class.
In general its handling is positive, and the 4Motion system earns high grades for its ability to maintain grip on rocky or pockmarked road surfaces.
If you like the progressive but firm brakes normally associated with VW products, there’s nothing to see here, just walk right on past. The brakes certainly are progressive – soft even – but there’s nothing very firm about them.
Overall, if you’re a chill kind of driver and a bit of roll, soft braking and weak-kneed acceleration doesn’t bother you, the Tiguan’s other assets make it a solid choice for you. It will allow you to save on fuel (a little) and provide a roomy, comfortable cabin (for the first two rows anyways).
The Trendline trim starts at $29,225, and it climbs to $31,475 when you add the 4Motion system. The Comfortline version comes in at $34,675 or more, and the Highline starts at $39,575. As mentioned, the R-Line package adds another $1,960 to the cost.
This Tiguan is a real mixed bag, with some worthy elements mixed in with some potential turn-offs. How much you enjoy it may come down to whether you consider it a big five-seater as opposed to a seven-seater-wannabe. The 2.0L 4-cylinder is anemic for the size of the vehicle, there’s no way around it. More punch, please. Then consider that this is an incredibly hard-fought segment, with new and improved models entering the fray every year. Renew or fall by the wayside.
- Comfortable seating, roomy interior
- The cabin and multimedia system are both well-laid-out and easy to usehabitacle et le
- Reasonable pricing for the category
- Good 4Motion AWD system
We like less
- The small third row of seats, of little real use
- The resulting loss of cargo space
- Driving experience runs the gamut of emotions from A to B
- Soft braking, anemic acceleration