The second-generation of the Volkswagen Tiguan is aimed at the sweetest of sweet spots in today’s new-car market, that of the compact crossover. These are the favored rides of a plurality of American drivers: versatile wagons with decent space inside but a small footprint outside.
Modern engineering has made these tall vehicles handle as well as passenger cars, with comparable high-speed stability, and admirable fuel mileage. They also boast the higher seating position that many drivers, especially women, crave for improved visibility and the feeling of security. No wonder small crossovers are robbing sales from midsize and compact sedans.
The 2019 Tiguan displays Volkswagen’s usual skill in creating workaday vehicles that are also appealing and fun to drive. And unlike most European-brand entries into the compact crossover market, the VW is as affordable as those from the U.S. and Asia.
VW upped Tiguan’s game last year, creating a second generation built on the automaker’s ubiquitous MQB architecture, a shared modular platform that underpins essentially all VW, Audi and (in Europe) Seat and Škoda vehicles, large and small. That cuts down massively on engineering costs while providing the brands with a distinctive driving character.
Tiguan benefited from joining the MQB club, which resulted in a slightly bigger crossover with improved interior space, and stable ride and handling. The little wagon feels lively and agile on the road, more like a well-sorted passenger car than an SUV. Refined drivability is a Volkswagen/Audi strong suit, and it translates well to the Tiguan.
Just in case you have not been so informed, the name Tiguan – yet another of VW’s unique (some might say oddball) collection of vehicle brands – is derived from imagining a fanciful creature that is part tiger and part iguana. Now, that could make for some severe personality conflicts, but in the case of the vehicle itself, all is peace and harmony.
Tiguan comes in seven trim levels, S, SE, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL R-Line Black, SEL Premium, and SEL Premium R-Line, each of them powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 184 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque, connected with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Manual shifting is, sadly, a thing of the past.
The transmission was right on the ball, though, and the package delivers decent EPA fuel mileage rating of 22 city, 29 highway and 25 overall for FWD models, and losing just one mpg for city and overall driving with all-wheel drive.
The Tiguan test vehicle was the bottom-of-the-line S, the front-wheel-drive base model enhanced only with a Driver Assistance Package of forward collision warning and autonomous braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitor and rear traffic alert, a worthwhile option group at just $450.
The only other option was Habanero Orange Metallic paint, which was striking but cost an extra $295, which seems like a lot to spend on this otherwise tight-budget Tiguan model. The orange crossover would have looked more tiger-y with black stripes.
While definitely lacking in features – what, no satellite radio? – the S was acceptably equipped with gear that not long ago would have been found only on luxury cars, such as a suite of electronic safety systems, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, 6-speaker sound system, and power locks and mirrors, which are also heated.
The tester also came with a third-row seat, which seems unusual in a compact crossover but would come in handy if you had some extra kids to transport. Regulation-size adults would find it cramped. The seat folds into a flat cargo floor.
The middle seat adjusts fore and aft, and reclines. It also folds flatly into the floor, which creates a fairly commodious space for camping gear or Home Depot projects.
Overall, the Tiguan is a likable wagon that is considerably more fun to drive than expected in this class of vehicles that generally emphasizes comfort and practicality. The VW has a nicely compliant ride, too, not harsh or buffeting yet firm when you want it to be, such as in the corners.
The engine is not mighty but strong enough for good acceleration and relaxed highway cruising. Steering and braking feel responsive and direct. Overall, a nice-driving vehicle with a decided VW feel, which is a good thing.
In more practical matters, the crossover comes with an impressive bumper-to-bumper limited warranty for six years or 72,000 miles, and it’s transferrable to subsequent owners.
Tiguan has been getting rave reviews since its 2018 makeover, and it’s easy to see why. Even this base model sparkles.
2019 Volkswagen Tiguan S
Vehicle type: seven-passenger, five-door crossover, front-wheel drive
Base price: $24,295 Price as tested: $26,035
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, 184 horsepower at 4,400 rpm, 221 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches Overall length/width: 184.4 inches / 72.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,777 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined
Assembled in: Puebla, Mexico