Review: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

My first question about the Volkswagen Tiguan was simple: What’s the origin of that name? And I’m glad I looked it up, because it gave me a good chuckle.

And now you wanna know, right? Well, the name is a result of a contest held by a Germany car magazine. One of the entries was a mashup of two German words for Tiger and Iguana. I don’t know why that’s funny to me, but it is.

As for the vehicle itself, it’s been years since I drove a Volkswagen, and I was impressed with the look, the materials, and the tech features. Not so impressed with one particular element of the drive, but more on that in a bit.

The Basics

Not long ago I reviewed a car that came in just one trim style, which is (a) unusual, but also (b) kinda refreshing. It’s like the car maker said “This is our car. Why make a bunch of versions?”

Volkswagen does not share that attitude. The Tiguan is offered in five, count ‘em, five trim levels. And it’s a tad confusing for us silly Americans because we’re used to cars labeled “Limited” to be one of the top-tier levels of a model. In the Tiguan the Limited is the base model. I spent a week in the top of the line SEL Premium.

This small SUV/crossover – and I think we need to all eventually settle on one description – has nice lines and a sleek backside. VW was tired of the complaints about the Tiguan not having enough cargo space, so with the 2018 version they stretched the vehicle about ten inches. That extra room was devoted to space in the way-back and to add a little passenger room. There’s also an optional third row of seats, if you wanna cram a lot of little people into your ride.

Volkswagen powers the entire Tiguan line with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder turbo-charged engine.

The Inside

The first thing that struck me was the styling of the seats. I found the stitching and overall eye-appeal to be excellent. The seats are comfortable, too. Cloth upholstery is standard for the base models, faux leather in the mid-trim levels, and the real deal for the SEL Premium.

The interior is definitely one of the areas Volkswagen targeted in this year’s update, and it shows. The layout is well planned, and the materials are quite good.

Storage in the center console was so-so, which was surprising. But I like the additional storage compartment below the audio controls on the dash.

There’s ample space in the back, assuming that you don’t sacrifice that room in exchange for a third row of seats. Just an opinion here, but I don’t think that’s the play you wanna make. The Tiguan isn’t really best suited for 7 passengers. If you have a large family or just need to constantly haul several bodies around, you’d be better off stepping up to a larger SUV in general.

If you want more space, too, the 2nd row of seats folds down in the basic 60/40 configuration.

The panoramic roof in the SEL Premium is fun, and it’s available as an option on some of the lower trim levels. I’d go for it.

The Drive

Overall? It’s a smooth, quiet ride, which is important and appreciated. But this is also the one area where I wasn’t completely blown away by the Tiguan.

The problem is a lack of punchy acceleration when you need it. A couple of times I found myself pulling out into busy traffic and expecting the SUV to get up to speed. Instead I had to nurse the car into giddy-up mode. This wasn’t a problem when already cruising along – just those few times when you really wanna punch it from a full stop.

I never attempted to take the Tiguan off-road, but since it does come with optional all-wheel-drive and pretty decent ground clearance, it likely would work fine on your next camping trip.

The Tech

I give high marks to the Volkswagen designers in this category. The controls for the Tiguan are pretty basic and simple – and that, my friend, is a huge compliment. Nobody’s trying to dazzle you with needless tech glitz, the kind that makes you jump through hoops just to adjust the fan.

No, it’s a very driver-friendly experience. The lower trim levels come with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, but that bumps up to an 8-inch screen in the higher levels.

You’re able to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, plus VW offers their own smartphone app if you’d like to control other features, like door locks, etc.

The redesigned 2018 Tiguan also adds some much-needed (at least if you wanna keep up with the competition) driver safety aids. Blind-spot monitors, forward collision monitors, and a very good overhead view camera system get the thumbs up.

The Bottom Line

It’s apparent that Volkswagen listened to some of the critics who wanted to really like the Tiguan in years past, but were frustrated by what was missing. Now those elements are in the mix.

Other than the issue with initial oomph off the starting line, the drive, the comfort level, and the easy-to-use tech gear make the Tiguan a good choice. The gas mileage is maybe not what it should be, but the price (considering the safety upgrades) is comparable to others in the class.

The Details

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium
2.0-L 4-cylinder engine
4Motion all-wheel-drive
Mileage (SEL Premium trim): 21/27/23 combined
MSRP: $37,550
As tested: $38,395

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