Volkswagen understands that when it comes to the U.S. auto market, size matters.
While that’s ironic for a brand that made its name in the U.S. selling the tiny Beetle, the move to larger vehicles has helped VW reestablish a solid footing in this market. The 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan crossover is one of the vehicles that demonstrate the success of the automaker’s larger vehicles strategy.
It is a roomy compact SUV that ranks high on the comfort and convenience quotient. The design is far larger than the Tiguan generation it replaced in the 2018 model year. It competes with the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. For those who are curious, the odd Tiguan name is a mashup between tiger and iguana.
Supersizing the Tiguan paid off. VW sold nearly 110,000 Tiguans last year, a 7 percent gain during a period when overall auto sales dipped 1 percent. It is VW’s top seller in the U.S. Volkswagen’s even bigger Atlas SUV also does well, with sales nearing 82,000 last year. Together, the two SUVs account for more than half of the brand’s U.S. sales. And with the recent addition of the large 5-passenger Atlas Cross Sport, VW’s shift to a crossover/SUV company will become even more evident this year.
WIDE PRICE RANGE
The Tiguan has one of the widest price ranges of any mass-market compact SUV. A front-wheel-drive Tiguan has a suggested price of $24,945 plus a $1,020 destination charge. All-wheel-drive adds another $1,300. This is a pretty basic vehicle with cloth seats, a manually adjustable driver’s seat, a 6.5-inch touch screen and just one USB port. But it does have a standard set of important safety features included forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. Buyers get blind spot and rear traffic alerts.
But what makes this configuration appealing for young families on a budget is that it is one of the least expensive SUVs that has a third row. It’s small, and not comfortable for anyone but young teens and children. But it is handy when drivers occasionally find themselves shuttling a few extra children around. More on the third row later.
Pricing climbs pretty steeply from there across five trim lines reaching all the way to $38,795 plus $1,020 destination fee for the SEL Premium R-Line. That was the vehicle Trucks.com tested. With a couple of options, it reached nearly $42,000 including the destination charge. That’s creeps into the premium price range and is about the starting price of a BMW X3 or a nicely equipped Acura RDX.
The Tiguan SE is the smartest trim level. It’s about an extra $2,000 over the base price but that buys comfortable and durable synthetic leather seating, heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, a bigger 8-inch touchscreen and three USB ports. These are the types of niceties that make long car trips palatable for the driver and passengers alike. Who wants the teens fighting over the only USB port?
THIRD ROW QUIRK
VW configured the Tiguan oddly. The third row is standard on the front-wheel-drive model but is a $595 option on the more expensive, all-wheel-drive model. This is an odd result from how Volkswagen deals with fuel economy regulations in the U.S. All-wheel-drive SUVs count as trucks with a lower mpg bar. Two-wheel-drive SUVs get a break if they have contain a third row.
In Tiguans with three rows of seating, the second-row bench can recline, slide seven inches fore and aft, fold down and be split 40/20/40. The 50/50 split third-row provides seating for two, and also folds down.
The Tiguan is one of the better driving compact crossovers, but it could be easily improved. As it grew vehicles to better target U.S. consumer preferences, VW lost a bit of its German driving heritage. It turned the Tiguan into a roomy crossover, competitive with domestic and Japanese brand offerings. But it dumbed down the driving dynamics. It could use a touch more agility and steering feel. It also is a bit slow. Consumer Reports measured the 0 to 60 time at about 10 seconds, others have it at around 9 seconds. This is probably a sacrifice to gain better fuel economy. The crossover is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine that provides 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The motor is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
But the Tiguan scores points with a quieter than average cabin, comfortable seating and ergonomic controls. The Fender sound system in the Trucks.com test model added to the Tiguan’s isolated feel from traffic noise. The SUV is a good choice for long commutes.
The front-wheel-drive Tiguan gets 22 mpg in city driving, 29 on the highway and 25 in combined driving. The all-wheel-drive version achieves 20, 27 and 23 respectively.
The standard safety technology includes forward collision warning that sees both vehicles and pedestrians, and in some cases, provides automatic emergency braking. The standard Tiguan also has a blind spot monitor that uses two radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle to scan the approaching traffic and warn drivers of vehicles in adjacent lanes. The crossover also has standard rear traffic alert. More advanced systems such as adaptive cruise control are options.
The standard crossover features a 6.5-inch touchscreen with just one USB port. But the SE trim level has a nicer 8-inch screen and a wireless charging system for phones. All Tiguans have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard features.
VW provides coverage for four years or 50,000-miles, whichever occurs first. It transfers to a subsequent owner throughout the remainder of its duration.