Long Term Review: VW Tiguan
I appreciate purpose-built vehicles. A Jeep Wrangler on underinflated 35-inch tires with a winch? Absolutely. A Nissan 240SX with a welded differential? Guilty. A Rolls-Royce Phantom with umbrella dryers built into the doors? But, of course. Those cars know what they are and they lean into it, because every sacrifice only makes them better. I’ll pass on the generic boxes whose greatest accomplishment is being inoffensive.
So, where does that leave me in relation to the Volkswagen Tiguan SE my wife and I bought a year ago? Does it fall into SUV/crossover/luxury/economy/sport purgatory, or has it managed to find its place in the world?
Facts and figures are readily available, so I’ll leave the spreadsheets to the folks over at Volkswagen.
The example we purchased is easy to spot, thanks to Volkswagen’s habanero orange metallic paint. With no need for all-wheel drive, we saved a few dollars and chose front-wheel drive and a fold-away pair of third-row seats (which we also do not need, but that’s ok). Synthetic leather, Apple CarPlay, and a panoramic sunroof combine to give our midrange SUV an upscale feel beyond what we paid for it. Tire aficionados will want to know that our car came equipped with Giti Comfort XA1 tires, but more on those later.
Surviving the Suburban Jungle
I admire a car that embraces its mission, no matter what that is. Variety is the spice of life.
Every environment presents its own challenges. For us, those challenges are potholes, traffic, and long stretches of highway between our house and many of the places we like to visit. Here, a crossover or SUV makes a fair bit of sense. While the suspension may not be sophisticated, its height allows the car to smoothly travel poorly-paved city roads. Fuel economy is rated at a 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Automatic stop/start in a sports car is insufferable; in this case, I actually don’t mind. CarPlay, combined with the eight-inch center touchscreen, is an absolute game-changer and a massive improvement over in-car navigation systems.
Behind the wheel, I’ve never mistaken the Tiguan for a sports car – but it does feel more like a wagon than a body-on-frame SUV, like the omnipresent Chevy Tahoes of our neighborhood. Steering is light, without being overboosted. Body roll and braking are totally acceptable for a vehicle of this size. The transmission’s sport mode offers a noticeable change, and anyone familiar with Volkswagen’s MQB (Modularer Querbaukasten, of course) platform will recognize the 2.0-liter TSI’s engine note as it climbs to redline. Yes, SUVs have redlines, and there’s nothing wrong with finding them every once in a while.
Car interiors have gotten much better in the past few years, but I still think the Tiguan’s interior build quality punches above its weight. Imitation leather and strategically placed soft-touch materials make the tactile experience feel more high end than the MSRP suggests, and a crisp design style leads me to believe the cabin will look fresh for many years to come.
Ample space makes everyday driving duties a breeze. Commuting, errands, and trips to the hardware store are all easy pickings for the Tiguan. Interior surfaces have proven robust enough to withstand a dog, saddle, skis, and lumber – although I did discover that a sheet of plywood cannot fit inside without an embarrassing trip back to Home Depot’s cutting center.
One option I can’t get enough of is the panoramic sunroof. Volkswagen asks an extra $1,200 for it, and it’s worth every penny. The added light and visibility transform the interior into an airy, relaxing greenhouse that makes me feel like part of my environment, rather than being insulated from it.
Go ahead and have some fun with the panoramic sunroof; think of it as a Tiguan Targa.
We cross-shopped the Tiguan with a few competing models. Some, like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Volvo XC40, were more expensive, but tempting. We loved their styling and character; just not enough to stretch our budget to reach them. Others, like the Jaguar E-Pace and Subaru Forester, were more expensive because of features we couldn’t justify. Sure, the Jag is more athletic, and we both love Subaru all-wheel drive, but our car’s driving duties wouldn’t be able to take advantage of those attributes. At the time of purchase, Volkswagen’s warranty was also so much better than the competition that it seemed irresponsible not to jump on it. In the end, we felt good about our decision to keep some money in our pockets and stick to the primary features on our wish list.
On several occasions, we have turned to the Tiguan for road trip duty. We even took it from our home outside Fort Worth, Texas to Taos, New Mexico for a ski trip. Driving across west Texas offers few distractions and serves as a wonderful litmus test for seat comfort and cabin noise, and I have to give the Tiguan high marks for both.
Once we reached the mountains, our focus shifted to snowy roads and incredible views. Many a tire selection soap box has been stood upon, but I’ll climb up again. Those Giti tires that come fitted from the factory; the ones from Singapore that I’d never heard of? They performed surprisingly well. The rental house we chose required us to make roughly a mile-long trek down a twisty, unplowed, unpaved, single-lane road under about eight inches of fresh snow. I mentally prepared for defeat and a chilly walk from the main road to the house, but the Tiguan romped through the snow without missing a beat. The storm continued into the next morning, when we made our way to Taos Ski Valley sans chains.
“People can try to come up here without all-wheel drive if they want, but we’re not going to tow them out of the ditch,” one parking lot attendant shouted to another as they guided us into our parking space.
I’ll admit, I took inventory of the Audis, Subarus, and pickups that surrounded us at that moment and felt a twinge of pride in our humble little Tiguan.
Volkswagen calls this color habanero orange metallic. Oklahoma State alumni will recognize it as go pokes orange.
So, where does the Tiguan stand after a year of ownership? I’ve determined that it’s more purpose-built than it looks. If you want an off-road-ready SUV, a fast SUV, or a luxury SUV, look elsewhere. If you want a comfortable, refined, and well-built SUV that feels like it cost more than it did, the Tiguan was built for you. A year into ownership, I award my stamp of approval without hesitation.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the 90’s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. Scott works as a freelance marketer for Dingo Productions in Fort Worth, Texas. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.