2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Review: 7 Things to Know

VW's small SUV gets an America-centric redo from stem to stern.

Will Sabel Courtney / The Drive

If 2016 was the year of Dieselgate at Volkswagen, 2017 may well turn out to be the year of the SUV for VW. Just weeks after the carmaker released the all-new, made-in-America-for-Americans VW Atlas into dealerships, Volkswagen has released the journalistic masses upon its new compact crossover, the second-generation Tiguan

While the Atlas may be the beneficiary of the big sales push these days, the Tiguan is arguably the more important vehicle, considering the booming sales of the small SUV category. Competitors like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue are rolling off showroom floors as fast as their parent companies can crank them out. If VW wants to boost its profits to help offset those billions it has to shell out to make amends with diesel owners and various governments, it needs a hit in this segment. 

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On paper, at least, the 2018 Tiguan seems to have what it takes to grab that sweet, sweet American market share. It's all-new, based on the same MQB platform that serves as the backbone for everything from the Golf to the Atlas to the Audi TT. It comes with a turbocharged inline-four to balance power and efficiency, offers a choice of front- and all-wheel-drive, and offers as much as 58 percent more cargo space than the vehicle it replaces—all while bearing a range of MSRPs that sit around or below the average new car price. It goes on sale later this summer; don't be surprised if it's the best-selling VW in the U.S. by Memorial Day 2018. 

That is, of course, if people like it. Here, then, are the seven things you need to know about the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan—first impressions straight from The Drive's first drive of the new crossover in Colorado this week.  

Will Sabel Courtney / The Drive

1. The VW Tiguan is just-right sized.

If Goldilocks were looking for an SUV, she'd likely coo words of approval upon sizing up Volkswagen's new SUV.  At roughly 15 and a half feet long, it's shorter than a Honda Accord, yet it still manages to accommodate three rows of seats. Fitting three bears might be a bit difficult, however, depending on how old Baby Bear happens to be. The first and second rows are roomy enough for fully-grown humans (though the three-person bench between the back doors is park-bench flat, which might make it a little uncomfortable on long trips), but the third row is...tight. Kids in those golden years between booster seats and puberty will fit back there all right, but don't put anyone of voting age back there unless you really don't care for their politics. 

2. It doesn't draw attention to itself—which is a good thing. 

While the previous Tiguan looked a bit like a Golf that fell into the same ooze that turned four terrapins into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the second-gen model goes conservative with its styling, resembling nothing so much as a BMW X3 with a Passat front end. Which, in this writer's opinion, is a smart move on VW's part. The small SUV marketplace is filled with over-styled oddballs (Nissan Juke, meet Toyota C-HR; CHR, meet Juke); going with a more restrained look opens the Tiguan up to a broader audience. Hey, boring people need cars, too. 

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The 2018 Tiguan: Politely good-looking.

3. You don't need to load up on options to get a good Tiguan.

While you can option a Tiguan past the $40,000 mark if you have cash to burn, the basic model starts at $25,345 before tax, title, and destination get socked onto the bill. That may buy you the cheapest Tiguan, but it's hardly a stripper by objective standards; even the entry-level Tiguan S comes with a rearview camera, a touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, (blessedly disable-able) automatic stop-start, and a standard third row of seats on FWD versions. 

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Objects in picture are smaller than they appear.

4. But you can load the Tiguan up with tech, too.

Should you choose to go for the top-tier Tiguan, you can roll off the lot in a compact SUV bearing (deep breath): VW's own version of the Audi virtual cockpit instrument panel, active cruise control, pedestrian-sensing automatic braking, rear traffic detection and collision avoidance, lane departure prevention, 360-degree-view cameras, parking sonar, ambient lighting, a hands-free power tailgate, LED headlights, and remote starting capabilities. As well as a panoramic moonroof, 480-watt Fender stereo, dual-zone climate control, and the R-Line Package's more aggressive styling and 20-inch wheels on the less-technological side, should you be interested in such things.

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Thankfully, getting the Digital Cockpit doesn't force you to listen to Elvis Costello.

5. The new Tiguan is Q-U-I-E-T.

Even at highway speeds, wind roar is almost nonexistent, with only a bit of road roar from the comfort-biased all-season tires reaching the cabin. It's the sort of German solidity that you don't expect in a car starting around $26,000. 

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The Tiguan's interior is clean, function, and very recognizably VW.

6. Don't expect grande GTI performance. 

With 184 horsepower, the Tiguan's engine more or less splits the difference between the Golf and GTI. Out on the streets, however, you have to cane this crossover pretty hard to extract the most out of it. The curb weight—which varies from 3,730 to 4,043 pounds, depending on whether you choose all-wheel-drive and the third row of seats—is partly to blame, but so are the throttle mapping and eight-speed automatic, which seem to favor a smooth launch over an accelerative punch. That sort of logic makes sense for a family-focused sport-ute, but in the Tiguan's case, the lack of gas pedal response off the line borders on worrisome on some occasions—for example, trying to make a left turn from a stop across multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic. 

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Do expect grande GTI room in back, however.

7. If you liked the old Tiguan more...well, you're in luck.

The outgoing VW Tiguan—which is currently going on 10 years old—won't be driving off into the sunset now that its replacement has sauntered into town. It'll be sticking around for the foreseeable future, under the name "Tiguan Limited." 

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"Don't youuu...forget about me..."

Bonus fact: The name "Tiguan" is a portmanteau of the German words for "tiger" and "iguana."

So feel free to call it the VW Tiguana if you want.