2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Buying Advice
This is the best crossover for you if you crave German styling and engineering combined with American sensibility and practicality. Volkswagen has redesigned its compact-class SUV for the 2018 model year, introducing a new Tiguan that stretches the definition of “compact.” It’s one of the largest and heaviest vehicles in the competitive set – but also among the very roomiest. It even offers a small, third-row seat for seven-passenger capacity.
At 185.1 inches overall, this second-generation Tiguan is more than 10 inches longer than its predecessor (which, incidentally, Volkswagen continues to sell as the Tiguan Limited). Against top rivals, it’s about 5 inches longer than a Honda CR-V, nearly an inch longer than a Nissan Rogue, and 2 inches longer than a Toyota RAV4.
Undersized, overpriced, and a little awkward-looking, the first-generation Tiguan couldn’t capitalize on its Euro-quality road manners and languished near the bottom of the sales charts. Demand for the new model is much stronger but still faces lots of headwinds, including intense competition and VW’s reputation for spotty reliability.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?
Given today’s computer-aided engineering and the auto industry’s sophisticated testing methods, we’ve relaxed our reservations about recommending a brand-new vehicle in its first model year of production. However, Volkswagen dependability is still a hurdle, and repair and maintenance costs are generally higher than for similar American- or Japanese-brand vehicles. No argument here if you’d prefer to wait for the 2019 Tiguan to see what bugs if any need to be worked out.
The lineup consists of base S, mid-grade SE and SEL, and top-line SEL Premium. All use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive is optional across the board. Tiguan joins Outlander as the only other compact-class crossover to offer three-row seating (Rogue was available with such an option, but it has been dropped for 2018). Interestingly, this configuration is standard on front-drive models and a $500 option on those with AWD.
Styling: Cynics will say the redesigned 2018 Tiguan looks like nothing more than a cut-down version of VW’s larger Atlas crossover. They’re not exactly wrong, but we don’t consider this a point against the Tiguan. Its styling is clean, if a bit bland. LED daytime running lights and taillights are standard across the board, with the SEL Premium receiving an upgrade to steering-linked LED headlights. S and SE grades have 17-inch wheels, the SEL has 18s, and the SEL Premium has 19s. Arriving in early-calendar 2018 is an R-Line Package for the SEL and SEL Premium that adds 19- and 20-inch wheels, respectively, unique bumpers, body-color wheel arch extensions and side skirts, a black headliner, stainless steel pedal covers and door sills, and R-Line badging on the steering wheel and in the infotainment system.
Interior room and comfort are arguably the Tiguan’s strongest assets. The front seats are supportive, with a wide range of travel to accommodate drivers and passengers of just about any size. A high-set seating position and reasonably thin roof pillars make visibility surprisingly good.
The second-row bench offers up to seven inches of fore and aft travel, delivering the most legroom in the class. Headroom is plentiful, even beneath the housing of the panoramic sunroof that’s optional on the SE and standard on the SEL and SEL Premium. The third row is primarily for use in a pinch. It would be nice if VW offered front-drive Tiguan buyers the option to delete this feature in exchange for a discount off the asking price.
The control layout is standard, modern VW fare. Everything is designed with Teutonic discipline, which includes no-nonsense gauges that are easy to read and abetted by a useful center display screen between the speedometer and tachometer. SEL Premium grades offer Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit display, which substitutes traditional instrumentation for a single LCD panel that can be customized to show a variety of information, including a redundant readout of the vehicle’s imbedded GPS navigation system. Like the Virtual Cockpit from Volkswagen’s premium Audi division, the Digital Cockpit is an interesting novelty, but we fear what would happen in the event of a system failure. At least you have that six-year warranty to back you up.
More pleasing is VW’s MIB II infotainment system, which includes a glass-covered 8-inch touchscreen display on SE and higher grades (S versions get a standard-looking 6.5-inch screen). All models support Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, but those with the larger screen deliver the optimal user experience. Crisp, high-resolution graphics, fast response to user inputs, a proximity sensor that increases the size of some on-screen controls as your finger approaches, and support for VW’s Car-Net telematics make MIB II one of the best in-vehicle infotainment setups available.
Tiguan’s cargo capacity increases markedly over the outgoing model. On three-row models, there’s 12 cubic feet of space behind the aft-most seats, 33 cubic feet behind the second row, and 65.7 total. Models without the third row have 37.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 73.5 with them folded. On all, the second-row can fold in a 40/20/40 configuration, which is a bit more flexible than the class norm. Small-items storage runs with the pack. The door pockets are generously sized, but the center console is on the small side.
Mechanical: The 2018 Tiguan rides a variant of Volkswagen’s modular “MQB” platform, the same one that underpins the company’s sporty Golf and Golf GTI compact hatchbacks. However, if you’re expecting the new Tiguan to drive like a Golf, you’ll be somewhat disappointed. It doesn’t handle badly, far from it, but the steering lacks some road feel, and there’s a bit more body lean in fast turns that we were expecting, particularly on S and SE models with their standard 17-inch tires. The tradeoff is a buttery smooth ride. The larger tires on SEL and SEL Premium enhance grip slightly but make the ride more jittery. You’ll want to try before you buy to see if it’s a compromise you’re willing to make. If you want a Volkswagen utility vehicle with sporty road manners, look to the excellent Golf Alltrack wagon or the old Tiguan Limited.
All Tiguan models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from VW’s corporate parts bin. In this application, it produces a class-competitive 184-horsepower and a better-than-average 221 pound-feet of torque. The extra torque is necessary to help give this crossover some semblance of get-up-and-go, as it’s one of the heaviest vehicles in the competitive set.
Its sole transmission is an 8-speed automatic whose gearing is very much biased toward fuel economy. This vehicle wants to get into the highest gear as soon as possible, which bogs down the engine in stop-and-go urban/suburban commuting. A shift-altering Sport mode helps, but this will have a negative impact on fuel economy, which is already near the back of the pack (see below for details).
If you live in a rainy or snowy climate, it’s worth spending the extra money to equip the Tiguan with AWD. The system includes a console-mounted dial to configure the system among on-road, snow, off-road, and custom off-road settings. Tiguan has nearly 8 inches of ground clearance, but it’s not really designed for severe off-roading like the kind that’s possible in the Jeep Cherokee. Buyers in warmer climates can stick with front-wheel drive, unless of course, you don’t need the third-row seat, in which case you have no choice but to get AWD.
Features: Tiguan S grades are basic, coming equipped with the expected suite of power accessories, along with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, CarPlay, Android Auto, cloth upholstery, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment screen.
Most buyers will like start their shopping at the SE level, which includes dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access with pushbutton ignition, VW’s convincing V-Tex leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, 10-way power driver seat, satellite radio, two front USB ports (versus one in the S), 8-inch infotainment screen, blind-spot alert, forward-collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking.
Moving to the SEL nets a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch wheels, radar-based adaptive cruise control, remote engine start, rear USB charging port, and imbedded navigation.
SEL Premium versions add full LED headlights, digital cockpit instrument panel, genuine leather upholstery, hands-free power liftgate, rear-obstacle detection with brake intervention, 19-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, surround-view camera, VW’s Fender co-branded audio system, pedestrian detection for the forward-collision alert system, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlights.
One of the main issues with the outgoing Tiguan (Limited) was its stratospheric pricing relative to its size and rivals. The 2018 model mostly addresses this. Note that starting prices listed here include a $900 destination fee.
With front-wheel drive, the Tiguan S starts at $26,095, the SE at 29,830, the SEL at $33,450, and the SEL Premium at $37,150. AWD is $1,300 for all models, and “Habanero Orange” paint is $295. The third-row seat for AWD models is $500.
The driver-assistance features that are standard on the SE grade are part of an $850 option package on the S.
SE extras include 18-inch wheels for $300 and a panoramic sunroof for $1,200.
SEL and SEL Premium are available with the R-Line Package, which costs $1,795 and $1,495, respectively.
Our pick for best value is the AWD SE with no other options. It will carry a sticker price of $31,130, which is right in line with similarly equipped compact crossovers from Honda and Toyota. Even though this is a new model, competition is stiff in the compact-crossover segment, so dealers should be willing to provide discounts to get you to sign on the proverbial dotted line.
With curbs weights of 3,777 pounds with front-wheel drive and 3,858 pounds with AWD, the 2018 Tiguan is one of the heaviest vehicles in the class. This takes a toll on its fuel-economy ratings, which are 22/27/24 mpg city/highway/combined and 21/27/23 mpg, respectively.
All models have idle stop/start that shuts down the engine at a stop and restarts it when the driver releases their foot from the brake pedal. The restart process is not overly intrusive, but it doesn’t seem to offer much benefit for fuel economy.
Tiguan uses regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.
Probably not much in the near-term. We would like to see a full suite of driver-assistance features become standard across the board, rather than on just the most expensive trim level. It would also behoove VW to re-program the automatic transmission to make it operate more smoothly in stop-and-go driving. A mid-lifecycle freshening will likely happen in model-year 2021 or 2022, at which point we could see Volkswagen supplement the Tiguan’s gas engine with a battery-powered electric motor, which could provide a welcome boost to drivetrain responsiveness and fuel economy.
The 2018 Tiguan is better than the…
Ford Escape, which has far less passenger and cargo space, yet has the potential to cost the same as the VW. Jeep Cherokee, for the same reasons as the Escape, plus Jeep’s reputation for reliability is just as poor, if not more, than VW’s. Hyundai Tucson, whose available dual-clutch automatic transmission behaves more poorly than the Tiguan’s.
The 2018 Tiguan is not as good as the…
Chevrolet Equinox, which isn’t quite as roomy but is more refined. Honda CR-V, the segment’s gold standard for versatility, road manners, reliability, and resale value. Nissan Rogue, which rides as well as the Tiguan but is available at a lower price point with a similar level of equipment.