The 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan faces some of the best-selling compact SUVs available today, including the likes of the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue and recently redesigned Toyota RAV4. Standing out among these formidable foes is going to take a lot more than a pretty paint job and big alloy wheels. In other words: When you’re looking for a smart buy on a not-too-big SUV, beauty must be more than skin (or in this case, sheet-metal) deep.
That’s exactly why we drove the Tiguan back-to-back with key rivals to see how each performed across a wide range of categories. Was the VW comfortable in town and easygoing on the highway? Did passengers in the second-row seats have as much comfort and stretch-out space as those up front? And let’s not forget all-important things like cargo room, fuel economy and available safety features. Basically, we did a lot of hard work and tabulating so that choosing your next SUV will be that much easier.
To see how the Tiguan compared to its direct competitors, be sure to check out our extensive comparison test via the links below. The results were close, and it goes to show how competitive the SUV market has become. For a quick take on how this Volkswagen eventually pulled away from the pack, keep reading.
Here are nine things we like, and five things we don’t, about the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan:
Things We Like
1. Refined Ride
The Tiguan immediately impressed us with ride quality that was quiet and controlled. Of the seven vehicles that made up our 2019 Compact SUV Challenge, the VW easily felt the most stable on the highway. This inspired confidence for anyone behind the wheel and also factors into why we noted the Tiguan was the most fun to drive, too.
2. Nimble Handling
Like the ride, the handling provided a great sense of what the Tiguan was doing in all driving conditions. In town, the steering is light and precise. Despite the SUV proportions, we complimented the carlike driving experience and said the Tiguan handles more like a tall hatchback versus an SUV. Considering VW’s reputation for building really good hatchbacks — that would be you, Golf — it’s great to see these manners in a family-oriented SUV.
3. Smooth Turbo Engine
The 184-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the Tiguan doesn’t offer class-leading power or torque, but it operates smoothly and works in unison with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration won’t knock your socks off, though we enjoyed how this VW gets down the road with a minimum of fuss. We commented that it was much quieter than the engines in the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue.
4. Cabin Quality
The Tiguan delivers a cabin that doesn’t feel like it was built to appease automotive accountants. Granted, the model we tested was a top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line edition, fitted with luxury touches such as leather seating and a panoramic moonroof. Still, the basic ingredients used in the Tiguan cabin have a quality look and feel to them.
5. Intelligent Infotainment Screen
The Tiguan comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, though the SEL model we drove was fitted with the optional 8-inch screen. The menus and graphics are clear and simple to use, and we appreciate even the standard infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not everything was perfect, however, but we’ll get to that shortly.
6. Rear Legroom
There really is a ton of room in the Tiguan for anyone seated in the front or second-row seats. It helps that the second row slides forward and back to provide extra room for people or make a little extra space for cargo behind the seatbacks.
7. Available Third-Row Seat
We’re a little hesitant adding the Tiguan’s available third-row seating because, to be blunt, it’s a tight squeeze for anyone but kids. Even your littlest driving companions will be seated almost on the floor, atop cushions that look more like something from a dollhouse than an SUV. OK, it might be nice to have the extra seating capacity in a pinch — “pinch” being the operative word, especially if you try shoehorning adults back there.
8. Strong Safety Ratings
Safety is always a strong consideration with any vehicle, so it’s good to see the Tiguan score high scores in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Tiguan got top marks in every crash test. The only thing that limited the VW from having an even stronger score was the marginal-to-poor-rated headlights fitted to certain trims. It should be noted that we graded the Tiguan higher for its Latch connectors during our own round of tests.
9. Cargo Room
Hey, a higher riding position and lots of cargo space is the reason you’re buying an SUV. If you ignore the third-row seating and keep it folded flat, the Tiguan offers a roomy 33 cubic feet of space. (That shrinks to about 13 cubic feet if you have the third-row seats occupied.)
More From Cars.com:
- 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan MPG: Our Real-World Testing Results
- What’s the Best Compact SUV of 2019?
- 2019 Compact SUV Challenge: How Do the CR-V, Rogue and Others Compare to the Tiguan?
- How We Found the Best Compact SUV of 2019
- Research the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan
Things We Don’t
1. We Weren’t Kidding About That Third Row
We’ve already complained about the available third-row seating, so we’ll keep this brief: If you really need extra seats to haul small kids, the accommodations in the Tiguan are OK. These third-row seats are standard on the Tiguan in front-wheel-drive format and optional on models equipped with all-wheel drive. We suggest saving your money or keeping the rows folded flat for anything but extreme kid-toting situations.
2. Firm Ride on Rough Pavement
While we complimented how the Tiguan maneuvers through city traffic and delivers a relaxed highway ride, rough pavement can spoil the party. Some blame might fall on the huge 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test vehicle. Smaller units are available and could soften the blow when the Tiguan encounters battle-scarred pavement, but in our comparison test, we noted how potholed roads revealed “a brittle, harsh ride.”
3. Mid-Pack Mileage
Despite its modest power output, the Tiguan doesn’t mark itself as a mileage champion. During our own real-world test of fuel economy, the Tiguan returned an average of 26.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. That’s not bad, but competitors like the Toyota RAV4 did better.
4. Lack of Storage Bins
While cargo capacity is fine, VW seems to have an aversion to offering handy cubby compartments on the dash and center console. The door pocket storage is OK for large water bottles, but if you’re looking for space for stuff that’s more hidden, the Tiguan falls short. The glove box is also small.
5. Interior Quality
This is a mixed bag of complaints, so forgive us for jumping around a bit. For starters, the leather seats fitted to our SEL felt more like the imitation variety. And despite being a well-optioned upper trim model, our Tiguan still had manual seat controls for the front passenger seat. That struck us as odd — and downright cheap on VW’s part. While the touchscreen is usually well-behaved, it’s easy to accidentally swipe touch controls when reaching for various menus and settings.
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