Tiguan big on space, utility
Volkswagen has long prided itself on building cars geared to those who drive briskly, those who take corners quick enough to make the spouse clutch the interior grab handles while casting the eye. VW’S all-new 2018 Tiguan might have started out on the drawing board with that focus, but what came out the other end is something far more friendly to families. Hence the optional third row, however small, and its otherwise roomy new cabin.
But forget the third row. Honestly, for those who really need a seven-seater, move up to the Atlas or get a minivan. Opting for a third row eats up precious cargo space, of which there is plenty in the new Tiguan two-row models. Indeed, based on the same chassis as the much bigger Atlas, VW’S new Tiguan has grown some 268 millimetres over the outgoing model. Interior space is boosted and cargo expanded by almost 60 per cent in the five-seater. Thank goodness for that, because the tired, 10-year old Tiggy was not much bigger than a standard Golf. The new one is like stepping into a van: cavernous, just shy in cargo to the segment-leading Honda CR-V.
On our two-row test model, the new Tiguan yielded 37.6 cubic feet (1,065 litres) of space behind the 40/20/40-split folding rear seats and 73.5 cubic feet (2,080 L) with the seats down. With the seats up, there’s enough room to swallow four or five good-sized hockey bags. The rear seats release easily with a lever from the rear or from a cord at the seat base, the cargo floor covers the spare tire, and tiedown hooks and a 12-volt outlet are handy.
On our Highline model — the top trim in a trio that also includes the base Trendline and mid-range Comfortline — the power tailgate can be opened and closed with the key fob or buttons on the tailgate. Nooks and cubbies in the back appear usable.
Rear-seat legroom is more than generous. I measured six inches of space from my knees to the seatback. Even with the front seats positioned well back, six-foot-tall teenagers will have ample knee room. Kids in car seats won’t be able to kick the back of the front seats or land punches at each other, and that alone could be worth the price of admission.
That price is significant — $39,175 to start for the Highline. While base Tiguans start at $28,925 without 4Motion all-wheel drive ($31,175 with 4Motion), our test unit also came with a $1,470 driver-assistance package that includes adaptive cruise, a 360-degree monitor, lane assist, light assist and remote start. With freight and fees, the price topped $42,500 before taxes. The bigger, mid-level Comfortline Atlas costs $39,690 before freight ($43,790 with AWD) and comes only marginally less equipped. So, yes, there’s a price premium on the new Tiguan. By comparison, the most expensive 2018 Honda CR-V Touring costs $38,490, and the uplevel Mazda CX-5 GT comes in at $34,700 to start.
The CX-5 feels somewhat sportier, too. Even when the Tiguan was in Sport mode — other modes are Normal, Eco and Individual — the Tiguan felt reluctant to accelerate off the line and anywhere near the low end.
There’s no shortage of torque — 221 pound-feet from the revised 2.0-L turbocharged and directinjected four-cylinder — and it’s all available early at low rpm. That should be plenty, but the driver really needs to stand on the skinny pedal to make much happen. Then, the Tiggy will giddy up, whipping the 184-horsepower engine to make it play with the new eight-speed automatic. The engine is willing, for sure, but its initial delivery is less than ideal. It can be growly too; my son asked if it was a diesel.
The eight-speed automatic transmission has no such ailments, shifting smartly and appropriately at all times. Maximum towing is limited to 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms). Fuel consumption was acceptable. On the highway at 100 km/h, I achieved a low of 8.2 L/100 km. In town, the average was closer to 10. And it takes regular fuel, with a full, 58-L tank showing almost 700 km of range.
Better, and seriously satisfying, is the ride. Extremely smooth, the 2018 Tiguan benefits from the added 185 mm of wheelbase. Scarred and broken roads are comfortably absorbed, yet handling is surprisingly tight, given the Tiguan’s significant 1,678-kg curb weight. On twisty country roads, the Tiguan stuck to the road with little body lean. The electric power steering system is quick to come off-centre, but responsive and light with moderate feedback. Braking feels strong, and road noise is well controlled but not completely unnoticeable. Visibility is very good and it’s easy to drive.
Inside is where the Tiguan truly
stands apart. While a minor rattle was detected, the fit and finish are excellent, the eight-inch Composition Media touch screen is a much improved version of the infotainment systems that came before, although the glass touchscreen surface does get marred easily with fingerprints. A premium, multi-colour instrument screen is standard on Comfortline and Highline. Clear and easy to see, the instrumentation looks sharp. It’s also highly configurable, even allowing navigation to be displayed on the centre screen. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard.
A 360-degree view, displayed across the eight-inch central screen, is very good and helpful in all parking situations. The Tiguan’s Park Distance Control will alert you to objects and even apply the brakes if it detects an imminent impact. The seats, while never uncomfortable, didn’t adjust to a completely natural feel, perhaps because of the high dash. But getting in and out is easy, good for those with sore backs and aging bones.
The look of the new Tiguan is equally impressive. No, its sharp lines and tidy front and rear won’t lure GTI drivers out of their cars. But for families looking for space, utility and function in a Germanengineered CUV, the 2018 Tiguan has almost everything else they could want.