By on September 1, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy Cain

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion

2.0-liter DOHC inline-four (184 horsepower @ 4,400 rpm; 221 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

21 city / 27 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

11.3 city / 8.8 highway / 10.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

25.9 mpg [9.1 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $26,245 (U.S) / $30,820 (Canada)

As Tested: $38,745 (U.S.) / $42,540 (Canada)

Prices include $900 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

It took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in 2008, more than a decade after the compact SUV craze began, the first-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores. The Tiguan was more premium-priced than it deserved to be and smaller than it needed to be, but with a potent powerplant and fun-loving on-road behavior, those who could afford it and fit in it were happy.

It took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in the summer of 2017, nearly a decade after the first Tiguan arrived and eventually watched the release of two new Honda CR-Vs, two new Hyundai Tucsons, countless rival redesigns, and a bevy of new competitors, the second-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is now competitively priced. It’s properly sized — marginally larger than many rivals rather than distinctly smaller. This time, however, because of extra weight and an intransigent powertrain, the Tiguan doesn’t feel quite so punchy off the line. And in place of a dynamic repertoire vaguely reminiscent of an Mk5 Golf GTI — lively steering, quick turn-in, grippy cornering — the 2018 Tiguan is comfort-focused, keen on absorbing and mollifying and coddling.

Bigger, more comfortable, and arguably more attractive? The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan finally sounds like a Tiguan American crossover buyers might actually want.

They certainly didn’t want the first Tiguan. Blessed by price reductions, a renewed focus on models that weren’t previously sold with outlawed TDI diesels, and a rising pro-SUV tide, Tiguan sales peaked in the U.S. at only 43,638 units in 2016, the final year of its nine-year run. Even then, Volkswagen represented just a drop in the bucket by claiming less than 2 percent market share in America’s small SUV/crossover segment.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainSize Matters

For a company with lofty sales goals — cast aside by a diesel emissions crisis — failure to adequately compete in one of the biggest new vehicle segments is unacceptable. So the second-gen Tiguan is more than 10 inches longer than the undersized first Tiguan. In fact, at 185.1 inches long, the Tiguan stretches 7 inches past the bumper of the Ford Escape, 5 inches farther than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, and 3 inches beyond the Nissan Rogue.

By no means does the Tiguan feel vast. It’s still half a foot shorter, bumper to bumper, than the Volkswagen Passat. But the newfound length pays huge dividends in the second row, which has a broad range of fore/aft motion and presents loads of legroom. Three across? It’ll be tight — there’s a tall center hump and only 56 inches of shoulder room — but that’s not abnormal for the class.

Out back, too, the Tiguan is now a capable hauler of cargo. The previous model’s 24 cubic feet of storage was laughable. The 2018 Tiguan competes well against the CR-V (39 cubic feet) with a squared-off 38-cubic-foot storage area.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainSound Matters

With an attractive and up-to-date MIB II infotainment unit, a suite of available safety systems, a smooth start-stop system, and an optional panoramic sunroof, the 2018 Tiguan also competes with a modern array of equipment. Far from outdated, the second-gen Tiguan, at least in this top grade example, does a capable job of feeling more premium than its counterparts.

Material quality helps. So does the integration of the 8-inch touchscreen. The Audi-like customizable digital display shames the utilitarian gauge clusters of mainstream compacts. The entirely muffled wind noise and generally hushed tire hum lend an air of luxury to the proceedings, as well.

Granted, the refined silence serves to highlight some unpleasant sounds. The front door panels and B-pillar covers periodically squeaked and moaned in unison, sometimes throughout long drives. There were still only 1,300 miles on this Habanero Orange Volkswagen Canada-supplied press car when it finished its tour at TTAC’s Prince Edward Island bureau.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior - Image: © Timothy CainStyle Matters

Beauty remains forever in the eye of the beholder, but surely it’s safe to say the first-gen Tiguan’s awkward proportions, while masked by pleasant styling elements, have been replaced by a more conventionally handsome vehicle. Admittedly, the 2018 Tiguan does a poor job in photos of revealing its cohesive design. But from the moment this new Tiguan set wheel on my driveway, I was struck by how well the uncluttered scheme appeared in summer light.

Or maybe it was just the color, the lone premium shade on the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s a $295 option, a classy blend of red and orange that fortunately does not appear burnt.

The new Tiguan isn’t a looker; it’s not the Range Rover Velar of mainstream compact crossovers. But it’s inoffensive without being painfully dull, and the exterior design bolsters the case for Tiguan normalization.

Spirit Matters

Normalization is certainly what occurred underneath the 2018 Tiguan’s body. The assumption that Volkswagen would build upon the first Tiguan’s main claim to fame — a fun-to-drive nature — with the second model was entirely incorrect. Alter drive modes with a console-mounted rotary dial all you like, switch from Eco to Sport, tailor the Custom menu. It won’t matter: the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is not the Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape rival you expected.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing. After all, it’s not as though the Tiguan turned into a pot of overcooked spaghetti. There’s still a stiff structure and generally composed behavior. And hustling down, say, County Line Road, at a brisk pace is a breeze. The 2018 Tiguan absorbs brutal pavement with ease, remaining entirely unflustered by poorly patched pavement. Tracking straight and true on the highway in a relatively muted environment with light-effort steering and just enough power for mandatory overtakes? That’s the new Tiguan in its prime.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainBut the 2018 Tiguan prefers to complete these tasks at a slightly slower pace. Fully loaded, the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Premium SEL weighs around 300 pounds more than a full-spec 2017 Tiguan, according to Car And Driver’s scales.

With a minor horsepower loss and a modest amount of extra torque, the new Budack-cycle 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is unfavorably linked to an eight-speed automatic. There’s turbo lag on the one hand, a transmission that slurs early shifts on the other. The long-travel throttle pedal requires a vigorous right foot, yet the 2.0T’s unpleasant noises discourage your heavy-hoofed approach. You know the 2018 Tiguan isn’t slow; you’ve made use of the mid-range torque when a tractor refused to move over to the shoulder. But in many circumstances, whether the Tiguan is slow on paper or not, it’s decidedly underwhelming in practice.2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior Detail - Image: © Timothy CainSavings Matter

The unresponsive 2.0T/eight-speed combo doesn’t counteract its lackadaisical approach with unparalleled fuel economy, either. Though thankfully unencumbered by the 2017 Tiguan’s premium fuel recommendation, the 2018 Tiguan 4Motion is rated at a mere 23 miles per gallon combined.

With a 1.5-liter turbo, the Honda CR-V AWD hits 29 mpg combined. The Nissan Rogue AWD is rated at 27 mpg. The Ford Escape does Tiguan-like mileage, but that’s with its hi-po 2.0-liter turbo generating 33-percent more horsepower and 24-percent more torque than the Tiguan’s 2.0T. In mostly rural driving at highway-aping speeds, our 2018 Tiguan tester managed 26 mpg, not quite as good as the CR-V’s city rating.

But the case for the Tiguan, as with any vehicle, isn’t just a simple economic argument. It doesn’t boil down to dollars and cents. The 2018 Tiguan is ze Deutschland entry, albeit the Mexican-made one. It offers a $500 third row (that’s standard on front-wheel-drive models.) Particularly with orange paint, it stands out in a sea of CR-Vs, Rogues, RAV4s, and Escapes — four vehicles that collectively generate 2.5 more U.S. sales in a typical month than the Tiguan does all year long.

Nah, the argument for Tiguan exceptionalism is too difficult to make. The all-new, second-generation, 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is nothing like the unique offering its predecessor was. Far more suited to the mainstream now, the Tiguan has nevertheless lost its primary claim to fame, and it now must compete — whether as a $38,745 example such as ours, or a $26,245 base model, or as a more appetizing $31,280 mid-grade SE 4Motion — smack in the middle of the mainstream compact crossover arena.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is sufficiently competitive to earn consideration, but not competitive enough to cause concern among the segment standard-bearers.

[Images: © Timothy Cain]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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45 Comments on “2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion Review – Perky and Peppy Gives Way to Mellow and Mature...”

  • avatar

    Thanks for the informative review, Tim.

    I like the fact that VW is offering the Habanero orange and a green option. However, the fuel economy is a huge disappointment for me. This was the Tiguan that was finally going to have diesel power, but then VW went and screwed it all up. I saw one in person in this colour and my reaction was “meh”.

    I’m sure people will buy it, but I think VW could have done a bit better on it overall.

  • avatar

    Interesting review, and well done. I’m curious if this will appeal to my dormant VW genes or if it will bore me. I test drove the Golf Alltrack, but it was just not appealing enough — mainly in its small size — to sway me vs a regular Golf. However, if I view this as an upsized version of the Alltrack, there is some appeal. The fuel economy is meh, but not terrible. I’m just thankful VW is finally offering turbos that don’t require 91+ octane.

    I wouldn’t even comparison test this against Honda and Toyota, both of whom have let me down in the quality, ergonomics, and service arenas over the years.

    And frankly, the rarity is part of the appeal. Maybe that’s why I secretly wish against VW’s mainstream success…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    In typical Volkswagen fashion, buying the overpriced SEL Premium trim is the only way to get the LED headlights, which are the only option over the base halogen units. They should make them a standalone option.

  • avatar

    I wish they would have put the GTI drive train into this. Either the DSG or the manual would have been awesome with the power/torque. I would expect the MPG to be better with that drivetrain too.

    • 0 avatar

      Problem with the GTI drivetrain is it needs premium.

      Due to VW’s European roots (where small cars and small displacement engines rule the roost) the Tiguan is the size/weight where VW frankly does not have many competitive engine options to choose from. They either require premium, are too weak, or sacrifice fuel economy for power.

    • 0 avatar

      I looked at one and it seems to have all of the external components of the gti’s 2 liter but the timing and lift control seems focused on the intake side. I’m sure the software is a world apart of course, and I’ve little doubt there are substantial internal differences.

      Even without all that, altering the vehicle size, sound insulation and transmission situation this radically is more than enough to change the entire character of any engine family.

      On paper at least this engine should make for an interesting alternative to other mainstream engines. It will be very interesting to see how it stacks up in size by side comparison tests.

  • avatar

    Oh Tiguan, poor Tiguan… unloved by autojournos of each generation. But still chosen by the VW faithful. How many cars score their best sales year in their eighth and final season? I’ve heard elsewhere that it’s VW’s best-selling car, and the streets of Denver bear that out. Guess those Sportswagens didn’t look so compelling without TDI.

  • avatar

    Very helpful review. Especially the summary chart of basic specs and price.
    At $39K USD fully optioned I think this CUV will have trouble finding a market.

    I went to Honda site and added every option I could to EX-L AWD CRV and came in at $31K USD. The Escapes and RAV4s come in about the same.

    $38K is getting into BMW and Lexus CUV price range without the badge bragging rights.

    IMO the last “peppy” and reasonably prices CUV was the RAV4 4WD with 3.5L V6. Good milage, plenty of power, 87 octane. Unfortunately that V6 is no longer available in the RAV4.

    For $40K you can get a fully optioned Highlander V6 AWD leather etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Well at $38k you’re getting in an X1 or NX (or Q3 from Audi), and probably a stripper-spec model at that.

      Maybe it is targeted at people (like, uh, me) who really want the Audi VC but can’t/don’t want to spend $50k+ on a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      At $39k you can get an RDX, with at least the tech pack and maybe the Advance pack. And, a real live V6. No brainer IMO.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup, no brainer – I’d buy the VW over the Honda with delusions of grandeur every time. Real live V6s need to just go away.

        • 0 avatar

          You can’t seriously be suggesting the anemic powertrain in the new Tiguan is anywhere near the same league as what you’d get in a RDX. The EA888 in my GTI was fine, but that car weighed roughly 1,000 pounds less than this Tiguan, and had MORE power. IMHO, the GTI engine is the bare minimum for this thing, the ~250hp version from Audi would be better (even swilling premium). This thing is SLOW. The RDX is a full 3 seconds quicker to 60. Nobody cares about playing stop light hero in one of these, but being able to easily merge up a hill would be nice.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            His fanboiism is blinding apparently.

          • 0 avatar

            Johnny and scoutdude

            You guys are responding to an acura price point v6 comparison, so I see your point on the engine there, but it sounds like you’re in danger of missing the forest for the trees. The tiguan is priced against cars like the crv, forester, etc… (with the exception of one trim level) and in that company the specs seem right on if not torque dominant. I’m very interested in driving one myself because that 2.0t looks like it’s replacing the 1.8t in my golf wagon, which, so far, I adore.

            If anything, Ford and vw were waaaay out of step with the category offering the 2 liter engines they did.

            If vw can build out a very expensive trim level that people actually want then more power to them. Those cars are always vulnerable to next segment competition however. It’s an age old argument that repeats until you hit six figure machines.

          • 0 avatar

            So have you ever towed a one-ton travel trailer up to Leadville? I have, in a Tiguan. Sixty was easy, and seventy was possible if I’d wanted to tow that fast. Maybe the 2.0T is slow in somebody’s eyes, but I can attest that it’s strong.

            I have many complaints about Tiguan, but lack of power isn’t one. (The old one, that is.)

  • avatar

    Great looking CUV that appears to be the perfect size. I presume the new Tiguan is included under VW’s new extended SUV warranty? Too bad about the relatively poor fuel economy and perceived lack of power. I suspect the upcoming 4 cylinder Atlas will get similar fuel economy with greater versatility for not much more money. A neighbor bought a new Atlas and I kinda dig it.

    Also, the Atlas is assembled in the US so I’d probably buy it over the Tiguan since I’m a US citizen that tries to support our domestic economy as much as possible. (I’ve assumed “foreign” content of both vehicles is comparable, so final assembly point would support the Atlas purchase more than the Tiguan.)

  • avatar

    I’m not going to drop the “S-word” because I don’t want to draw the ire of the of commenters that grew up with diesel Chevettes, but the acceleration numbers on this thing are rough considering this is the only engine offered here. Pretty close to the Equinox 1.5T or a naturally-aspirated I4 CUV.

    Compared to a Sorento 3.3L (which is close to the same size), the Tiguan is about 2 seconds slower 5-60 and 1.5 behind with 50-70.

    The Journey might be made of recycled trash cans hot glued together, but at least you can get a V6.

  • avatar

    We found ourselves suddenly in the market, and this was a vehicle we cross-shopped, along with CRV, RAV4, CX5, and Rogue.

    We had just had our old Mazda 5 written off because a neighbour plowed into it when it was parked outside our house. Because that old beast was able to haul 6 people, we were intrigued by the third row option available on the Tiguan and Rogue.

    We tested two trims – the mid-level Comfortline and the top-level Highline.

    I liked the Tiguan – and to answer one question above, some of my concerns about reliability were allayed by the fact that it had a 6 yr warranty. As noted in the review, it wasn’t going to set the world on fire as a performer, but that’s kind of to be expected in this segment, at this price point. I was disappointed in the fact that it is rated pretty miserably for fuel economy even with the auto stop-start feature. It felt solid, it was quiet, and refined.

    Do you feel a “but” coming….??

    Where things fell apart for me was if I compared what we got for our money on a similarly equipped CRV. When we priced out a fully kitted out CRV Touring model, it came out ahead – and had a few things that either weren’t available (e.g. heated rear seats) or an additional $ add-on ONLY for the top level Tiguan (remote start is part of a $1500 add-on only available for top trim). So in the end, I joined the hive-mind and went for the the CRV in Touring trim.

  • avatar

    Just took delivery last weekend of our SEL 4Motion in metallic grey. Cross-shopped the CX-5 GT and the Sportage SX turbo. I wanted the latter (power and handling but too small) and my wife wanted the former (just right size. lots of features). We managed to get ours (in Alberta so no PST) for $44000 including GST, delivery, 3M, floor mats, trunk liner and rear bumper protector thing. We are moving from over 15 years driving Audis of all shapes and sizes but disability forced us into a CUV, and the Q5 was a bit too dear. So far, love the tech, the road feel is okay, the power is awful and the B-pillar squeak is driving me nuts! BUT, the cargo capacity is amazing. I’m sure we’ll get used to it but I miss my S4.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I like VW interiors, so it has that going for it. But 9.1 seconds to 60 mph and a 6.5 second 50-70 time while making bad noises? Congrats, CUV, you’ve made a VW 2.0T completely suck.

    This class of vehicle never fails to depress.

  • avatar

    I had a very interesting interaction with a new CRV. At idle, the entire car shook. And, for some reason, the vibrations were most pronounced in the head rest. I was shocked at how unrefined it felt.

  • avatar

    Premium priced, yet mediocre new products will not lead VW to promised land of 5% US share.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I want to love this. Like the Atlas, I love the low-key-but-will-age-well design. My two disappointments are the price – you can get into a mid-range Atlas for that, never mind a host of other, perhaps better cars – and the mpgs. The Outback 3.6R beats that mileage, as do a host of others.

  • avatar

    I wonder if offering the shorter, lighter version (which isn’t on sale in the U.S.) would ameliorate the power problem.

    Otherwise…9.1 seconds to 60? No thanks. If I had to have AWD in a VW, I’d pick a Golf wagon (which you can get with a manual, thanks very much.)

  • avatar

    Looks LWB, at least in the rear door. Props to VAG for finally understanding this is fraking critical for children and their seat fortresses.

  • avatar

    Gnarly Brudack engine. Max power at 4400 rpm. Every non-advertorial review, from UK ones on the A4 stuck with this turkey to C/D’s preview of the new Tiguan mention it. Avoid, if only to stop VW from grabbing 5% market share in the US for being dumb yet again.

  • avatar

    Here in la la Vancouver land, there are tons of VW’s on the streets. I think people see them as a more “premium” offering to the mainstream domestic/japanese vehicles and thus worthy of a higher price.

    I looked at the old Tiguan before I pulled the trigger on my Golf sportwagen 4motion. The old one was too tiny and it added up to about 4k more than my loaded sportwagen. I’ve put about 9000kms on the wagon since I got it in april and its already showing some signs of fatigue. The DSG tranny isnt very smooth (coming from a CVT corolla) and i have serious reservations that this thing will go past 200,000 without some major tranny issues. Also there are some squeaks and rattles from the dash that are popping up occasionally.

    Nevertheless, I love it though. Seats are great and supportive, giant panoroof is amazing, and its versatility and driving dynamics is something the corolla could never achieve. MPG aint bad either.. getting about 8l/100kms in mixed driving. so roughly 600 clicks a tank if i stay off the boost.

  • avatar

    I like that they are offering some different colors, and would totally rock the “Dark Moss Metallic Green” listed as a option on most cars. Consumer choice in color needs to come back.

    But the starting price for the trim listed in the review (SEL 4Motion Premium) is astounding for what is still essentially a mid-sized CUV. At that price (before options) one could get a number of more established models from different manufacturers that offer better MPG, or better value for the money (in terms of options). It does seems to be among he larger vehicles in the class, which is good.

    If they either a) put a peppier engine in it, or b) sold this as the entry level Audi Q5 for that price or c) both, it would sell a a lot more than I think it is going to.

  • avatar

    That Habenero Orange is gorgeous. I wish more cars came in better colors, but holy sticker shock, Batman!

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    We cross shopped this last month, settled on CPO 17 Discovery Sport, one thing that’s favorable is bumper to bumper 6 yr warranty on the VW.
    It’s remarkably slower than our Discovery Sport , but I though interior quality,comfort was only a notch below the Discovery Sport or other premium marks.
    Ultimately , the lack of brown/tan interior choices got it nixed from our short list, of XT5(out of our price range), disco sport, RDX (which became MDX once we actually saw how cheap the RDX interior is in real life), CX9(wife hated the grille). The orange/brown is too close to orange, and the grey is too close to white in real life.
    I’m sure we’ll see plenty of these , as it’s a pleasing shape, reminiscent of 1st Gen X5 from rear.It was comfortable , quiet .
    I’ve read where using 89 or premium octane will increase horsepower/MPG on the 1.8T motor, perhaps this is also possible on this variant of the 2.0T

  • avatar

    Based on the prices found online, the most basic Tiguan S retails for $26,245 which increases by $1,300 if you want AWD while the SE trim retails for $31,280 with AWD. Then you add options… VERY Pricey for what you DON’T get!

    The new 2018 Tiguan looks better than the previous model and is roomy by comparison as I’ve sat in the newer model. Too bad the fuel economy stinks!
    This newer model gained ~300-400 lbs but VW dropped the HP so the performance is almost like the previous model but cost more?!! WTH?

    Having said that… IF I were to consider a CUV, in a few years, I’d consider the Toyota Rav4, Nissan Rogue and the VW Tiguan so hopefully the models will be improved by then, though a hybrid option would be preferred. Maybe VW will a hybrid option to more of its vehicles by then.

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