2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL w/4Motion Review – Crossover Done Well

Many crossovers are really just tall wagons, and the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan looks the part. It has a boxy overall shape with angles and curves mixed in. Drop its ride height, and it’s a wagon.

Fine. That’s sort of the point – crossovers promise the utility of wagons with a taller seating position. We’ve been over this before.

Getting a crossover to stand out requires a little extra effort, beyond just being a tall wagon. In the case of the Tiguan, Volkswagen remembered that it’s the same company that makes the Golf/Golf GTI, and has the MQB platform available for use in underpinning its compact crossover. Unlike the larger, bulkier Atlas, which also shares the platform but is tuned for comfort – the Tiguan makes better use of the sportier aspects of its platform.

I credit light and lively steering for some of this. Yes, light steering is usually lambasted as being a detriment, mostly due to lack of feel, but it works here, and it’s just heavy enough to remind you of its connection to the road.

The Tiguan weighs nearly two tons with all-wheel drive, yet manages to feel light on its feet, at least relative to other crossovers of its size. Credit the front strut-type and rear multi-link suspension. There is some body roll, however — something you might expect from what’s essentially a tall wagon.

Volkswagen doesn’t sacrifice too much ride comfort for spryness, but it’s not completely smooth sailing, either. Too much is a key phrase, here – there is some sacrifice. Just not a lot.

Asking a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger to haul nearly two tons of curb weight is a dicey proposition, but even with just 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, there’s enough verve on hand for the cut and thrust of the urban jungle. I’d be wary of freeway passing, though. The eight-speed automatic thankfully blends into the background.

Inside is the familiar-by-now Volkswagen cabin ethic – black and simple, with a logical control layout. You get two knobs for audio/infotainment control (thanks, Wolfsburg) along with a large center screen that rests above three large HVAC controls and a row of climate buttons. If you’ve been in any other MQB vehicles in recent times, you’ll feel right at home.

I had no issues with comfort – there’s space aplenty up front and reasonable space for adults in the rear. A larger center console would’ve been nice, though. Rear cargo behind the optional third row is 12 cubic feet, and with the third row down, the measurement is a couple cubic feet lower than what’s offered on the five-seat Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue.

Speaking of the third row, it seems a bit unnecessary and useless in a crossover of this size. As noted above, it cuts into cargo space. Volkswagen will tell you that it gives the Tiguan a leg up over the five-seat crossovers it competes against, but most buyers who want or need a third row are going a size up in class. Five seats is probably just fine at this price point and size.

If the Tiguan tickles your crossover fancy, you have four trims from which to choose – S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. I was sent an SEL with 4Motion all-wheel drive, which has a base price of $33,850. You can scoop up an S for as low as $24,595, and even the SE keeps the base sticker under $30K.

Opting for the SEL with 4Motion snags you all-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, all-season rubber, LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, heated side view mirrors, silver roof rails, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette seats, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitoring with rear-traffic alert, keyless entry with push-button start, infotainment with navigation and USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio, remote power liftgate, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

Options were limited to the $295 Habanero Orange paint job and $500 for the third-row seats. The destination fee is $900.

This particular tall wagon is smartly styled, relatively engaging to drive, and well-appointed. The $35K sticker is a bit dear when compared to the CR-V (a loaded Touring starts about $3K less), top-trim Rogue ($2K or so), or the Limited RAV 4 (the Platinum-trimmed RAV4, which lines up against the SEL Premium Tiguan, starts at a tick over $36K).

Sometimes you have to pay more for better. The Tiguan is less boring and bland than the Rogue and it’s a bit bigger than the RAV4 (although the RAV4 boast greater cargo volume). It’s not perfect or cheap, but Volkswagen has a well-built CUV on its hands.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]