5 Things to Know About the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is all-new in North America for model-year 2018 and here’s what’s up with this straight-laced crossover.

Now in its second generation, the Tiggy has grown a fair amount compared to its predecessor, gaining a couple hundred pounds in the process. New features, more efficiency and a revised combustion process in the engine make for a more appealing vehicle than ever.

5. Built Like a Swiss Watch

Staying true to its Germanic roots, the 2018 Tiguan is built with precision. Even after a cursory glance, you get the sense that Volkswagen’s designers and engineers really care about the products they create, at least outwardly. There’s a sense of quality to this vehicle that’s lacking in many others, even ones that command much higher prices.

The exterior panel gaps are laser-straight and crisper than the pleat on a freshly pressed pair of slacks. This obsessive meticulousness is carried through the interior as well, where every piece of trim and all the various control modules are perfectly aligned and solidly screwed together. Does VW employ normal assembly-line workers or have they subcontracted a swarm of Swiss watchmakers to build these things?

4. A Third-Row Seat is Now Available

Stretched like warm taffy, the 2018 Tiguan is nearly 11 inches longer than its predecessor, a change that’s resulted in significantly more interior space and an overall length of roughly 185 inches.

Taking advantage of that additional real estate, a third-row seat is now available. Two-wheel drive models come standard with that extra bench, but the third-row is optional if you decide to get Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system.

Those two seats provide a dash of extra passenger-carrying versatility, at the slight expense of cargo capacity. Two-row models provide just shy of 38 cubic feet (1,065 liters) of space behind the second row and nearly 74 (2,081 liters) in total. Seven-passenger Tiguans are a whisker less capacious, offering 33 cubes (935 liters) and just shy of 66 (1,860 liters), respectively.

3. It Runs on the B-Cycle

As before, a 2.0-liter turbo-four calls this crossover’s engine compartment home, VW’s ubiquitous and commendable EA888. But in Tiguan duty it’s been tweaked to deliver better efficiency, running on a special Volkswagen-developed combustion process called the Budack-cycle, or B-cycle for short.

Essentially a modified version of the Miller cycle, the engine’s intake valves close earlier than normal, improving the air-fuel mix for cleaner combustion and creating a more favorable expansion ratio, though this move trades peak output for reduced consumption.

The 2018 Tiguan features 184 horsepower and 221 foot-pounds of torque, fewer ponies than offered in the 2017 model, which had an even 200, but it’s got 14 more units of twist.

With all-wheel drive on board, this vehicle is rated at 21 miles per gallon (11.3 L/100 km) in city driving and 27 (8.8 L/100 km) on the highway. Combined, it should average 23 mpg (10.2 L/100 km), making it appreciably more economical than its thirsty predecessor. Unfortunately, the Tiguan is still less efficient than comparably equipped crossovers, like the Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V.

2. The Interior is Handsome

The Tiguan’s interior is both handsome and spacious. Its front bucket seats are uninspired, flat, broad and quite hard, but the second-row bench provides ample room for adult passengers.

Like its exterior design, the cabin’s look is clean and modern. Materials quality, except for the V-tex leatherette seating surfaces is top notch for the segment. A bright 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the most basic model, home to the Composition Media infotainment system, which is snappy and smooth, though if you want integrated navigation that’s going to cost extra.

Volkswagen Digital Cockpit is also available, which replaces traditional analog gauges with a color and reconfigurable screen.

1. It Could be More Engaging to Drive

Spacious, handsome and well built, the Tiguan is a compelling small crossover, though that luster starts to fade when you put it in motion. This is because the driving experience is somewhat incoherent. It feels like different teams in completely different departments worked on this vehicle’s dynamics and none of them communicated, not even via Snapchat.

The steering is light to the touch but disconnected, making the Tiguan feel prone to wandering. Its brakes feel mushy and there’s unexpected squat under acceleration and nose dive when braking even though the ride isn’t particularly soft. But worst of all, the eight-speed automatic transmission is very disorganized. It will occasionally lurch annoyingly at low speed and it always seems to be in the wrong gear, dulling performance, which isn’t particularly muscular to begin with since the Tiguan has fewer than 200 horses in its stable and nearly 3,900 pounds to haul around when equipped with 4Motion.

Even though it’s down two gears, has a significant torque deficit and is less spacious inside, the Mazda CX-5 is far more engaging to drive than the Tiguan, which is a real shame because VW’s offering has some important advantages.

a version of this story first appeared on AutoGuide