“Go big or go home” urges athletes to go all out in competition, and it’s a motivational expression that applies equally well in business.
The popular credo may have helped Volkswagen understand the North American sport-utility market better after its first small crossover, the Tiguan, failed to make much impact when it landed on our shores in 2009.
The automaker definitely got the “go big” memo when it made the second-generation Tiguan 19 centimetres longer in the wheelbase and almost a foot longer overall for 2018. We received the stretched Tiguan, while Europeans could also buy the smaller, short-wheelbase model.
The new Tig was based on VW’s $8-billion MQB A2 modular platform that underpins several models. It’s big enough to offer optional third-row seats inside the spacey cabin, although the rearmost pair really should only be assigned to kids and/or other pets (the colossal Atlas was introduced to do serious big-family hauling).
The Tiguan’s interior is airy and visibility is good to the front and sides thanks to narrow A-pillars, but the view out the back is obstructed by the rear pillars and headrests. The seating is well-shaped and supportive – if a little stiff – and there’s plenty of storage all around. Top-drawer cabin materials and assembly channel Audi, which makes sense since the luxury brand is part of the VW Group.
The generously sized touchscreen up front responds to swiping and pinching motions, and it also works with handy volume and tuning knobs. VW’s Car-Net infotainment system was thoroughly updated for 2018 and came standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Absent from earlier models, the new Tiguan offered a comprehensive array of driver aids, such as blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, standard on all Tigs except the base model.
A new engine motivates the Tiguan, working through a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (base models get by with front-wheel drive). The powerplant is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder like the previous one but with fewer horses on tap, presumably out of a concern for fuel efficiency. It lost 16 horsepower, reduced to 184 hp, but gained 14 lb-ft of torque to 221 lb-ft, a trade-off that did not escape the notice of some buyers.
“The car hesitates very badly. At times, with the gas pedal to the floor, the car does nothing for 2-3 seconds, and then very sluggishly starts to move forward,” one owner posted online. Auto reviewers complained that turbo lag, combined with the transmission’s reluctance to downshift, makes the Tiguan feel pretty lethargic: 0 to 97 km/h took a sleepy 9.1 seconds. Another owner blamed the Tig’s unseemly weight gain.
“This engine belongs in a Jetta, not a 3,900-pound SUV. The miles per gallon are terrible. I manage to get around 25 mpg (11 litres/100 km),” one driver divulged online. Reference to the crossover’s heftiness is no exaggeration; critics noted that the redesigned Tiguan added 330 pounds (150 kg), making it a whopping 578 pounds (262 kg) heavier than a comparable Honda CR-V.
The Tiguan is decent enough to drive in the curves, although its electric power-steering system lacks on-centre feel at the wheel and fails to build proper weight with speed. Soft springs allow the compact crossover to pitch and roll through turns, belying the Tig’s German breeding.
Still, it’s comfortable over long distances and it’s certainly quiet enough at supra-highway speeds. In U.S. government (NHTSA) crash testing, the Tiguan earned five stars in overall and side crash tests, and four stars in frontal collision and rollover tests.
Not much changed until the 2022 model year, when the Tiguan earned some exterior styling tweaks, new interior detailing and technology, and expanded availability of driver-assist systems to match the competition. The drivetrain remains unaltered over the six years it’s been sold here, although the front-drive model has been dropped. The third-generation Tig is set to be released sometime in 2024.
WHAT OWNERS REPORT
The Tiguan’s appealing European styling, generous interior and large cargo area found plenty of buyers in Canada, effectively erasing memories of the too-small Tig that came before it. Owners have a few gripes, though, pointing to the optional third-row seating that’s more obstructive than helpful, and the awkward hesitancy the engine and transmission may exhibit, especially when starting from a standstill.
A big part of the story is the Tiguan’s dependability – a key factor when buying a used example without the benefit of a warranty. Unfortunately, there are significant mechanical issues to be aware of when shopping for the made-in-Mexico crossover.
First and foremost, the updated 2.0-L turbo engine can burn oil at a higher rate than what’s considered normal. The previous 2.0T engine consumed oil at a voracious rate in some instances, and it seems that Volkswagen engineers have not entirely solved the problem.
“VW considers it acceptable for their cars to burn through a quart (litre) of oil every 1,000 miles. This is not okay and not normal,” wrote a Tiguan owner in a post. On this point Consumer Reports
doesn’t mince words, advising that any engine that burns oil between oil changes should be repaired under the powertrain warranty.
Some owners have reported a lit Electronic Power Control (EPC) warning lamp, indicating a problem with the throttle system, which could include the fuel-injection throttle body, traction control, cruise control or other systems. The EPC light is sometimes accompanied by limited power and acceleration. Cylinder misfires may be related to faulty fuel injectors or wiring harnesses.
The popular panoramic sunroof has a known problem with its drainage tubes that siphon rainwater away from the roof assembly. Leaking drains can drip into the interior, soaking the upholstery. One owner warned that the water can infiltrate the electronics and cause multiple issues, such as ABS/electronic stabilization control faults. A few owners have had the entire sunroof replaced.
That’s not the only structural issue. The B-pillar on both sides may rattle, owners say, an irritation that’s noted in a VW technical service bulletin. The TSB reportedly states that the problem is caused by the airbag modules rubbing on the metal frame and body.
Other mechanical glitches include malfunctioning power door locks, weak headlamps, leaking engine fluids, emergency brake assist that may stop the car at random, and overhead consoles that detach from the ceiling.
Overall the Tiguan is a stylish, competent compact crossover that’s an attractive alternative to the legions of Japanese and Korean crossovers dominating the Canadian market. But high-mileage examples will have no warranty, which means buyers have to budget for future repairs – and German parts are expensive (one owner cited the cost of an LED headlamp at $1,700).
Go big, but keep your eyes open.
2018-2023 Volkswagen Tiguan
5- or 7-passenger compact crossover SUV
Front- or all-wheel drive; 8-speed automatic transmission
2.0-L turbocharged four-cylinder (184 hp, 221 lb-ft)
(Regular) 10.6/8.0/9.4 L/100 km city/highway/combined
934 litres (33 cu ft)
680 kg (1,500 lbs)
$26,000 (2018); $39,000 (2022)