Car Reviews

Review: 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

Crisp road manners and excellent handing should put Volkswagen’s Tiguan on the top of your wish list

By Jim Kenzie Wheels.ca

Jan 6, 2021 5 min. read

Article was updated 3 years ago

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Several people commented on how "sharp looking" the Volkswagen Tiguan was. It looked like a mid-size SUV to me. Maybe we are all correct.

My Tiggy was a 2020 model year. The 2021s will be arriving in VW showrooms soon, but the internals of the new model will be a carry-over. Tiguan starts at $29,770 for the base Trendline front-wheel drive trim level. Four-wheel drive (4MOTION in VW-speak) is standard on the rest of the range, with Trendline at $32,040, Comfortline $34,865, IQ.DRIVE $37,670, and Highline $40,395.

My tester was an IQ-DRIVE with the only option available and a third row of seats, at what seemed a reasonable $760. I have no idea what "IQ-DRIVE" means; maybe that's why this nomenclature will be dropped for 2021. But the vehicle never fails to remind you - open either front door, and those letters are projected at your feet. Among those carryover bits is the 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine (184 horsepower from 4,360 to 6,000 r.p.m.; 221 lb-ft of torque from 1,600 to 4,360 r.p.m.), and the eight-speed automatic transmission.

The handsomeness of the exterior is continued inside, with typical VW design and execution, with matte black no-reflection materials. Proper round dials for speedo and tach, with coolant temperature and fuel level nestled respectively within with all white-on-black for good readability.

Various additional tidbits of information such as fuel consumption, trip odometer, back-up SatNav screen, and controls to shut off most of the nanny systems, are in a multi-function panel between these two main dials.

The central screen with proper round knobs for volume and function selection is bright and clear. It can display a stunning array of stuff, including a “drive coach” to help you minimize fuel consumption.  However, as in the GTI I tested recently, if you want to adjust the radio, you lose the SatNav screen. This should be handled better. Below this screen is a set of nice round knobs to control most of the HVAC functions. On the centre console is a round knob with a push button inside it. This works the drive mode selection function. Rotate then push the knob to select the program you want - Snow, Normal, Off-Road, etc.

Review 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

Some of these modes offer additional options that you select from the main screen, which I found confusing, having to move back and forth between the screen and the controller. This all will require a long weekend reading the Owners Manual, and maybe six weeks of practice before you figure out all the permutations and combinations. Most likely, you’ll find one the combo you like, and just leave it alone.

For me, it was the “Sport” mode, although it did keep the engine revs higher than did the more sedate settings, which might have an impact on fuel consumption. Other high-techery includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink capability, a WiFi hotspot, 12-volt outlet, and USB outlets galore. Minor controls for windows and mirrors look just like those in my 2003 Jetta, dead simple to understand and use.

The seat upholstery in this trim level is “leatherette”. I’d rather have had plain cloth, but that’s only available in Trendline models. I found the seats acceptably roomy, comfortable and supportive. Heated seats are provided for front seat occupants. The Owners Manual says there is also a heated steering wheel; with that manual in hand, I searched for it for about an hour without success. Turns out the button for the driver's seat heater also turns on the steering wheel heater. Who knew? Thomas Tetzlaff, VW Canada's PR man, did. But I didn't find this out until I returned the vehicle. Still, the mystery solved.

The middle row of seats is split two-thirds left side / one-third right; each part is movable independently fore-and-aft to provide flexibility for distributing legroom between second and third row passengers. Getting into that third row calls for some agility, or smallness of stature.

Lots of storage spaces for cups and bottles, even a spot for a bottle of windshield washer fluid in the cargo area.

Should you need assistance reversing, the central screen switches to a split view, with both overhead and “right behind you” displays. That view stays on the screen for a few seconds after you shift back into Drive, for reasons that don’t seem obvious.

Review 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

Tiguan’s camera sits out there on the tailgate, rather than being tucked in behind the VW logo on the trunk lid like the GTI, so it will get dirty right quickly. Also like the GTI, Tiguan gets the manual shift pattern for the transmission backwards in my opinion. It just has to be back for upshifting, forward for downshifting.  But in a vehicle like Tiguan, you’ll probably let it shift for itself anyway.

The engine gets a bit loud as revs rise, although at higher speeds, road noise takes over. This was exacerbated by the winter tires on my tester, a more-than-acceptable trade-off given the weather I encountered during my test period. Performance is fine with that strong low-end torque means acceleration is satisfyingly brisk. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, requiring little throttle pressure to initiate a downshift.

On occasion from rest, however, it seemed to take a brief moment to make up its mind to get rolling. In the cut and thrust of city driving, this can be a bit of a bother. As you would expect from a VW, handling is sharp, with precise turn in, and stable behaviour. The ride quality is also more than adequate.

Tiguan passes the mirror test - you can adjust them far enough out to eliminate the blind spots. And, the ignition off/ headlights off test too - switch the lights on when you buy the car, and never touch that knob again. On the downside, the VW’s door locks re-lock themselves if you drop below about 15 km/h.

In today’s market, there seem to be about a million mid-size SUVs to chose from. All of them are pretty good.

If crisp road manners and excellent handing are at the top of your wish list, Volkswagen’s Tiguan should be on your shopping list.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.




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