The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan provides the expected driving experience and refinement of a German-made crossover SUV, but its limited interior space, lack of a fuel-efficient base engine and so-so safety credentials make it hard to recommend.
For 2016, the Volkswagen Tiguan gains a few extra standard features, including heated front seats, "V-Tex" premium vinyl upholstery and keyless ignition and entry, at a lower MSRP. Every Tiguan also gets VW's latest touchscreen tech interface. But the R-Line trim has lost a few features and is now priced to slide in between the S and SE trim levels.
Refined ride and handling balance (except R-Line); punchy turbocharged performance; premium interior trappings; quiet cabin.
While Volkswagen plans to introduce a fully redesigned Tiguan next year, the 2016 Tiguan soldiers on in pretty much the same position that this generation has been in since its debut in 2009: as an outlier. The Tiguan stands in contrast to virtually every other compact crossover SUV by emphasizing refinement, performance and interior quality over utility, versatility and general family hauling activities.
With its peppy turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan offers a little more excitement than most compact crossovers.
But while the 2016 VW Tiguan misses the mark for what most crossover shoppers are prioritizing, it nevertheless provides a lot of positive attributes. The seating position is high, seemingly higher, in fact, than many rivals, providing that tall, commanding view of the road ahead. Its smaller size, which is a detriment when trying to stuff in the contents of an overly exuberant Costco run, is a benefit when trying to maneuver in the parking lot during said Costco run. There's also a responsiveness and indisputable Germanic refinement to the Tiguan that makes it more pleasurable to drive than the typical small SUV. Hit the gas and the standard 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers energetic acceleration that's among the quickest in the segment.
For 2016, the Tiguan gets additional standard features, most notably the latest Volkswagen touchscreen interface that makes its way into a vehicle that to date has been far from the vanguard of infotainment features. At the same time, though, the Tiguan still doesn't offer the sort of high-tech accident avoidance features (such as forward collision and blind spot warning) that just about every other compact SUV has.
If you're considering a 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan, it will be a good idea to shop around. Among its compact crossover competitors, the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5 come closest to the Tiguan's mix of refinement, driving fun and punchy power while also providing superior space, safety and fuel economy. You could also wait for the 2017 Tiguan, which will be larger in size and more comprehensively equipped with features. For now, though, the VW Tiguan is hard to fully recommend.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover SUV that seats five people. It is available in S, R-Line, SE and SEL trim levels.
Standard equipment on the Tiguan S includes 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, heated front seats, a manual height-adjustable driver seat (with power recline), a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a sliding and reclining backseat, "V-Tex" premium vinyl upholstery, a rearview camera, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and a media player interface.
The 2016 Tiguan gets a much-needed update to its touchscreen interface.
The SE does without the R-Line's performance and styling elements, but builds upon its other equipment with 18-inch wheels, LED running lights, a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.
The SEL adds its own 19-inch wheels, power-folding mirrors, an enhanced rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, driver seat memory functions, additional passenger seat adjustability including power lumbar, leather upholstery and an eight-speaker Fender audio system.
A trailer hitch is the only option available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan is only available with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 200 hp and 207 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive Tiguan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is a quick time for a compact crossover.
The Tiguan comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Unlike most competitors, there are no accident avoidance technology features available. VW Car-Net Safety and Security is standard on the R-Line and above, and includes automatic crash notification, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers).
In government crash testing, the Tiguan received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with three stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Tiguan its top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength crash tests, but in the small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Tiguan received a "Marginal" rating (second worst of four).
In Edmunds brake testing, a Tiguan R-Line came to a stop from 60 mph in a disappointing 130 feet, which is several feet longer than the class average.
Interior Design and Special Features
Even with the addition of new touchscreen interfaces for 2016, the Volkswagen Tiguan doesn't exactly look like the latest and greatest when you drop yourself into the cabin. It definitely lacks the contemporary looks of competitors, but to be fair it's still attractive and restrained in that classic German way, with materials quality and construction that are first-rate. You also sit pleasingly high and upright in the firm, supportive front seats, which should satisfy those searching for that tall, commanding view of the road ahead.
While the Tiguan's interior is pretty sedate, it is certainly functional, and controls are logically placed.
There is an abundance of headroom all around, but rear occupants will find their legs a little more pinched (especially with taller folks up front) than they would in most rivals. The reclining rear seat is certainly welcome, though, as is its sliding functionality that allows you to bring kids a little closer to the front or free up more cargo space.
That last bit is key, though, since there isn't that much cargo space available for the segment. Even with the seats slid forward, there are only 23.8 cubic feet available -- an average-sized competitor like the Mazda CX-5 has 34. Putting the rear seats down yields only 56.1 cubic feet, making it one of the smallest compact crossovers. It's barely more capacious than subcompact SUVs like the Jeep Renegade.
We're impressed by the 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan's 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's powerful in just about any situation, and its six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. The trouble is, it's the only engine available. We're guessing many shoppers would happily trade some of its power for fuel economy figures closer to those of base four-cylinders offered by its rivals.
The standard Tiguan feels secure when you're driving around turns, but not particularly athletic. Still, there's plenty of poise, which is remarkable given how smoothly and quietly this VW rides. The R-Line upsets that equilibrium a bit, thanks to firmer suspension tuning and larger wheels that transmit additional impact harshness into the cabin. In general, though, the Tiguan provides an enjoyable driving experience.