Mild mannered. If compact crossovers are the ice cream of the automotive world, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan is the vanilla. This is life with a crossover right down the middle.
That starts with its driving dynamics, which are unremarkable in almost every way. That’s not to say that they’re bad – the Tiguan is calm and smooth on the road, and its four-wheel independent suspension does a commendable job soaking up bumps.
That said, it’s never exciting. The steering is light, and the drive modes don’t do much to change its general behavior. The Tiguan’s only engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, makes 184 horsepower, which is less than competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. It’s average in just about every way, including fuel economy, where the EPA rates the Tiguan at an uninspiring 25 miles per gallon combined.
All buttoned up. The theme continues in the VW Tiguan’s aesthetics, which are conservative if not boring. It's on the long side for a compact crossover, and it doesn’t make much attempt to hide its size. Creases are sharp and straight, balanced by an understated grille that tones down the block effect.
Inside, material quality is good. Upper trims spoil with leather and technology, but even the lower models don’t feel cheap.
All the same, the interior design is drab, and it isn’t helped by upholstery choices of black or gray in most trims. If you can, spring for the optional sunroof – it helps to brighten things up.
Skip the third row. One area in which the Tiguan distinguishes itself is seating capacity. It’s one of only a few compact crossovers to offer third-row seating. It’s standard on front-wheel-drive models, but adding all-wheel drive removes the way-back.
If possible, we recommend that deletion. The third row has only 27.9 inches of leg room, making it best suited for children. It’s also flat, difficult to get into, and eats into both cargo capacity and second-row leg room. If you need to carry seven passengers, we humbly suggest the Volkswagen Atlas across the showroom.
Without the third row, the Tiguan’s cabin space is very civilized. Second-row passengers get good space, and the trunk fits 37.6 cubic feet of cargo to start. That’s good for the class, and it helps the Tiguan make a case for itself on practicality.
Due for a refresh. The Tiguan isn’t exactly old, but the 2021 model marks its fourth year on sale. It’s due for a refresh next year, which should bring updated technology and slight tweaks to the exterior.
We hope that includes safety tech. The Tiguan’s kit isn’t terrible, and it includes standard automatic emergency braking. Still, it confines advanced tech like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist to higher trim levels. Honda and Toyota include those features on every model.
Otherwise, the Tiguan offers most of the features we look for, and the deal is sweetened by a strong four-year/50,000-mile warranty with two years of included maintenance. Our favorite trim is the SE, which brings a larger touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, and some creature comforts at a reasonable premium.
Final thoughts. The 2021 VW Tiguan isn’t the newest, sharpest, or fastest crossover on the block. It’s the definition of an all-around vehicle, with a comfortable ride and a practical cabin. It doesn’t do much to excite, but it doesn’t offend, either, and that might be enough for many buyers.
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