The 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL is a sub-compact crossover or a hatchback compact car depending on where one draws that line. Volkswagen calls the Tiguan an SUV, but VW the marketing executives that made that call are misusing the term. Based on the VM platform that is used on everything from the Audi TT to the VW Golf, the Tiguan offers more space for families than VW’s small cars and a very comfortable ride.
If one squints at the 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan the image is of an inflated Golf. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but the vehicle loses some of its cool while being super-sized. Inside the Tiguan feels bigger than its dimensions. Headroom, in particular, is plentiful. For the front passengers, there is room to spare considering this is a compact vehicle. In back, my six-foot son sat behind his 6-foot dad and didn’t ask for the seat to be pulled forward. This is a very spacious four-passenger vehicle that can fit five without difficulty. The cargo area is not even close to the size of a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV, but Golf owners won’t complain if up-shopping this crossover/hatchback.
The great news is that the 2015 Tiguan gets a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, not a dual-clutch automatic (DCT). I’m no fan of VW’s DCTs. If you are a GTI owner who loves to paddle-shift her car at the red-line after exiting a cornering at full-tilt, you are going to hate this car anyway, so let’s not pretend this vehicle has any sporting pretentions that require manual gear selection. The 200 hp, 2.0-liter engine is perky and pulls well. So well, that the front-wheel drive Tiguan has torque-steer aplenty. However, after a bit of adjustment time, one settles into a sedate driving habit in this family car and the torque steer is felt only on rare occasions when one needs to pull out into traffic quickly.
Speaking of pulling into traffic, unlike many of the prior VW turbos with a DCT I have tested, this one actually goes when you give it throttle. No delay. Perhaps the turbo-lag we have all been complaining about was made worse by the DCT? Not sure, but I’m happy to report it is not present here.
The ride of the Tiguan is perfect. Over pock-marked spring roads here in the snow belt of New England the Tiguan was comfortable and quiet. Normal pot-holes are swallowed without any drama, and the bigger ones seem to come and go without giving the driver the feeling something just broke. I’d give it a 10 out of 10. However, when you turn the Tiguan things get a little dicey. It feels tippy. The steering is fine at slow speeds and outstanding on the highway, but any abrupt maneuver makes the car feel unstable. We must point out here that Aaron Turpen reviewed a Tiguan SE with 4Motinon AWD and found it to be a very sporty handler. Aaron did also confirm the great ride comfort. Please have a look at his point of view.
My test vehicle had a sticker price of $34,455. At this price point, the Tiguan seems woefully underequipped compared to a Honda CRV Touring or Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited. The interior is classic VW. The heated front seats are perforated “leatherette” with power adjustment only on the tilt of the seat. The navigation and audio system is relatively basic and synching my phone was frustrating and required use of the owner’s manual. The vehicle did include a panoramic sliding sunroof. The Fender audio was clear and powerful.
This being a family car, the spotlight shines on fuel economy and safety. The front-drive Tiguan SEL is rated at 21 mph City/ 26 highway/ 23 combined, and VW recommends premium fuel. By comparison, an all-wheel-drive Honda CRV or Subaru Outback will be rated at 28 MPG combined and use regular fuel. In my mostly highway and suburban testing, I achieved 27 mpg in the Tiguan.
The safety news isn’t any better. The Tiguan SEL does not have forward collision prevention and it scored only “moderate” on the IIHS small frontal overlap test. Both demerits disqualify it from the Top Safety Pick Plus designation that the CRV and Outback earn.
Loyal Volkswagen shoppers moving up from a Golf or Beetle for more space may be very happy with the Tiguan. However, it is hard to compare this vehicle to the other players at this price point and not notice the lack of content.
Test Limitations: Our test was a one-week press loan over which about 350 miles were covered in typical family car driving.