There are a dizzying number of compact SUVs on the market to explore. Without considering luxurious options, there are around 20 compact SUVs to choose from. With that much competition, standing out becomes something of a necessity. The Toyota RAV4 does it by offering a great plug-in hybrid trim and a capable off-roading trim, Mazda CX-5 is a truly upscale offering, and Honda CR-V is the do-it-all option. Fierce competition has forced automakers to not only make better offerings, but offerings that stand out.
This leaves the Volkswagen Tiguan in an odd place. It doesn’t have the power, upscale design, comfortable interior, off-roading capability, or spunky handling. What it does offer, is a spacious cabin, straight-forward controls, and that German sturdiness that many people love. Is it enough to stand out? I don’t think so. But I also wouldn’t blame someone for choosing it over options.
The majority of people won’t have any type of emotional reaction to the Tiguan’s exterior. VW clearly played it safe with the compact SUV’s design. Round, simple lines ensure the Tiguan will age well, but won’t ruffle any features. The R-Line package brings a more distinct body kit that livens things up a bit and I would go as far as saying it’s mandatory, as it gives the SUV some character.
Just like the exterior design, the cabin is plain Jane. This, for the majority of people, is a good thing. There’s little to get distracted by here and there’s a simplicity to the way everything’s laid out. It’s not boring, but simple. In this day and age where automakers are trying to throw everything at the driver, it’s refreshing. It wouldn’t kill anyone to throw some color into the cabin, though. Everything on the inside is either gray or black. The only bit of color comes from the white stitching on the seats.
My main gripe with the Tiguan are the seats — they’re as flat as a college text book. They’re about as comfortable as sitting on a book, too. The upsides are the spacious second row, the available third row of seats, and spacious cargo area of up to 73.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Mainstream compact SUVs aren’t meant to be sporty vehicles, but the Tiguan’s lack of power is borderline hazardous. There’s only one available engine and it’s a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower. That kind of power is simply inadequate for a vehicle that weighs more than 5,000 pounds. No matter how aggressively you ram your foot into the floor, there’s just no power. The slow-shifting eight-speed automatic is also annoying. Having that kind of power would be justifiable if the Tiguan was efficient, but that’s not the case. The Tiguan carries a combined rating of 25 mpg, which is below-average for the class.
Don’t even look at a corner when you’re driving the Tiguan. There’s nothing sporty about the SUV. And while that would be fine if it was comfortable, it’s not. The ride can be harsh on rough roads, while there’s a fair amount of body roll around corners. Add numb steering into the equation and you have little reason to get off a main road.
The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan is an SUV that should appeal to a lot of shoppers. It has an available third row, a spacious cabin, strong tech features, and anonymous styling that won’t put you in the hot seat in your monthly book club. The cons, though, far outweigh the positives. The Tiguan desperately needs more power and a more refined suspension that either brings a sportier or more comfortable ride. It also needs some character, because it’s kind of an anonymous blob.