Volkswagen redesigned the Tiguan just last year. The new Tiguan is a lot bigger than the previous model, and VW used that extra size for greater cargo and passenger space. In fact, few vehicles in the small SUV segment offer what the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan does: an optional third-row seat. Popular competitors such as the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 are two-row-only offerings.
Whether you can benefit from that third-row seat is another matter, however. Headroom and legroom in the way back are in short supply, so it’s a seat you’ll want to use on an occasional basis only. Another potential concern relates to the Tiguan’s engine. Acceleration is underwhelming, as is fuel economy.
Otherwise, the Tiguan is appealing. It boasts a comfortable and quiet interior and plenty of features for the money. For example, even the base trim level comes with smartphone connectivity, and there are lots of available safety features on upper trim levels. Overall, we think the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan represents a distinctive choice in the small SUV class.
2019 Volkswagen Tiguan configurations
The 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan is a two- or three-row SUV that comes in six trim levels: S, SE, SEL, SEL R-Line, SEL Premium and SEL Premium R-Line. All Tiguans are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque) that’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. Three rows of seating come standard with front-wheel-drive models, and two rows are standard on all-wheel-drive models, with a third row available as an option.
Standard features for the Tiguan S include 17-inch wheels, roof rails, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, USB port, and a six-speaker sound system and VW’s Car-Net App Connect, which controls select smartphone apps from the touchscreen and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
An optional Driver Assistance package adds forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The SE includes those Driver Assistance features, plus heated washer nozzles, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, simulated-leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, voice commands, and two extra USB ports. A panoramic sunroof is optional on the SE.
The SEL comes standard with the sunroof and adds 18-inch wheels, a power liftgate, remote start, adaptive cruise control, navigation, and front and rear parking sensors, Car-Net Security & Service (which offers remote access to the vehicle through a smartphone app, automatic crash notification and monitoring services for young drivers), and Car-Net Guide & Inform (which displays real-time traffic, weather and nearby fuel prices)
Finally, the SEL Premium adds adaptive LED headlights, automatic wipers, a hands-free liftgate, a digital gauge cluster, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a nine-speaker premium Fender sound system, and extra driver assistance features including a surround-view parking camera system, lane departure warning and intervention, and automatic high-beam control.
The SEL R-Line and the Premium SEL R-Line build on the SEL and the Premium SEL trim levels, respectively. The R-Line versions of those trim levels include larger wheels (19-inch for the SEL, 20-inch for the SEL Premium) and sportier exterior styling elements.
The Tiguan’s interior is classically Volkswagen, which is to say that it is simple and functional but not particularly stylish or rich. Others offer more legroom in the second row, but the Tiguan is one of the only vehicles in the class that can be had with seating for seven. The Tiguan comes standard with cloth seating and partial power adjustment for the front seats. Opting into more expensive versions can net full power adjustment for the driver, faux-leather seating, and a panoramic sunroof.
Volkswagen’s infotainment system—Car-Net—is sleek and features touch buttons integrated into a large glass screen. The system comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so drivers who prefer their smartphone’s familiar interface to Volkswagen’s system are in luck. Wi-Fi and mobile data are not available as they are in the Chevrolet Equinox, but that’s more of an accolade for the Equinox than a knock against the Tiguan. A 480-watt nine-speaker Fender audio system is available for audiophiles but only in the top SEL Premium trim.
With just 12 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, the Tiguan simply can’t be a hauling vehicle when the third row is in use. With the third row folded, the Tiguan’s cargo measurements put it about in the middle of this class for raw space. With all the seats folded, we fit 19 of our carry-on boxes in the Tiguan, less than we stuffed inside key rivals including the Honda CR-V and the Nissan Rogue.
Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan splits the difference between compact and mid-size crossover SUVs, meaning it’s more spacious than a Honda CR-V but not as big inside as a Toyota Highlander.
For many shoppers, it hits the sweet spot. We rate the 2019 Tiguan at 8 out of 10, with points above average for comfortable front- and second-row seats and another for its spacious cargo hold. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The VW Tiguan’s front seats are firm and supportive, with good adjustment and lumbar support. The standard cloth upholstery on the Tiguan S has a grippy, tough feel, although the synthetic leather fitted to SE and SEL trims is durable and easy to clean. The Tiguan SEL Premium drapes its interior in leather—as it should for nearly $39,000.
The infotainment system is one of the best in the segment, and the Fender premium audio system is also quite good. Lots of advanced driving aids on this model, but they don’t feel fully baked yet. You have to sift through menus in the instrument panel to turn the driving aids on and off.
Audio & navigation: The 8-inch touchscreen is clear, crisp and easy to understand. The system abounds with neat touches. You can preview artists and songs without actually switching radio stations. Some navigation tools disappear from the screen until the system senses your finger moving toward it again.
Smartphone integration: Tiguan SE models and above feature two front USB ports and one in the rear, behind the center console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board. We had some trouble with CarPlay; podcasts would sometimes play with no audio, especially immediately after plugging in a phone.
Driver aids: The SEL Premium comes with the Tiguan’s full suite of driver aids. Actual performance is lackluster, however. The adaptive cruise system is late to recognize cars merging into your lane and slow to react to the car in front leaving the lane. We also experienced some unwarranted inputs from the lane-keeping assist system in our test vehicle.
Voice control: The built-in voice controls aren’t intuitive. You have to follow a strict menu structure, and the system is often confused. Navigation is limited to full addresses, recent addresses, home, or the address of someone in your contacts list. There is no point of interest or “find the nearest x” searchability.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Although it’s now in its second model year, this generation of Tiguan still hasn’t been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has, however, received a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Tiguan can be equipped with a full complement of driver-assistance features, but significant chunks of that equipment can be had only in upper trim levels, while other features are found in entry-level versions that require the addition of the Driver Assistance package. Key safety features include:
Available automated emergency braking
Available blind-spot monitoring
Available adaptive cruise control