Tiguan’s beauty is more than skin deep

John Gilbert

Looking sleek and even stately, the 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan was the perfect vehicle to visit Knife River. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Looking sleek and even stately, the 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan was the perfect vehicle to visit Knife River. Photo credit: John Gilbert
North Shore snow piled up, but the Tiguan was a solid and secure way to go dashing through the snow. Photo credit: John Gilbert
North Shore snow piled up, but the Tiguan was a solid and secure way to go dashing through the snow. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The tradition of making cosmetic changes to make a new car look artificially new appear to be over. Auto companies seem to have finally realized that if they build a model with a widely accepted design, staying with it is not a bad thing.

That seems to have been the belief of Volkswagen for years, particularly when you consider the Beetle, or the Golf. It also makes a major inroad into the compact Tiguan SUV, which is more into refining upgrades than startling alterations.

I’ve written about the Tiguan before, because it is a solid, substantial, safe SUV, capable of hauling a good amount of stuff as well as people, and giving you a secure feeling of driving and riding, which is important to families. Over two generations of Tiguans, there wasn’t a lot of change for change sake, but in 2018, VW made a somewhat startling move.

The decision was made to lengthen the Tiguan and offer a their-row passenger seat as an option. The seats fold down, greatly expanding luggage capacity, but it made the third-generation Tiguan stand out for having grown substantially.

In the design, VW did a great job of stretching out the body and making that extra room useful on the inside, but it didn’t look that much bigger unless you parked one alongside the first two generation models, when the extra foot or so of length was notable.

At first, my impression was that the new and longer Tiguan made me appreciate the older and shorter model more. Both were sold, but it was evident that the shorter model would only exist until the supply ran out, then all Tiguans would become the longer model.

I recently had the chance to spend a week in Northern Minnesota with the 2020 Tiguan, and we did find ways to put the extra storage space to good use. The model we tested was loaded up as the SEL model — second only to the SEL Premium in VW’s five-model pecking order.

For 2020, the Tiguan SEL adds some technology and features, many of them dealing with connectivity, and safety. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and emergency stopping aid, pedestrian detection, the optional third-row seat, and a Fender premium audio with nine speakers added to the pleasant environment of the Tiguan SEL.

The SEL model Tiguan offers smooth leather bucket seats and an upscale interior. Photo credit: John Gilbert
The SEL model Tiguan offers smooth leather bucket seats and an upscale interior. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The Tiguan price is comparatively steep, but spending up to $38,000 assures you of comfort and convenience added onto the standard safety. The standard engine is the tried and trusty VW 2.0-liter dual overhead camshaft 4-cylinder, bolstered by a turbocharger up to 184 horsepower. The test vehicle also had 4-Motion, which is VW’s all-wheel-drive system.

The test Tiguan also ad remote start and rain-sensing wipers, while adding wireless charging, and the latest cell-phone compatibility, and a large sunroof, plus a 1,500-pound towing maximum, which is adequate for fishing boats or light camping trailers.

Competition for the Tiguan comes from vehicles such as the Mazda CX-5 — one of my personal favorites — and the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Ford Escape, among others. The proliferation of compact SUVs makes this a crowded segment, although the Tiguan holds its head high as a premium entry.

Driving the Tiguan gives you the feeling of security in all situations. We had a good old-fashioned North Shore snowstorm during my time with the Tiguan, and it always provided a calming effect — safety, security, and the solid ability to get you through anything to get home.

Comfort from the leather bucket seats of the upper-crust SEL R-Line, with its sporty touches, and the third row seat is not to be taken lightly. It’s not particularly roomy for adults, but it is capable, and with the 4-Motion models, you get 5-7 occupants. With all three rows in place, there is 12 cubic feet of storage behind the third row; folding down the third row obviously increases that, and if you fold down both the second and third rows, you have 65.7 cubic feet of storage.

Stylish grille shows off R-Line emblem and adds a sporty touch. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Stylish grille shows off R-Line emblem and adds a sporty touch. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Refinement of the third-generation Tiguan gives no indication of its added length and three rows of seating. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Refinement of the third-generation Tiguan gives no indication of its added length and three rows of seating. Photo credit: John Gilbert

In its renovated product line, Volkswagen is streamlining things with brisk and efficient engines. The 2.0 Turbo is the only one available in the Tiguan, and it is capable of being quick enough and still delivering mid to high 20s in miles per gallon. Some of the modern touches are more than gimmicks, things like lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert, and while you get a larger navigation screen
with the models such as the SEL, you appreciate them once you drive with them.

In years past, there might have been two different 4-cylinder engines and a V6 available, but the do-all 2.0-Turbo, it overlaps its assets to cover all demands. You can find faster SUVs, and more economical ones, but it difficult to think of one that offers the size, room, safety and security, and the promise of that solid build and style.

Style is purely subjective, of course, but in my mind, the sleek grille and the smooth look without being gimmicky are complemented by a neat crease along the side. And if the realization occurs to you that you needn’t trade in your vehicle every two years to keep up with the newest model you admire the stately look of the new Tiguan even more.