2020 Volkswagen Tiguan review

The Tiguan is a medium SUV from Volkswagen that drives beautifully. You can choose from three excellent petrol engines, and most drive all wheels. Auto braking is standard.

Volkswagen Tiguan Highline
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Roadholding
  • Power
  • Space
  • Comfort

Not so much

  • Price with options
  • DSG autos in town

What stands out?

The Tiguan is a medium SUV from Volkswagen that's based on the Golf hatchback and drives just as beautifully, with reassuring roadholding in all conditions. You can choose from three powerful, but economical turbocharged petrol engines that drive all four wheels. All have excellent smartphone integration, and an active safety suite that includes auto braking.

There is also a stretched seven-seat version called the Tiguan Allspace, which isn't included in this review.

What might bug me?

Stop-start driving with the auto transmission, which occasionally hesitates and can be inconsistent on take-offs. The Tiguan’s DSG auto gearbox is great once you’re moving, but many drivers do not find it as smooth and easy in town as a conventional or CVT auto.

Driving after a puncture. The Tiguan has a space-saver spare wheel, which limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h.

Paying more for fuel: both petrol engines require premium unleaded, which costs more than regular unleaded.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

Some Tiguans drive only the front wheels, but most drive all four wheels.

Where the original Tiguan was classed as a small SUV, this replacement has grown a little and is classed as a medium SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Tiguans have?

An eight-speaker sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, an SD card slot, Aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth audio streaming. A colour touchscreen from which you can control the sound system and other cabin functions.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you plug in a compatible iPhone or Android smartphone, some phone apps – including mapping and music – are mirrored on the touchscreen display and can be controlled from there.

Cruise control, windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains, LED headlights that switch on automatically in low light, and power folding door mirrors.

A leather-wrapped steering wheel that carries buttons for operating the cruise control, the audio system, and your phone.

A reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear. There is also an auto parking function, which tells you when you have found a big enough space and can steer the car in for you.

Keyless Access lets you unlock the car and drive away without removing the key from your bag or pocket, and a power-operated tailgate that can open when you wave your foot under it.

Aluminium alloy wheels, which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels. A space-saver spare wheel (with a recommended top speed of 80km/h).

Tyre pressure monitoring, which alerts you if a tyre is losing air.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid or slide (all new cars must have this feature).

Autonomous emergency braking, and lane-keeping assistance. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Tiguan safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Tiguan comes with Volkswagen’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The Tiguan comes with three four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines, with least powerful, the 1.4-litre 110TSI consuming 5.9 litres/100km on the official test (city and country cycles combined).

The 110TSI is a sweet 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder, although it won’t jump as hard when you first press the accelerator. Expect to average about 9.5 litres/100km in the real world, over a mix of city and country use.

The Tiguan is also available with two 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines, the most economical of which is the 132TSI that consumes 7.5 litres/100km on the official test (city and country cycles combined). It provides more than enough power to the Tiguan particularly for overtaking.

The most powerful Tiguan is the 162TSI, a more highly tuned 2.0-litre four-cylinder, and at 8.1 litres/100km it is also the thirstiest. (The number designating each engine represents its maximum power output in kilowatts.)

Each engine requires premium unleaded, which is more expensive than regular unleaded and E10 (a blend of ethanol and petrol).

The 110TSI comes with six-speed DSG (for direct-shift gearbox) auto. The 132TSI and 162TSI come only with a seven-speed DSG auto.

DSG, or dual clutch, auto gearboxes work much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. It shifts very smoothly and quickly and saves fuel, but cannot match the fluid take-off from rest that you get with conventional or CVT autos.

The 132TSI and 162TSI versions have a driving profile selection with 4MOTION (all-wheel-drive) Active Control. This lets you adjust how lazily or immediately the car responds to your control inputs, and also to optimise it for snow or gravel-road driving.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Tiguan, the 110TSI Trendline, has cloth-covered seats, 17-inch wheels, and drives only the front wheels. A manual gearbox is standard, with the auto an extra-cost option.

Spend more for any Tiguan Comfortline and auto transmission is standard. You also get satellite-navigation. Three-zone air-conditioning lets rear passengers too choose their temperature, and they can fold down little tables housed behind the front seats.

Choosing Comfortline also gives you access to the more powerful 132TSI petrol engine, which brings all-wheel drive (which Volkswagen calls 4Motion).

The 132TSI Comfortline also brings 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen.

The Comfortline can also be had with a Driver Assistance Pack. That brings you Adaptive cruise control (which can match the speed of a slower car in front on the highway, even bringing you automatically to a halt if that car stops). There is also an Active info display – which replaces your instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch customisable colour screen. And there is lane-change assistance (called Side Assist) and a rear cross-traffic alert (for more on these systems, please open the Safety section below).

Upgrading to the Tiguan Highline brings the more powerful 162TSI engine and you get body enhancements, a 9.2-inch touchscreen and bigger 19-inch alloy wheels.

You also gain the Driver Assistant Pack as standard, LED tail-lights, Vienna leather upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats, heated front and outboard rear seats, and ambient interior lighting.

The Highline now comes standard with Adaptive chassis control that lets you soften the suspension (for more comfort) or stiffen it (for sharper handling), while driving.

Option packages

As well as choosing the Driver Assistance Pack, the Comfortline buyers can option the Luxury package for about $4000. It brings leather on the seats, heating for the front seats, power adjustment for the driver’s seat, and a memory for up to three drivers’ settings. There is a big sunroof, and the exterior mirrors fold against the body automatically when parked (which keeps them out of harm’s way).

If you still have money left to spend on your Comfortline you can also specify the Sound & Vision Package that adds a Dynaudio Excite premium sound system, active digital dashboard display, ambient lighting and surround view parking display.

Spending about $3000 more on a Highline will get you the R-Line Package that makes the Highline look sportier with a series of exterior and interior enhancements including revised bumpers and side sills, a black rear spoiler, bigger 20-inch wheels with thinner low-profile tyres, R-Line Vienna leather sports seats, brushed stainless steel pedals, sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, black headliner, and aluminium scuff plates inside the door frames with R-Line logos.

A Sound & Vision is also available for the Highline, which adds the active digital dashboard display, Dynaudio Excite premium audio and surround-view parking display.

A panoramic sunroof can be added to the Highline for about $2000.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The lower profile tyres on the more expensive variants ride more roughly – because there is less air between the wheel and the road – and could cost more to replace. The 20-inch wheels that come with the R-Line pack and Wolfsburg Editions, in particular, degrade comfort.

White is the only standard colour; the other colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the Volkswagen Tiguan?

In any Tiguan, the front seats are a highlight. The padding is quite firm but gives you excellent support and great comfort over long distances. Vision too is excellent all round, and in general the cabin feels exceptionally airy and spacious.

Buttons and dials are well placed. The touchscreen is high on the dash and its infotainment menus are easy to follow.

In-cabin storage is excellent too, from binnacles in the centre console to large door pockets and even a covered cavity in the top of the dashboard.

The Tiguan cruises quietly on country roads, suppressing road and engine noise well.

Suspensions are taut but not uncomfortably so. Nevertheless, on all but the smoothest roads the ride feels somewhat unsettled – it’s less relaxing than you might hope for from a family hauler.

Body roll is nicely controlled, adding to the easy-driving nature of the Tiguan.

Each engine has plenty of punch in most situations, although the 110TSI may feel like it is working hard up long hills with lots of people on board.

The DSG auto transmissions feel smooth and slick on the run. When parking or in stop-start traffic, they are less forgiving than other autos, however.

What about safety in a Tiguan?

Every Tiguan has the mandatory electronic stability control, auto headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights (which help other drivers see you), and seven airbags.

In addition, all Tiguans have city-speed auto emergency braking, a highway-speed forward collision alert, lane-keeping assistance, and a driver fatigue monitor.

Two airbags protect the driver and front passenger’s upper bodies from frontal impacts, and a third protects the driver’s knees. One outside each front seat protects at chest level from side impacts. And curtain airbags extending down each side of the car at head level protect front and rear passengers from side impacts.

The Tiguan’s standard driver assist systems use radar and camera sensors to monitor the roadway ahead when you’re driving.

Its autonomous emergency braking, which Volkswagen calls City Emergency Brake, operates at speeds up to 30km/h and can automatically brake the car if it concludes a collision is imminent (typically with a sharply slowing vehicle ahead). At all higher speeds, Front Assist warns you of an impending collision but will not apply the brakes for you.

Lane Assist uses the camera to monitor lane markers. At speeds over 55km/h, if it concludes you are drifting out of your lane – perhaps from distraction – it will gently adjust the steering in an attempt to bring you back. If you continue to drift, it will vibrate the steering wheel and flash a warning.

Fatigue detection monitors your movements of the steering wheel. If they suggest you might be falling asleep, it proposes you take a break.

Should none of this prevent a crash (perhaps because you have been hit from behind), Multi-collision brake acts to prevent your drifting into the path of another vehicle after impact, automatically applying the brakes.

On Comfortline Tiguans you can enhance the standard safety equipment with a Driver assistance pack at extra cost. Among other features, it adds Side Assist and Rear Traffic Alert – both relying on rear-facing sensors. The former helps you avoid changing lanes into the path of an adjacent or overtaking vehicle, warning you with a light in the exterior mirror and even seeking to steer you away from danger. The latter works when you are reversing, looking to either side behind you for vehicles crossing on a collision course. These come standard with the Highline.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the Tiguan at five stars for safety, most recently in October 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The original Tiguan raised the bar for SUV driving manners when it arrived in 2008, and this slightly bigger replacement remains among the most enjoyable cars of its type – in this case, mid-sized SUVs.

The steering is not as light as in some, but the weight – which is more noticeable above 60km/h – adds confidence. The steering wheel telegraphs every movement of the wheels, and that feel for the road is teamed with fantastic grip in corners.

A feature called Extended Differential Lock brakes inside wheels gently when you turn, effectively directing less power to those wheels and more to the more heavily loaded outside wheels, reducing the likelihood of an inside wheel spinning, and improving acceleration and steering accuracy.

Each Tiguan has plenty of grunt for sustaining cruising speeds. The 162TSI brings the most driving thrills. Its engine is a near match for that in the Volkswagen Golf GTI – a true hot hatch. While the Tiguan is not as fiery as the Golf – performance is dulled by its bigger and heavier body – the 162TSI feels brisk and helps you exploit the Tiguan’s excellent dynamics.

All-wheel drive enhances the Tiguan’s stability on wet sealed roads. In AWD trim the Tiguan is a light-duty off-roader, effective on gravel or snow covered roads and easy tracks. However, it does not have the ground clearance or low-range gearing required for challenging off-road work.

How is life in the rear seats?

The current Tiguan is about 6.0 cm longer and 3.0 cm wider than the original it has replaced. Crucially, there is an extra 7.5 cm between the front and rear wheels, which liberates leg room in the rear. Tall adults will appreciate the generous rear head room, too.

The rear seats slide forward and back to adjust boot space, and you can adjust the seatback angle for comfort.

Rear storage is good, too. As well as sizeable door pockets there are small binnacles on either side of the seat base, providing a perfect cubby hole for toys or rubbish.

Even if you are small, it is easy to see out from the back seat. And rear passengers in any automatic Tiguan can use airline-style fold-up tables mounted on the backs of the front seats.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Boot space in the original Tiguan was tight for family duties. This longer replacement can handle much more luggage.

The boot floor is flat, broad, and deep, and there are binnacles in both rear corners for small items you don’t want rolling around.

Rear seats now fold 40-20-40, which adds flexibility for combining rear passengers with long loads. You can fold either of the big outer seat units or both, or you can seat two outer passengers while still allowing long, narrow items to poke into the cabin.

Plus, the entire rear seat unit slides forward and back, allowing a trade-off between rear leg room and boot space.

However, while the seat backs flip down the seat bases remain in place, so that the expanded boot rises slightly towards the front of the car.

The 110TSI is rated to tow 1800kg; all other are rated to tow 2500kg.

Where does Volkswagen make the Tiguan?

All Tiguans sold in Australia are made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Possibly a third row of seats, so that you can carry seven people, though Volkswagen has addressed this with the Tiguan Allspace that is not included in this review. The Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander also offer a third row in an SUV that is still classed as medium-sized.

The option of a more efficient turbocharged diesel engine as with the X-Trail, Outlander, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Pegueot 3008, Renault Koleos and Toyota RAV4. Volkswagen culled the diesel-powered Tiguans from the range in August 2018 due to low demand.

Otherwise you won’t miss much. The Tiguan is very well equipped, with models and options to please a wide variety of tastes.

Among other cars you might consider are the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Holden Equinox, Skoda Karoq and Suzuki Vitara.

Are there plans to update the Tiguan soon?

This second generation Tiguan went on sale about September 2016, and so we are not likely to see an all-new model until 2022.

About September 2017 the Tiguan Adventure was added to the original Trendline, Comfortline and Highline trim levels. The Sportline joined the range in December 2017 to provide a slightly less costly way to have the most powerful 162TSI.

Volkswagen introduced the seven-seat Tiguan Allspace in August 2018.

At the same time Volkswagen Australia announced it was dropping the smaller 110TSI petrol engine, and 110TDI and 140TDI diesels. The diesels were dropped due to low demand, while the 110TSI was omitted temporarily due to production being suspended in Germany in order for Volkswagen to complete testing for the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) real-world emissions testing.

The Tiguan 110TSI versions returned to the range in September 2019, bringing the entry level pricing back below $40,000.

Expect to see a mild mid-life update for the Tiguan some time in 2020.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

The Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline has enough punch and features for very relaxed motoring on the open road, especially with the addition of the Driver Assistance Pack.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Roadholding
  • Power
  • Space
  • Comfort

Not so much

  • Price with options
  • DSG autos in town


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Toby Hagon
WhichCar Staff

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