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2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Crossover Road Test and Review -

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
July 8, 2013
6 min. Reading Time

It's de rigueur now for every automaker to offer at least one compact crossover vehicle in its lineup, and the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan represents the latest effort from the German brand more known for its hatchbacks and wagons than for its SUVs.  The Tiguan borrows heavily from the bones of the VW Golf, which is an excellent starting point for any family-oriented vehicle, and it certainly holds its own as an intriguing choice for those seeking a tall, all-wheel drive commuter.

There are a few things about the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan, however, the keep it from tackling its more mainstream competitors like the Ford Escape and the Toyota RAV4 head-on.  Even when compared against niche players like the Mazda CX-5 and the Subaru XV Crosstrek, the Tiguan's cracks start to show.  It's harder than ever to stay competitive in the crowded entry-level crossover segment, and Volkswagen has seen the Tiguan increasingly crowded to the rear of the pack.

2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Models and Prices

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan comes in three trim levels - S, SE, and SEL - with a few options packages masquerading as trims sandwiched in between.  The entry-level Tiguan S (MSRP $22,995) features cruise control, power windows and door locks, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, and keyless entry.  Stepping up to the SE (MSRP $29,470) introduces 18-inch wheels in place of the S model's 16-inch alloys, installs vinyl seat covers, a touchscreen audio system, heaters for the front buckets, a power-reclining driver's seat, fog lights, roof rails, and a few trim upgrades.  The top-tier Tiguan SEL (MSRP $$35,175) presents buyers with LED running lights, adaptive HID headlights, dual automatic climate control, a full power driver's seat with leather upholstery all around, automatic windshield wipers, push-button start, and a rearview camera.  The SEL also gains a sportier suspension system, a navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, and 19-inch rims.

You will notice that it's quite easy to suddenly spend a lot of money on the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan if you want to sample the softer side of its equipment list.  In fact, while the base Tiguan's price is competitive with other crossovers in its class, by the time you get to the SEL you are looking at a gap of $5,000 or more between the Volkswagen and most of its rivals - and that's before you add on all-wheel drive.  This price differential is exacerbated by the fact that the Tiguan's list of features is trumped by several other small 'utes and that it also falls short in a few other key areas that I'll get to later in this review.

My Canadian-spec 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan featured different names and packages for its trim levels when compared to the American model, but the vehicle I drove was the equivalent of an all-wheel drive SEL, with a total price as tested to $37,130.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Design

  • The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan's design carries over from the year before.

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan presents a clean if somewhat plain appearance that is well in keeping with the same design language that informs the current generation Golf hatchback and Jetta sedan, neatly tying together the brand's three compact, entry-level models.  The LED accent lights ringing the headlights were a nice touch that served to bring out a bit of personality from the Tiguan's visage, while the 19-inch rims bulked up its profile and gave it a sense of purpose that shone through even the grey paint of my tester.

Inside the Volkswagen Tiguan is more of the same, with VW once again executing an upscale cabin in an affordable automobile largely by way of avoiding hard plastics and keeping the control surfaces, gauges, door panels, and trim simple.  Some will appreciate the straightforward, unfettered looks of the Tiguan's interior, while others will be disappointed by the lack of gadgets, LED mood lighting, and other such distractions.  It really depends on your frame of mind, but if you 'get' VW's approach to passenger compartment styling then you will no doubt be enamored of the restraint shown inside the Tiguan.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is unchanged compared to the 2012 model, except for the inclusion of leather-wrapping on the steering wheel for the entry-level trim on up.

Passengers will enjoy their time inside the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan, thanks to the fact that the compact crossover comes with a reclining rear seat that compliments two very comfortable thrones up front.  The amount of rear legroom inside the small SUV is also good, with Volkswagen making every effort to maximize the space afforded by the taller roof of the Tiguan.  My test vehicle's panoramic sunroof added an even greater sensation of openness inside the cabin, although it did rattle a bit more than I would have liked when moving over bumps in the road.

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is definitely smaller than many other crossovers in its class when it comes to cargo space, as 56.1 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats folded is nothing to brag about when Japanese rivals can offer more than 70 cubic feet and even the Ford Escape features 68.1 cubes.  I was able to put what space was available to excellent use, however, in moving boxes from a friend's old home to his new one, and I was shocked at how much the Tiguan could carry with clever packing.  While it might not pack the same utility punch as other vehicles at its price point, the Volkswagen is still a very useful and versatile vehicle.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan doesn't offer any new features for the current model year.

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan's feature set really shows where the almost minimalist philosophy adopted by the automaker's designers starts to impact the customer experience.  The chief culprit is the crossover's aging navigation and entertainment system, which is slow to respond to commands and which isn't all that intuitive to use.  Not only that, but it features a very long boot-time, with sometimes 30 seconds going by after starting the Tiguan before one can actually use the system.  This is frustrating in the face of other infotainment options that are not only faster, but which also offer greatly expanded functionality compared to the Volkswagen interface.  When paying $35,000 for a vehicle, one expects these types of features to be ready for prime time, and VW is at least a generation or two behind Ford's SYNC, Chevrolet's MyLink, and even Nissan's plug-and-play standard nav system.

Less-is-more is also a dangerous philosophy to employ when it comes to overall technological content, and here the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan falls flat as well.  There are no innovations such as the Ford Escape's hands-free tailgate to be found inside the VW, which remains doggedly stuck in the mid-2000's in terms of its premium amenities.  Some buyers simply don't care about this type of equipment, and for them the base model Tiguan is a compelling choice, but for those who are willing to spend the Tiguan SEL's MSRP, the fact that they are missing is unacceptable.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan offers no new safety equipment.

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan comes with electronic traction control and stability control, seat-mounted side impact airbags up front, dual forward airbags, and side curtain airbags that extend the entire length of the passenger compartment.  No advanced safety features, such as a blind spot monitoring system, are available with the crossover.

2013 Volkswagen Tiguan Crash-Test Ratings: The Volkswagen Tiguan scored 'Good' in all IIHS crash testing.  The vehicle's NHTSA crash protection rating is more of a mixed bag, as it earned four stars overall due to a three out of five star performance in a frontal collision as well as four out of five star rating in rollover testing.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan maintains the same engine as it did the previous model year.

All versions of the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan feature a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to produce 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque.  A six-speed manual transmission is included free of charge with the Tiguan S, while a six-speed automatic (not a dual-clutch unit) is offered as an option on the S and standard with all other trims.  All-wheel drive is also available with auto-equipped versions of the crossover.

Fuel mileage for the 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan shows as 21-mpg in stop and go driving and 26-mpg during highway cruising with the automatic transmission specified.  All-wheel drive exacts a single mile per gallon penalty in around town driving.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Driving Impressions

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is an interesting crossover to drive, especially when outfitted with the sport suspension package that comes with the SEL edition.  Balancing well between providing responsive handling and muting out pavement imperfections, the Volkswagen Tiguan compares favorably to its Golf roots and renders trips to the grocery store a little more fun than they otherwise might be - particularly if there are any twists or turns to be dealt with along the way.

Unfortunately, the Tiguan's drivetrain can't quite keep up with the promise of its well-tuned chassis.  VW's turbocharged four-cylinder is a dependable source of motivation for a wide variety of automobiles in the brand's stable, but when matched up against the 3,500 lbs mass of the Tiguan and saddled with a torque converter-equipped automatic transmission, the engine's lack of torque becomes quite noticeable.  Acceleration is moderate at nearly every speed, which means that I had to plan out passing maneuvers in advance when traveling on the highway.  City dwellers won't be as bothered by the crossover's performance, unless they drive any one of a range of new compact family haulers that offer an appreciable boost in power over the Tiguan.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan is a good crossover in a field of great crossovers.  It might not seem fair to judge the Tiguan by the company it keeps, but that is exactly how family shoppers will be voting (with their dollars) once it comes time to replace their current daily drivers.  The Tiguan's turbocharged four-cylinder power has been eclipsed by more robust, and fuel efficient options, its feature set lags behind the market's current craving for flashy infotainment features, and its interior room is practical but far short of the truly enormous cargo space provided by big names in its segment.  Factor in pricing that sees buyers paying more for less than what they would get elsewhere the higher they go up the trim ladder, and it's hard to recommend anything other than the base model Tiguan to those seeking a well-rounded compact crossover vehicle.


2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Review: Pros and Cons


  • Comfortable interior
  • High end looks inside passenger compartment
  • Simple but stylish on the outside
  • Excellent rear passenger room


  • Dated infotainment features
  • Engine power is adequate, but not competitive
  • Much smaller from a cargo perspective than many competitors
  • Priced above better-equipped rivals in higher trim levels


Volkswagen Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.



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