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2024 Volkswagen Tiguan Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
April 15, 2024
2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

To understand most automotive brands, look at their compact crossover SUVs. These models are most brands’ bestsellers, and they represent not only a design ethos but also a best effort. No expense can be spared to create a strong compact crossover. 

Accordingly, the 2024 Volkswagen Tiguan represents VW’s place in the U.S. market: a German brand that adjusts its products in a nod to American tastes. That means today’s Tiguan combines a European flavor with the spaciousness and value that Americans expect from a small SUV. It even throws in an available third-row seat, an uncommon perk for this size and price point. We just spent a week testing the 2024 Tiguan to see how it stacks up in the compact crossover segment. Keep reading as we explore its pros and cons to see if it’s the right fit for you. 

Priced From Below $30,000

For a time, Volkswagen priced its cars above stalwarts like Toyota or Ford. These days, it’s almost a budget brand. And especially with new standard features introduced this year, the Tiguan is an aggressively priced SUV for its segment. 

The 2024 VW Tiguan starts at $28,880. That price includes seven-passenger seating and high-end features like push-button starting, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, alloy wheels, and adaptive cruise control. The Tiguan SE, $31,580, has larger wheels, a larger touchscreen, leatherette upholstery instead of cloth, a power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, a wireless smartphone charger, and a power liftgate, plus the option for a $1,200 panoramic sunroof. With the sunroof and all-wheel drive, that’s just about everything that many people will demand from a fully optioned SUV for under $35,000. (AWD costs $1,500 extra on most trim levels and removes the third-row seat.) The top SEL R-Line like our test vehicle, $38,880, brings genuine leather, ventilated front seats, GPS navigation, a Fender premium sound system, and a memory system for the driver’s seat, along with AWD and the sunroof as standard equipment. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

European Design

The current-generation Tiguan dates all the way back to 2018, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Its clean, crisp lines and big windows help distinguish itself from flashier or more aggressive rivals. 

The current Tiguan also wears a face that debuted in 2022 and is shared with the compact Volkswagen Golf hatchback – represented in the U.S. only by its GTI and Golf R performance variants. With slim headlights that point into spears as they wrap around toward the fenders, the Tiguan has a subtle sporting edge that you won’t find in the company’s other U.S. SUVs. The smaller VW Taos and larger VW Atlas have bigger, blockier headlights. The Tiguan looks more like the Golf – long one of Europe’s best-selling cars and a key member of Volkswagen’s U.S. performance heritage. The R-Line appearance package is available on the SE (a trim level called the SE R-Line Black) and standard on the SEL. On the SE, it has sportier body cladding and blacked-out 19-inch wheels. The SEL has silver 20-inch wheels and a lightbar integrated into its front grille. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

European Front Seats, American Backseat

Sitting inside the Tiguan exemplifies the balance it strikes between European and American flavors. Up front, you’ll feel the European influence in its firm, supportive seats. Prominent bolsters hold you in place for the fast cornering that European carmakers like to prepare for. But the backseat’s ample legroom is excellent even by American standards. The U.S gets an extended-length version of the European Tiguan, and VW created a slightly smaller model (not sold in Europe) called the Taos to fill in that gap. 

Like on other VWs, either leatherette or genuine leather is standard on all but the base Tiguan, meaning it drops cloth at a lower price than most competitors. As we mentioned, heated front seats are standard on all trim levels as well, while the top SEL R-Line adds cooled front seats. The Tiguan is also one of America’s only two vehicles to offer a third-row seat for less than $30,000. It’s not a big one, but it can be convenient to unfold for an occasional emergency. Every front-wheel-drive Tiguan includes the third row, but it’s not offered with all-wheel drive. Cargo capacity is near best in class, at least with AWD: 38 feet cubic feet behind the front seat and 73 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The folded third row takes up some cargo room in front-drive Tiguans, which drop to 33 cubic feet behind the second row and 65 cubic feet behind the front seats. You get just 12 cubic feet with the third row in use. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Choice of Screen Sizes

The Tiguan’s interior does show its age. While newer VWs have adopted big screens, the Tiguan’s measures a wee 6.5 inches on the S model and a below-average 8 inches on the rest of the lineup. VW mitigates that with its customizable digital gauge cluster, especially on the SEL R-Line, with a bigger screen and integrated GPS maps.

But our bigger complaint is needlessly fussy ergonomics, like touch-sensitive steering-wheel buttons and climate controls (except on the S model). The goals behind the Tiguan’s flush controls are twofold: a slicker look and, with no moving parts, lower manufacturing costs. The climate controls work fine while you’re parked, but it takes too much concentration to adjust the fan speed or seat heater on the go. The steering wheel controls are even fussier, since there’s sometimes a lag between when you push a “button” and the gauge cluster tells you whether the car registered your attempt. Plus, it’s easy to accidentally change something while just brushing against the car. VW has pledged to walk back its touch-sensitive controls, especially on the steering wheel, but it’s too late for the 2024 Tiguan. The base Tiguan S has ultra-simple buttons and knobs, but VW surrounds them with acres of gray plastic as if to say “you don’t want this.” And no Tiguan has a dazzling interior – it’s simple and austere, not flashy or luxurious. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Sporty Driving Manners

European cars are known for their sporty performance, and by and large, the Tiguan delivers.  Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 184 horsepower and a healthy 221 pound-feet of torque. The Tiguan isn’t the swiftest small SUV, and the throttle and eight-speed automatic transmission aren’t perfectly calibrated for smooth acceleration. But the Tiguan has decent pep and sounds better than many competing four-cylinder crossovers. 

More significantly, the Tiguan has a well-sorted suspension that gives this VW higher handling limits than many rival SUVs. The light steering has extra play before the car starts to respond, so the Tiguan doesn’t feel always ready to dance. Enthusiasts might wish for sharper responses, and between the steering and the touchy throttle, the Tiguan doesn’t drive like a machine that’s polished to perfection. Still, the low-effort steering keeps the Tiguan accessible to everyone, and it beats most competitors if you do decide to push it. And while the ride is on the firm side, it’s not uncomfortably stiff or noisy even with our test car’s big 20-inch wheels. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Middling Fuel Efficiency

Even though it’s not incredibly fast, the Tiguan isn’t an especially economical small SUV. The base front-wheel-drive S model gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined. That’s already 3 mpg behind a comparable Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4, to say nothing of their available gas-electric hybrid versions.

The Tiguan lineup sheds mileage further as you add all-wheel drive or non-S trims’ larger wheels. Most AWD Tiguans score 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined, and our R-Line test vehicle dips down to 24 mpg combined. We beat those estimates to average 27 mpg during our weeklong test – mainly using the selectable Eco mode. That’s still not great for this class, but if you opt for front-wheel drive, that’s pretty good for a three-row SUV. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

More Standard Safety

This year, Volkswagen introduced the IQ.Drive suite of safety and driver-assistance features as standard equipment on every Tiguan. Along with the forward automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring that was already included last year, the 2024 Tiguan adds a lane-departure warning with lane-keeping steering assistance, adaptive cruise control, and rear automated braking. Our top SEL R-Line test vehicle also includes a surround-view parking camera. 

The Tiguan does pretty well in crash testing, earning top Good ranks in the frontal and side-impact evaluations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the IIHS hasn’t yet subjected the Tiguan to its latest tests – a tougher side-impact test or one that measures rear-seat safety in frontal impacts. And the Tiguan scored a low Marginal for its automatic emergency braking system’s ability to detect and avoid a pedestrian. The Tiguan also earned only four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lower than several competitors. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Competitors to Consider

As we mentioned, the compact crossover class features many brands’ very best efforts, which means tough competition for the Tiguan. That includes the quick, quiet, polished, spacious, and economical Nissan Rogue; the roomy and refined Honda CR-V; the spacious, stylish, and affordable Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage; and the luxurious, fun-to-drive Mazda CX-5 and Mazda CX-50. Against this field (and more), the Tiguan distinguishes itself for the European flavor that we mentioned – all while offering ample space and available three-row versatility at the same time. Yet it’s not the cheapest, quickest, sportiest, safest, or most economical of the bunch. And as we mentioned, rival hybrids can offer truly incredible efficiency. 

If you’re interested in the Tiguan for its three-row seating, we’ll mention two other competitors. One is the Mitsubishi Outlander, the only other seven-passenger compact crossover. It’s a version of the Nissan Rogue with three rows of seats, different styling, and a less advanced engine. We find it more upscale than the Tiguan, and its controls are easier to use, but its styling isn’t for everyone and it has a slightly less sporty flavor to its engine and handling. Secondly, the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are three-row mid-size SUVs priced from the low $30,000s. They’re about half a size larger than the Tiguan, and their third rows are slightly more usable. 

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Final Thoughts

The 2024 Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t check all the conventional boxes for a compact crossover. Instead of the highest possible gas mileage, touchscreen size, safety scores, or (with front-wheel drive) cargo capacity, the Tiguan’s strengths are in its sweeter-sounding engine, higher handling limits, European design, and unusual third-row option. 

If you’re not in love with the Tiguan’s flavor, that’s OK. You have plenty of alternatives. But if you do love the idea of European-style design, driving poise, and seat shape – or a small SUV with three rows of seats – the roomy, comfortable, and decently affordable Tiguan won’t make you sacrifice too much to get that. 

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line ・ Photo by Brady Holt


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