Our reviews here on Car-Revs-Daily.com generally try to be upbeat and playfully informative. With insightful observations galore and a few critiques along the way.
It is usually because the cars manufacturers send our way are all fairly loveable, newsworthy and generally pretty fresh on the market. We put ourselves in the position of the buyers in that market segment for a week. A week of driving later.. we’re usually gushing with some form of praise.
This Tiguan review will have many of those characteristics, but with a darker edge.
The 2016 Tiguan is woefully outclassed by nearly any compact crossover you can name. This is a vehicle that is seriously mature – and feels a cool two years past its sell-by date.
Is it all doom and gloom for the Tiggy, as CRD scribe Lyndon Johnson dubbed the Tiguan?
No, no it is not. There are a handful of redeeming qualities in the Tiguan’s segment-best handling and rorty turbo engine. The demerits list is much, much longer though.
Without further ado… let’s dive in with Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing section headings.
The exterior of the Tiguan R-line is the best in its model range. Oversized 19-inch alloys fill out those mini fender arches nicely. The body-color fenders and bumpers are all upscale versus the black plastic lower lining of cheaper Tiguans even in 2016, and the R-line until a few years ago too.
But the Tiguan is a design that was always hard to love. Time has made it even harder to embrace the Tiggy as a chic and stylish design.
Unusually, the Tiguan combines a long front overhang with an ultra chopped tailgate. A short wheelbase with impossibly small rear window and giant D-pillar. Somehow, the combination of these unhappy design elements makes the car look even smaller outside than it actually is.
Not a great basis to topple the cheaper and fresher RAV4, which was totally redesigned for both 2013 and 2016. The RAV4 and CR-V are now the top-selling vehicles in the USA (excluding full-size pickup trucks) so these comparisons are more relevant now than ever.
Tiggy looks a half-size smaller than either of those machines, and aside from its ride height, actually is smaller and more diminutive outside and in.
The Tiguan actually seems – based solely on its exterior design – to go up against the tiny Honda HR-V or even the bitesize Nissan Juke. Perhaps only the new Jeep Renegade or Fiat 500X are similarly sized.
The core proportions and design details are then a big thumbs-down from our vantage point.
Unfortunately, even this loaded R-Line 4Motion model lacks any excitement whatsoever in its design details.
Up close, we were aghast to find not one LED on the exterior of the machine – side mirror repeaters excluded. This, the trendiest segment of the car business, is not one that forgives such willful nerdiness and lack of tech.
Yellow daytime running lights, reflector halogen main lights in front and ho-hum incandescents for even the brakelights? C’mon now, VW.
It is so strange that the R-Line 4Motion would be this decontented. As you have doubtless seen on the roads, there are Tiguans with LED DRLs and projector-beam lenses for their lighting.
But those ramp up the pricing beyond the preposterous $32k VW asks for the test trucklet.
The 2016 and 2017 US-market Tiguans woeful uncompetitiveness on the exterior style front is made all the more apparent by the European Tiguan redesign that has been on sale across the pond for the last eight months.
That Tiguan looks longer, wider and classier for good reason: it is.
Inside the Tiggy, things continue to trend downward from our perspective.
The cabin of the Tiguan combines extreme seating discomfort with shoddy materials and huge, yawning panel gaps. The entire impression on first sitting is: eco-car hell.
The leatherette seating surfaces are cold to the touch in chilly weather and scortching when warmed by the sun. The seating and drive position are also deeply compromised. You sit about five inches higher than comfortable. Even in the lowest setting. Minimal adjustment for the rake/reach of the wheel mean you find the least-uncomfortable perch and set off.
Push-button start is nice, as are the proximity locks that – in theory – do not require a keyfob blip to unlock prior to pulling the handle. But the touchpoint did not work reliably for us on unlock, and we never got it to work locking the car as we tapped the handle when exiting.
Same surprise/horror for the tailgate button on VW’s switchblade keyfob. This should open the power tailgate, right? Nope. Just unlocks the manual door, which still needs a big heave upward once you’ve found the tucked-below door button.
We found ourselves asking this question multiple times during our Tiggy time:
What Year Is This?!
Similar terror at the engine’s gruff and intrusive noise at all times. No time more so than a cold startup, where the Tiguan’s turbo four growls out of its slumber like a drunken Santa Claus. This is not a happy motor, at least to your ears.
On the plus side, VW’s new infotainment unit for display audio is actually pretty good! We even got Apple CarPlay connected and operational. Curious not to have Nav at this price, but there is an SD card slot that may indicate the system can do maps if you buy the upgrade post-sale.
The throttle and brake interplay is also quite unhappy in the Tiguan. This is the first car in a while where the gas pedal is actively fighting you. It is much too hard to depress, let alone floor. Once you have shifted your hip and braced your leg… you can indeed floor the throttle.
And then you have some redeeming thrust. The Tiguan is indeed admirably speedy versus its underpowered rivals. Its turbo seems to have torque for days and an eager low-rev nature. You’ll have only minimal trouble scooting in front of other traffic at the lights.
But then comes this six-speed automatic transmission and its bag of problems.
The upshifts are slow even on full throttle launch starts. The downshifts are jarring and take another full bootfull of gas pedal to make happen at all.
Things do not improve by sliding the gearlever to its “S” position. In this overeager setting, the transmission hangs onto each gear like grim death. UPSHIFT!
Eventually, it does. By then, however, all the wind is out of your sails and you just go numb. Let the car drive in its horrible way, you think to yourself. It must need a gentler foot, you think.
It doesn’t. Without manhandling the throttle, the Tiguan will barely get out of its own way.
We did like the overrun that lets the engine rev 500-rpm beyond the red zone of its tachometer. But why? Why not have it shift at redline like every normal car?
The Tiguan’s drivetrain almost makes you think a Honda or Toyota CVT is “not that bad.”
That is some faint praise, indeed.
Yes, the Tiguan R is objectively a speedy and very, very grippy compact crossover. But there is no joy in the drive.