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Not-So-Compact Compact: 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE Test Drive

To show just how quickly the tides change in the automotive industry, just look at Volkswagen. Before the 2018 model year, Volkswagen’s entries in the popular crossover and SUV segments were niche offerings. Sure, the Touareg and Tiguan were both great vehicles, but they lacked the American appeal to make them true contenders in their respective segments.

That all changed when Volkswagen introduced the all-new American-made Atlas and the second-generation Tiguan. Shortly after its launch, we tested the new Tiguan with the SEL trim level and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, but this trim around we sample the more budget-friendly 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE FWD.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Exterior

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is bigger than other compact CUVs, which leaves Volkswagen’s boxy design language looking surprisingly rugged when parked next to its rivals. Up front, the big headlights and chrome, two-bar grille give the Tiguan a scaled-down-Atlas look, while the sharp body creases and an angled D-pillars add some athletic definition to the profile. The rear of the Tiguan reveals stylish, LED taillights; just don’t be fooled by those chrome “exhaust finishers” as the exhaust outlets actually dump out on each side just behind the fascia.

The 2018 Tiguan offers a variety of different colors ranging from your typical black, white and silver to more extreme metallic colors like Habanero Orange, Cardinal Red and Blue Silk; this tester’s Dark Moss Green Metallic is included in this latter group and is a good complement to the Tiguan’s design. Speaking of stylish choices, there are several wheel options including 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheels, but this tester looked good rolling on the base 17-inch alloy wheels.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Interior

The biggest selling point of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is the third-row rear seat, which is standard on front-drive models and optional on all-wheel drive, which was made possible due to the increased size over its predecessor. The second-generation Tiguan is 10.6 inches longer and 1.2 inches wider, and that opens up a lot of room for the 50/50 split rear bench seat. Like its Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi Outlander rivals, the third row of the Tiguan is extremely tight for adults but comes in very handy when hauling around kids and their car seats/booster seats. Overall passenger volume jumps from 95.4 cubic feet up to 123.9 cubic feet, while the new Tiguan offers 65.7 cubic feet (73.5 cubic feet on the two-row models) compared to 56.1 on the old Tiguan; there is 12 cubic feet behind the third row and 33 cubic feet with the third row stowed. This tester’s cargo area was even more rugged thanks to the optional ($285) set of carpeted Monster Mats.

Just like the exterior, the cabin of the Tiguan has a distinct Volkswagen look and feel to it, and it also gets plenty of modern cabin tech. All but the base Tiguan S are equipped with an eight-inch capacitive touch screen display, and while navigation was not included in this trim, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto are both standard. To sample Volkswagen’s trick Digital Cockpit – a reconfigurable digital gauge cluster that trickled down from Audi – you’ll have to step up to the SEL trim, but this tester did come with optional ($1,200) panoramic sunroof.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Powertrain

The sole powertrain option for the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is VW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected EA888 four-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Power output is rated at 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which is a decrease of 16 hp and an increase of 14 lb-ft, but the big payoff comes with improved efficiency. The new Tiguan has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway**, and while this is a decent improvement over the outgoing model, it is still way off the mark of the class-leading Honda CR-V. The good news, though, is that buyers will be able to save a little more at the pump since, unlike the previous Tiguan, VW no longer recommends premium gas for this crossover. As an added touch for improved efficiency, the 2018 Tiguan now comes standard with automatic start/stop technology.

The added size and weight of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan are a step down from Golf-like driving dynamic of the previous model, but the new Tiguan is still more engaging to drive than rivals like the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. With a curb weight of 3,721 pounds, this FWD tester is about 300 pounds heavier than a comparable 2017 Tiguan yet it still offers similar handling as the outgoing model. The only other area where the previous Tiguan outshines the 2018 model is the towing capacity, which has dropped from 2,200 pounds down to 1,500 pounds.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Safety

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan has not been fully tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but it did receive a five-star rating in side-impact protection and four stars for rollover protection. The SE trim level comes with standard safety features like Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert and Intelligent Crash Response System.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Overall

If you have a couple kids in tow, the three-row, seven-passenger Tiguan is a perfect choice for families who don’t really need the added price or size of a larger three-row CUV. Sure, the new Tiguan lost a bit of the spunky attitude of its predecessor, but what it gained was a larger interior, available third-row seating and modern cabin tech, which results in a more successful entrant in this crowded segment.

One thing that didn’t grow on the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is its starting price. The 2018 Tiguan is priced starting at $25,345*, which is just $400 more than the 2017 model. Loaded up with the SE’s content and some optional goodies, this well-equipped tester still managed to sneak in under the $30,000 mark with an as-tested price of $29,455.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Volkswagen dealership and test drive the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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