The compact SUV segment is full of good options, but one of our favorites is the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan, which is one of the most well-rounded choices. It’s handsomely styled, well-equipped, and practical. Plus, the VW is one of only two compact SUVs that offer an optional third row of seats (the other is the Mitsubishi Outlander). All models come with the same 184-hp four-cylinder engine, which is admittedly a little poky. Still, its fuel economy is competitive with rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. While the Tiguan does offer some of the same sharp driving dynamics that endears us to majority of the Volkswagen lineup, its practicality is really what makes it worth buying.
What’s New for 2021?
In advance of a more thorough update for the 2022 model year, VW makes a few changes to the Tiguan for 2021. The base S and mid-range SE models receive new 17-inch wheel designs and the latter of the two receives standard adaptive cruise control. Likewise, the top-spec SEL Premium R-Line model gains a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Choosing a Tiguan trim is only about features and convenience equipment, as there are no powertrain options. The jump from SE to SEL is a significant one, adding about $5000, but all the extra features it adds, including a panoramic sunroof, remote start, power liftgate, and larger 18-inch wheels, may be worth it to you. Adding all-wheel drive, which is available on any trim, adds roughly $1300 on the SEL, but makes the third row optional. If you’re in the business of hauling kids, we’d spend the extra money to make the Tiguan a seven-seater.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Under the hood of every 2021 Tiguan is a turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower; front-wheel drive is standard but Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is optional. The reticence of the eight-speed automatic to downshift combined with noticeable turbo lag means that the Tiguan feels anything but eager off the line and a bit slothful around town. The Tiguan’s ride is comfortable and compliant, which should please most drivers, but the tradeoff is less precision during brisk driving. A front-wheel-drive Tiguan we drove was easily unsettled by bumps in the road, but all-wheel-drive models were noticeably better at managing Michigan’s cratered highways and byways. The Tiguan’s brake-pedal action is soft and it doesn’t match up to the firm, progressive pedals we enjoy in other members of the VW’s family tree.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Both the front- and all-wheel-drive Tiguans we tested on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen vastly outperformed our expectations (and their EPA ratings). In our real-world-mpg test, the FWD version earned 32 mpg and the AWD version earned 33 mpg. Not only did both models crack 30 mpg, but they either matched or bettered the efforts of many of their rivals.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Tiguan’s interior is classically Volkswagen, which is to say that it is simple and functional but not particularly stylish or rich. Others offer more legroom in the second row, but the Tiguan is one of the only vehicles in the class that can be had with seating for seven. The Tiguan comes standard with cloth seating and partial power adjustment for the front seats. Opting into more expensive versions can net full power adjustment for the driver, faux-leather seating, and a panoramic sunroof. With just 12 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, the Tiguan simply can’t be a hauling vehicle when the third row is in use. With the third row folded, the Tiguan’s cargo measurements put it about in the middle of this class for raw space. With all the seats folded, we fit 19 of our carry-on boxes in the Tiguan, less than we stuffed inside key rivals including the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Volkswagen’s infotainment system is sleek and features touch buttons integrated into a large glass screen. The system comes standard with a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, so drivers who prefer their smartphone’s familiar interface to Volkswagen’s system. A 480-watt, nine-speaker Fender audio system is also available, but only in the top SEL Premium trim.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
This generation of Tiguan still hasn’t been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. Forward-collision alert with automatic braking and a blind-spot warning system are standard. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
What was previously the industry’s best bumper-to-bumper warranty at six years and 72,000 miles of coverage has been shortened to four years or 50,000 miles. To help make that reduced coverage a little easier to handle, all new Volkswagens offer two years of regularly scheduled maintenance included at no charge.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 20,000 miles
More Features and Specs