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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


2021 Volkswagen Tiguan: VW tweaks its compact CUV anticipating upcoming third-generation makeover

Volkswagen’s Tiguan crossover entered the world with a decidedly European cast. 

It was among the smallest compact CUVs, and one of the most vibrant. With Its modest foot print and responsive dynamics, it became Europe’s best-selling crossover. 

But an extensive 2018 redesign moved Tiguan onto a new platform and an updated suspension. The net effect was a roomier and gentler-riding Tiguan. 

Despite shedding its youthful athleticism, Tiguan is still one of the better-handling small CUVs. 

It’s also just one of just two compact crossovers to offer a third row of seats.

The third row is standard on front-wheel-drive trims and optional on models equipped with VW’s 4Motion AWD system.

Lightly updated

The 2021 Tiguan is available in five trim levels: S ($24,245); SE ($27,395); SE R-Line Black ($30,595); SEL ($32,545)  and SEL Premium R-Line ($39,095).

All models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (184 horsepower, 221 lb-ft of torque) paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

Tiguan is scheduled for a full makeover next year so VW goes light on the updates this year. The S and SE get new 17-inch wheel designs and the SE receives standard adaptive cruise. The SEL Premium R-Line adds a power-adjustable front passenger's seat.

Standard gear on all 2021 Tiguans includes halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights and taillights; power-adjustable and heated side mirrors; 17-inch alloy wheels; 6.5-inch color touchscreen; single USB port; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; Bluetooth connectivity; six-speaker sound system; cruise control; manually adjustable cloth front seat; roof rails; and trailer hitch receiver.

Volkswagen’s Car-Net mobile app with remote start, door locking/unlocking, parked location finder, and more, is offered at no charge for the first three years.

Standard safety equipment includes forward collision mitigation and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Settled and stable

Our all-wheel-drive tester felt settled and stable on undulating roads and composed in the corners.

Steering is well-weighted and builds feel with speed. A solid on-center groove provides consistent in-lane tracking. Otherwise, though, the system is vague and uncommunicative.

Our AWD tester felt stable on undulating road surfaces taken at speed. FWD cars are said to be less composed than their 4Motion peers.

Tiguan’s greatest strength is the quality and comfort of its cabin. Overall design feels mature and understated, if a  bit dated. Materials are of uniformly high quality, and even hard plastic surfaces are attractively textured. Fit-and-finish is very good and ergonomics are on the money. 

The MIB infotainment system employs a clear-cut menu structure and a useful blend of physical and virtual controls.

Quiet at speed

The cabin is quiet at speed. Its turbocharged four is buzzy under acceleration. For the most part, though, the engine and the 8-speed automatic transmission feel relaxed and refined.

It’s especially reluctant to shift down when the driver needs power in a hurry.

FWD Tiguans need a click or two more than 8 seconds to cover the 0-60 dash. AWD models are a second slower. These are mid-pack numbers. 

The EPA rates the FWD Tiguan at 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway; AWD reduces those estimates to 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Both models substantially outperform those estimates in real-world testing.

Tiguan is rated to tow a maximum of 1,500 pounds.

Front-wheel-drive is standard on all but the SEL Premium R-Line, which is sold only with AWD..

The 50/50-split third row is best left for the kids, although a pair of compatible — and, ideally, short-legged — adults will survive it in brief spurts.

The contoured 40/20/40-split second-row bench slides 7 inches fore and aft and the seatbacks recline. With the third row in use, there’s scant cargo capacity; drop the seats and the cargo area is about average for the class.

Convenient extras include a spot beneath the cargo floor for storing the retractable cargo cover.

From one of the smallest entries in the segment to one of its largest, Tiguan has covered the waterfront in its short life. Its next chapter is likely to be even more transformative.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line
Vehicle base price: $24,245
Trim level base price: $39,095
As tested: $40,290 (includes destination and handling)
Options: our tester included no options
Tow rating: 1,500 pounds
EPA rating: 24 combined/21 city/27 highway
Regular gasoline specified

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.