Will it make drivers forget Dieselgate? No, but the Volkswagen Tiguan remains a solid choice and only German option in the intermediate SUV rental space
Car Class: Intermediate SUV
Availability: All major rental car agencies
Alternatives: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4
|Drive off||Walk Away|
|Exceptional head and legroom||Excessive road noise at higher speeds|
|Cargo space||Small infotainment screen|
|High level of interior fit and finish||Over sensitive throttle response|
First introduced in 2007, the first generation Volkswagen Tiguan has always been the eclectic choice in the segment. Being smaller and one of the only turbocharged (as standard) entry in segment, the Tiguan was never as well received as other entries in the crowded segment. As such, Volkswagen made some significant changes when it introduced the second generation Tiguan in North America in 2018. Bigger and better in every way, can the new Tiguan compete with the big boys in the segment and vie away drivers looking for a competent intermediate SUV in the rental lots? This week, we find out as we hop behind the wheel of the all new 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan Trendline.
All Volkswagen Tiguans are powered by the corporate 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available and 4Motion all-wheel drive is optional on the base Trendline trim (our rental is equipped with the option). Despite making less power than the engine in the previous generation model, acceleration in the Tiguan is respectable for its class. An initial bit of lag is apparent but once the turbo spools up, the Tiguan propels itself with authority and makes merging from highway on ramps a cinch. That said, we found initial throttle input to be overly sensitive. Despite feathering the throttle, we found ourselves consistently making abrupt starts from a standstill. Part of it could be attributed to the aforementioned turbo lag but we think the throttle could be better calibrated to respond more linearly. Given that turbocharged engines are all about saving gas at the pumps, we are surprised to have averaged 10.5L/100km over a week of admittedly mostly city driving, which is on the higher end of the segment.
With standard 17-inch wheels and all season tires, the Tiguan rides pretty well over Toronto’s rough roads. Most bumps were soaked up by the well-calibrated suspension and despite running over some pretty substantial potholes during our drive, we never felt that we damaged anything, which is a testament to the vehicle’s build quality. At lower speeds, the Tiguan’s ride remains hushed, with imperceptible engine and road noise. Once on the open road, however, the cost cutting that was done to keep the Tiguan’s price in check begins to show. Despite having only 600km on the odometer, road and tire noise were significantly higher than other vehicles in the its class. It was not unbearable by any means, but we had trouble making conversations without raising our voices. Perhaps it was due to the larger cabin in this generation but whatever the reason, the Tiguan could use some extra noise deadening materials.
Thanks to the large windows all around the Tiguan, the view to the front, sides and rear are all excellent. Having been in many vehicles lately with thick A-pillars, the skinny ones in the Volkswagen Tiguan is a refreshing change. Not only do they improve visibility when making turns, it also makes the vehicle feel more airy that it actually is. Given that our rental is a base trim, the only aid when reversing is a grainy back up camera that is easily covered with grime. Volkswagen has designed back up cameras hidden under the badge in the Golf and we are somewhat disappointed that it is not featured on the Tiguan.
Comfort and Convenience
Despite being the base trim without any options, our Trendline rental comes equipped with essential features including a 6.5-inch App Connect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a single USB port, single-zone manual climate control, heated cloth 6-way manually adjustable driver and front passenger seats, electronic parking brake, auto-start stop with disable and 40/20/40 split folding rear seats. Unsurprisingly, active safety features are unavailable on the base trim. Blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking are standard on the Comfortline trim while adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and automatic high beams are only available in package on the highest trim. Given the effectiveness of these systems in reducing accidents, we think they should be standard across all trims.
Volkswagens are known for their high quality interiors and the Tiguan is no exception. Despite the mainstream position of this latest model, the Tiguan’s interior remains true to the brand’s tradition. The entire upper dashboard and front door panels are covered with soft touch materials. While the metallic effect trim will fool no one into thinking its real metal, it at least looks genuine. Move into the back, however, and the cost cutting begins to show. Unlike the front, the rear door panels and centre console are made of entirely cheap plastic. That said, fit and finish remains top notch and not once did we hear any squeak or rattle. With only 6-ways of manual adjustability, we are pleasantly surprised by the amount of support the seats provided on longer drivers. No adjustable lumbar is available on our base rental but we never once thought it was needed. Who needs a million of ways of adjustability if you have good basic seat design?
As standard, all Tiguans comes with 3-level heated front seats. Fortunately, the heat in these seats come on very quickly, which is perfect when getting into the vehicle on a cold wintry morning. Available only on the Highline trim (not yet spotted on rental lots) is a heated steering wheel. Oddly enough, heated rear seats, a feature fast becoming common place in family SUVs, are unavailable in any trim.
Ease of Use
Volkswagen offers a range of different infotainment systems based on each trim of the Tiguan. Standard on our base rental is a 6.5-inch App Connect centre touchscreen featuring the latest in smartphone mirroring. However, satellite radio is unavailable with the base system. While the screen is on the smaller side, the graphics and on screen buttons are crisp and well-labelled, making it really easy to get the hang of the system when first stepping in. We also like the large buttons and knobs on each side of the main screen. An 8-inch touchscreen is available in a convenience package that we have seen on some rental Tiguans and from what we have read, it is even better. Unfortunately, connectivity is where our base Tiguan rental start to lag behind its competition. With only 1 USB port that is needed for Android Auto and Apple Carplay, make sure you have an 12V to USB adapter if there are other mobile devices that need to be juiced.
Unfortunately, our rental is not equipped with the excellent virtual cockpit that Volkswagen offers on higher trims of the Tiguan. Instead, our rental features an analog speedometer, tachometer and a multifunction display in the between the gauges. Providing basic vehicle, phone and media information, the monochromatic screen does its job well, but we can’t help but wish Volkswagen would have put some effort in changing the design or adding some visual flair. This is basically the same gauge cluster that we have seen in Volkswagen products for more than a decade. Controlling the multifunction display is a series of buttons on the steering wheel that are not unlike that of a D-pad. Fortunately, Volkswagen has yet to follow other manufacturers with unconventional shifters and the Tiguan continues to use a traditional PRND gear shift with a sport and manual mode.
With the stretch in wheelbase and overall length, the Volkswagen Tiguan has transformed from being one the smallest entry in the segment to one with class-leading space and an available third row (not equipped in our rental). As a result, head and legroom in the front and back beats just about all the other intermediate SUVs on the rental lot. Even with the front seats all the way back in its tracks, there is enough space in the second row for an average adult spread out comfortable. Additionally, the flat floor and increased width of this generation always pays dividends when having 3 passengers in the rear. While not going to be as comfortable as mid size SUVs, the Tiguan does pretty well for its class.
With all the seats up, the Tiguan boasts more than 37 cubic feet of space, a figure that matches that of even larger mid size SUVs. Fold down the rear seats and the space almost doubles to 73.5 cubic feet. Further adding cargo flexibility is the standard 40/20/40 split folding rear seats, which is rarity in the mainstream intermediate SUV rental space. By folding down only the 20-section, the Tiguan allows longer items to be transported while still maintaining four full-sized seats.
As the only European entry in the intermediate SUV rental category, the Volkswagen Tiguan brings a Teutonic touch to the crowded segment filled with American and Japanese entries. Undoubtedly, there are intermediate SUVs on the rental lots that are faster, more economical and/or better equipped. However, none will have the driving experience and build quality that we have come to expect from a Volkswagen. For renters that appreciate German design and engineering, the Tiguan is the only choice that they will not regret. For renters that just want a competent intermediate SUV, they should consider other alternatives that may better meet their needs and priorities. If it is our money, we will jump into a better-equipped Tiguan (with the convenience package) in a heartbeat it it was available.
Avis/Budget; Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Similar to our rental, Tiguans on the rental lots of these agencies are in the Trendline trim. However, they are all equipped with the Convenience package, which adds conveniences including a larger 8-inch infotainment screen, fog lights, additional USB ports and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Sadly, all Tiguans on the rental lots here are of the base Trendline trim without any options like our rental.