2019 VW Tiguan Review

Sep 26, 2019

At the beginning of this year, we were in the market for a new vehicle. Both Kyle & I value form over function most of the time, which has landed us with two sports cars – mine a Jap rally car & his a euro track coupe. Both are low enough that pot holes are dangerous and speed bumps are enemies – both seat only two and are two wheel drive. We moved to Colorado a few years ago, and with both of us loving adventure, snowboarding, and being outdoors regardless of the weather, neither of our vehicles are ideal for our new living situation. So, it was time to get something that was. Problem is, neither of us particularly like the look of SUVs or trucks that were in our price range, and it wasn’t worth a $50,000 loan to get something fancier.

Our requirements were: four-wheel drive, able to fit four people AND four snowboards + gear, relatively high ground clearance, dog friendly, comfortable on long trips, no animal products (leather/suede), good balance between features and value, good balance between power and fuel economy (with an emphasis on power), nice overall style, and a maximum budget of $30,000.

 

We were initially considering the Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Forester, Toyota Tacoma, and Toyota 4Runner. The price of both the Tacoma and 4Runner was a big downside that we ended up not being able to get past. My family has been a Toyota family for as long as I can remember so we were leaning hard toward these, but just couldn’t move our budget as high as we would have needed to accommodate these choices. So we were down to the Crosstrek and Forester. We watched video after video on YouTube reviewing both, comparing them, emphasizing features and downfalls. Through this process we were pretty much set on getting a base Crosstrek. We would have liked a higher trim of the Crosstrek, but the base was available in a manual and any trim above the base came with leather seats. We were really disgusted by the leather and it was a difficult “feature” to avoid at Subaru. (Goodbye STI dreams.) The higher trims also feature orange accents all over the place and neither of us care for orange at all. The price was right – around $24,000 out the door, and though we weren’t a huge fan of the wheels or body style, we were able to compromise those wants for the rest of the features.

 

Soon after making this decision, we visited the Subaru dealership and looked through both the Crosstrek and the Forester. The Forester seemed nicer but wasn’t available in a manual and was more money for not many more features. More space, definitely, but more difficult to reach the roof rack. We then made the decision to test drive the Crosstrek. Up pulled a blue manual with its… interesting snowflake-lookin’ wheels and we hopped in. I was instantly  unimpressed – the headroom was short, the seats were extremely uncomfortable, and the interior was underwhelming. It felt like little thought was put into the small details which gave it a cheap feel. We kept an open mind and took off down the road. Kyle drove first and as the drive went on, he kept noting how weird the clutch felt. The car jerked when he shifted and I thought he was having an “off” driving day. After a few miles, we switched and I was able to drive. I have been driving a manual since I first sat in a driver seat, and I have never felt a clutch like this one. It felt like they were trying to compensate for most people not knowing how to drive a manual, and make it easier to drive by making the clutch overly forgiving. This might seem like a feature, but it made it difficult to shift tight and concisely, so though you would make each gear, none of the shifting was smooth or seamless. I hated it. Kyle hated it. And we both realized this was not the vehicle for us – at all.

Feeling defeated, we got back in my car and as we were pulling out of Subaru’s parking lot, we decided to get dinner. As we turned onto the road, we saw that next door was a Volkswagen dealership. A few weeks prior, we had gone on a snowboarding trip with my friend, Monica, in her new Tiguan. On that trip I had completely fallen in love with it – the interior felt high class, every detail was beautiful and well thought out, and it was powerful but had good fuel economy. Monica has an SEL which is the highest trim of the Tiguan so she had everything VW has to offer. There’s a higher package you can get, but all it adds is cosmetic. Though I never asked how much she paid, through that trip I had drawn the conclusion that this vehicle was way out of my price range so I had never even considered it when we were doing our initial search through our options. That being said, as we spotted the VW dealership when leaving Subaru, we decided to drop in and see if they had something that would work for us.

We looked all through the back-on-the-market Touaregs, drooled over the Golf GTI, and after some convincing from the sales lady who had approached us, we ended up test driving a Tiguan. The price of the Tiguan was way lower than I was expecting given the quality. They started at $24.2k (for the S) but we really wanted a couple of features my friend Monica’s had – the ridiculously large sun roof, and the amazing faux leather seats. We found out our options from the dealer and as it was getting late and they weren’t negotiating much, we decided to come back another day. Over the next couple days, we thought it over and both knew it was the one for us and headed back in to talk to our lady. We were able to get the SE with the sun roof as an option, and being the second to last day of February, and after staying all day and wearing the finance guy out, we nickel-and-dimed our way down to $27.9k out the door. The next morning we picked up our friend, Evan, and headed up to go snowboarding. Nothing like getting snow and mud all over a fresh paint job 😉

We’ve now owned our Tiguan for seven months and our thoughts and opinions have had time to solidify. We’ve driven a total of 4200 miles through blizzards, off road, on long highway trips, and through downtown areas. We’ve spent hours in our Tiguan and have a good grasp on how it handles, feels, and endures through various conditions. Through all this, here is my complete list of likes and dislikes of the 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion.

LIKES:

Body Style 

  • Out of all of the SUVs we looked into, VW has really well thought out and good looking lines on the exterior. There are no awkward angles, protruding lights, or overbearing plastic features. The curves are sleek and understated, making it look similar to its more expensive counterpart, Audi. The front looks mean with LED headlights and a large VW badge, and the back is simple

SEATS

  • Oh man. The seats are really what sold me on the Tiguan when I first rode in my friend’s. They’re “leatherette” so they have the look and feel of leather, but are softer and aren’t made of dead flesh. They’re also insanely comfortable. I’ve sat in those seats for hours and my back never pinched or ached. They have adjustable lumbar support, and even the back seats recline. When using the seat heaters, they heat evenly and the level is adjustable. This feature is heavenly after a day of snowboarding. I also love how simple the design is – no crazy colors or shapes. Just nice, beautiful seats.

 

Feel & Look of the Interior

  • Clean. Quality. This entire vehicle reeks of careful planning and design and the feel of the interior is some of the main evidence of this. The materials are all pleasing colors and textures, and the placement of the different features is optimal for their daily use. You can tell the designers of this vehicle had the user experience as a top priority rather than material cost or design time restraint. It feels like they cared about the final outcome and I sincerely appreciate the craftsmanship.

Modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, Snow

  • The center console has a knob that allows you to select which driving mode you would like to operate in. I assumed in the beginning that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the different modes, but after using every mode in multiple situations, there is definitely  a difference. Eco mode makes it more difficult to accelerate quickly and helps you stay at a steady speed at a lower RPM to increase your gas mileage. Normal mode operates with these features dampened down, and sport mode seems to shut these features off. I was able to almost burn out in sport mode while there is noticeable lag in eco mode. (Spoiler alert, I almost always drive in sport mode :P) Snow mode mades it nearly impossible to slide or spin out in snow and ice. I drove through the “bomb cyclone” experienced in Denver earlier this year and made it home with absolutely no issues. When you hit the gas, the vehicle takes off slowly so you don’t get any tire spin, and the tires just grip to the surface of the snow and ice with no issues. It’s amazing really.

Head Unit – Look & Function 

  • I have been completely spoiled by Apple CarPlay. The screen in the SE is 8” which doesn’t sound that impressive but good gravy is that a big screen in a space that size. Everything is extremely clear and large enough that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road for long at all. The screen is extremely responsive to touch and I don’t often hit the wrong button like you would on other units. It also is strategically placed in the dash so the sun doesn’t cause glare. I’ve never had a moment where I couldn’t see the screen clearly.

Warranty

  • It’s hard to beat a six-year, 72,000 mile, bumper-to-bumper warranty. Apparently it’s so hard to beat that no other manufacturer has a warranty that good. This was the deciding factor on us buying a new vehicle rather than saving some money on a used one. We got burned pretty badly on our last used vehicle purchase so we wanted to be safeguarded on the next one. 

Value for the Money

  • As I mentioned earlier, given the experience I had in my friend’s Tiguan, I thought it would cost much more than it ended up costing us. Though I haggled the crap out of the dealer we landed at to get the price that I did, it’s remarkable the difference between car manufacturers. We paid roughly $3000 more than we would have for the Crosstrek we test drove, and what a world of difference $3000 made. Close to $30,000 is no small amount of cash, but in comparison to its competition and for all of the features of the vehicle, it feels like a bargain.

Good Power Output for the Horsepower & Fuel Economy You Get

  • In the six months that we’ve been driving the Tiguan, we’ve gotten an overall average of 31 mpg. Neither Kyle nor I are feather footed either. We drive up in the mountains frequently so we’re both hill climbing and freeway driving. I am impressed with that average given the size of the vehicle and my previous thoughts about what an SUV would get. It also has quite a bit of pickup for that gas mileage! We have no problem passing someone while going uphill or getting up to highway speeds very quickly.

Backup Camera is Strategically Placed so it Doesn’t Get Crap All Over It

  • I add this point solely because I was completely impressed to go out to the Tiguan after it had been parked outside during the bomb cyclone in Denver and when I put it in reverse, I could see behind the car clear as day. The way the camera is tucked above the license plate, it takes some ridiculous conditions to get the camera dirty. It’s very convenient in these situations!

Head Unit Gives You Lots of Info About the Car – Fuel Economy, Speed Stats, Things Wrong, etc.

  • In my RSX, I’ve printed the receipts and written down my mileage every time I get gas so I can accurately track my gas mileage at any time. It’s really convenient to have all these calculations available at any time in the head unit of the Tiguan. It also gives you a rating for how eco-conscious you’re driving, and has a photo of the car that will show you what system is messed up when something goes wrong. We haven’t had any issues yet so we have yet to see this feature in action but it’s going to be amazing if it does work as described. 

Perfect For What We Wanted it For – Mild Off-Roading, Snowboarding, Dependability in the Snow, Comfort on Long Trips

  • I’ve touched on this already, but we have already taken the Tiguan through any condition we plan to take it in the future and it has performed flawlessly. We’ve taken it snowboarding roughly ten times, gone off-roading, been through snow, ice, and a blizzard, and spent hours on the road in one whack. There is not much to say because everything worked completely as expected and there is nothing more that I could ask for.

DISLIKES:

Undercarriage is Plastic in the Front 

  • This flaw came up early in our ownership when I was driving home from work after a blizzard. Blocking the entrance to my neighborhood were giant boulder-like collections of snow that has been pushed there by snow plows. I had gone over patches like that on my way home, so I sped up to blast through them to get to my driveway. Bad idea. I didn’t know that underneath the layer of snow that I saw, they were boulders of ice and it cracked the plastic engine tray on the passenger side. You can’t see the damage from the outside and it didn’t ruin the integrity of the part but I am very unimpressed that a part that’s supposed to protect the bottom of the engine is made of plastic. We looked for a metal one to replace it but there isn’t one available yet (that we could find).

Wheels Could Be Cooler

  • Both Kyle and I are very particular about our wheel preference, and it’s rare that stock wheels look good to us. The wheels we ended up with are the best looking of what VW offered for the Tiguan, but I would still like to get cooler ones eventually. They’re definitely better than what came on the Crosstrek though, holy crap.

Whyyyyyyyy a Turbo Muffler?

  • I finally have a vehicle with a turbo and you can’t even hear it. So sad. This is completely personal preference, but as soon as we find out whether or not a turbo muffler delete will void the warranty, that shit is coming off.

Steering Wheel and Shift Knob are Leather

  • One of the values we stand by in life is to not use any animal products. We don’t eat them, wear them, or purchase them in any capacity anymore. This was a particularly difficult morale to uphold when shopping for a new car because every car manufacturer seems to market leather as a feature. When we found out that though the seats are leatherette, the steering wheel and shift knob are leather, we almost walked away. We talked to our sales lady quite extensively about this downfall and if there was any way around it. We were quite impressed with her as she went to great lengths to try and get an alternative for us. She looked into getting them custom made from a different material, seeing if any other models had something that could be swapped, etc. The end result was that they could send them to a custom interior upholsterer and have them reupholster them, but they admitted they would just throw the original leather away. Since it was just going to go in the garbage if we went that route, we decided to compromise. I would highly encourage VW to offer a leatherette alternative (or standard), especially since they already make the seats out of that material. 

Eco Mode Makes Gas Pedal Response Super Laggy & Can Honestly Be Dangerous

  • I saved the best for last. Out of all the downfalls of the Tiguan, this one sucks the most. We learned, through some scary situations, that while in eco mode, if you stomp on the gas, there is a long period of lag before the vehicle takes off. We found this out when needing to get out of the way quickly or make a short maneuver and it takes a minute to get the message. This is no problem when you’re trying to just save some gas, but when you NEED to get out of the way or move somewhere quickly, it can be quite dangerous. Sometimes you miss getting hit or hitting someone by just seconds and this lag could take those seconds away.

Given every like, dislike, and mile we have driven, I would do it all over again.

I have absolutely no regrets about buying our Tiguan and I still hold fast that this was the perfect fulfillment of our original requirements. Later this fall, we are going on a 5,000 mile road trip up the east coast in our Tiguan and I couldn’t be more excited. I trust it to get us everywhere we need to go, and to do so while keeping us completely comfortable. If you are considering getting yourself a Tiguan, all I can say is to go drive one. Everyone is different, but if your situation looks anything like ours did, I have a feeling you’ll end up with one too. 

I hope you enjoy whichever you choose & if this helped you make your decision, tag me @thegoblinden and let me know!