Putting the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Through Its Paces

The Volkswagen Tiguan offers room for five or seven.

Volkswagen has made great strides in recent years by bolstering its utility vehicle profile. In 2018, the company experienced a watershed year when the all-new midsize Volkswagen Atlas rolled out and the second-generation, as well as enlarged Volkswagen Tiguan, made its debut.

Since then, a two-row Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport made an appearance, and soon we’ll see a VW Taos slot beneath the Tiguan. Further down the road, electric models will roll out, and these will be sold under names such as ID.4.

As for the Tiguan, it is now in its fourth year. For 2021, the Tiguan comes in S, SE, SE R-Line Black, SEL, and SEL Premium R-Line trims. Both Tiguan S and SE models gain new 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheel designs.

The SE models also receive new driver-assistance features and an upgraded infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, and the next-generation MIB3 infotainment system. The SEL Premium R-Line now features a standard power passenger seat.

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2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

Volkswagen Tiguan

The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan comes with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, a $1,300 upgrade. This model costs from $25,930 to $39,095, including a $1,195 destination charge. All trims come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission.


Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen may have channeled its wagon models to develop the current generation of the Tiguan. Unlike the first generation with its toy-like demeanor, this one strikes a blend between a crossover and a tall wagon. That shouldn’t be surprising because Volkswagen has long demonstrated leadership in small wagons.

This automaker also avoids some of the drama common to crossovers. Its grille is much narrower and wide than the gaping maws we often see, with headlights and other lighting elements proportionally sized.

The profile seems closer to the VW Passat sedan with an even beltline that gently rises at the rear to connect with the slightly falling roofline. A strong character line runs across the sides, pushing through the door handles and gas tank cover as it reaches the rear.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Signature lines, body sculpting, and available rocker panel trim are other characteristics of note.

From the rear, the Tiguan’s conservative look continues. Here, you won’t find a clamshell liftgate although the glass does take up nearly the entire width of the vehicle. Wraparound LED lights, a long strip of chrome trim in the bumper, reflectors, and dual exhaust ports bring up the rear.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Standard across the Tiguan line is a 1,500-pound towing capacity. This comes with the optional trailer hitch kit. Automatic headlights, black roof rails, 17-inch wheels, power-operated and heated side mirrors, and LED taillights are included. Move up to the SE trim and the Tiguan gains heated windshield washer nozzles and a more intricate wheel design.

The SE Black R-Line trim brings in fog lights, black-painted mirror caps, black window trim and side sills, R-Line trim, 20-inch black-machined alloy wheels, and a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof. The SEL trim brings in rain-sensing wipers, silver roof rails, a remote open/close power liftgate, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Volkswagen Tiguan
The 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan.

Move up to the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line and LED headlights appear. Further, this trim includes an adaptive front lighting system, side mirrors with a memory feature, a hands-free liftgate, and R-Line badging. Lastly, this trim has 20-inch two-tone machined alloy wheels.

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Volkswagen Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is a 5-passenger model, except when it isn’t. Specifically, front-wheel-drive models have three-row seating, while all-wheel-drive Tiguans have standard two-row seating (with an available third row).

We were surprised that Volkswagen introduced the third row with the second-generation model in 2018 and has kept it since. That third row essentially serves as a jump seat. In other words, it may be utilized, but only in a pinch and for small children — it simply lacks room and support.

Otherwise, we recommend keeping the seat folded to enjoy all the cargo room Volkswagen supplies.

Volkswagen Tiguan

The front seats are comfortable and supportive with sightlines we approve. The dashboard is one of the simplest we’ve found in this segment and parallels the overall look of the interior – clean, but not especially inspiring. We give Volkswagen high marks for the quality of materials utilized as well as for a superior fit and finish.

The S trim comes with cloth seats, a multi-function steering wheel, and a 40/20/40 split fold-down second-row seat. The third-row seat features a 50-50 design. Move up to the SE and this model gains imitation leather seats, heated first-row seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, an imitation leather-wrapped steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control.

At the SE Black R-Line trim, VW adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Move up to the SEL and a heated steering wheel and an automatic dimming rearview mirror come in. If you’re looking for real hides, the range-topping SEL Premium R-Line had leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and R-Line badging and stainless-steel pedal caps.


Volkswagen imbues the 2021 Tiguan with driver-assist technology across the entire model range. Its Front Assist system is comprised of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and comes standard as does blind-spot monitoring.

The list of available features includes rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, park distance control, and an overhead view camera.

For 2021, the VW Tiguan holds a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is no current rating available on this model.


Volkswagen Tiguan

VW is competitive in all the things tech, although some may find the standard 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display on the small size. It is. That said, we’ve gotten used to equating bigger with better. VW’s standard screen is just fine as it doesn’t overwhelm the console. Besides, beyond the base model, an 8-inch display is in place.

On the base trim, the Tiguan comes with two USB-C ports, an SD Card multimedia interface, and Bluetooth technology. Volkswagen also includes a six-speaker audio system and App-Connect smartphone integration, which utilizes such popular services as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Move up the trim range and features such as HD Radio, satellite radio, and navigation roll out. A Wi-Fi hotspot and a wireless charging pad are available. Some trims also upgrade the audio package with a 12-speaker Fender system.


Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen supplies one powertrain choice for the 2021 Tiguan. Early on, a V6 option was available, but in recent years the Tiguan comes with one engine choice alone.

Under the hood of every Tiguan is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. This engine sends power to the front or all four wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The available all-wheel-drive system, known as 4Motion, is permanent. This means the rear wheels are engaged at all times, unlike in most systems where all-wheel drive kicks in under certain conditions, such as wet roads or when cornering.

The Tiguan’s engine is suited for this model. It offers more than adequate step-off acceleration and strong passing power. Those are the ingredients buyers will focus on. Some competitors rely on naturally aspirated engines that deliver decent step-off acceleration and middling passing power, thus giving VW an important edge.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Crossovers hardly qualify as sports machines and that’s okay with an overwhelming majority of shoppers. In this segment, interior room and utility are important considerations. That said, efficiency typically takes a back seat with most small crossovers struggling to approach 30 mpg on the highway and about 25 mpg combined. VW succeeds in both endeavors.

The Tiguan’s steering is adequate and this model handles twisty roads and corners without drama. You’ll find a few models with better handling, but perhaps not as comfortable of a ride. The four-wheel independent suspension is key to driving control and passenger comfort.

Although we typically don’t recommend upgrading to all-wheel drive unless your driving habits require it, we think VW’s 4Motion system is a worthwhile investment. It doesn’t match Audi’s “Quattro” all-wheel-drive system, but it does hold its own.

Indeed, the Audi system is based on TORSEN, while the VW utilizes Haldex. Both systems perform quite well in snow, which is a huge purchase consideration for some shoppers.

Competitive Set

Every mainstream manufacturer has at least one model in this segment. That shouldn’t be a surprise as the compact crossover is the new family vehicle.

Among the Tiguan’s competitors are the Subaru Forester, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Bronco Sport, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, and the Kia Sportage.

The Subaru Forester offers all-wheel-drive only, while the other models make it optional with front-wheel drive standard.

Our Recommendation

Volkswagen Tiguan

You’ll do well with any Tiguan beyond the base S trim. Imitation leather-trimmed seats and heated front seats are enough to draw the attention of many shoppers. Volkswagen also adds a wireless phone charger and an 8-inch touch-screen display, desirable features for the Tiguan SE.

The SE trim starts at $27,395 plus $1,195 for the destination charge, bringing your cost to $28,590. Opt for the popular 4Motion all-wheel-drive system ($1,300) and your cost is a reasonable $29,890 for this not-so-compact crossover utility vehicle.

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Specifications

  • Compact sport utility vehicle
  • Price range: $25,930 to $39,095
  • Seats 5 (AWD) or 7 (FWD)
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 gas
  • 184 horsepower @ 4,360 RPM
  • 221 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,600 RPM
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
  • Length: 185.1 inches
  • Width: 72.4 inches
  • Height: 66.3 inches
  • Passenger volume: 101.1/123.9 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 3-Rows: 12.0/33.0/65.7; 2-Rows: 37.6/73.5 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
  • EPA: FWD: 23/29/25; AWD: 21/27/24 city/highway/combined
  • Regular gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 15.9 (FWD); 16.4 (AWD) gallons
  • Curb weight: 3,735 to 3,825 pounds
  • Payload: 937 to 1,146 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Puebla, Mexico

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The exterior photos are copyright Auto Trends Magazine. These photos were taken in Tarboro, North Carolina, the county seat for Edgecombe County near Rocky Mount. The interior shots are courtesy of the Volkswagen Group. All rights reserved.

Matthew Keegan

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