2023 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2023 Volkswagen Tiguan - Compact Tiguan offers three seating rows


Germany’s largest automaker continues evolving.

The spry Tiguan continues as Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. and worldwide propelled by a conventional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). It’s one of two compact, uni-body crossovers sold in the U.S. slotting a bit higher than VW’s smaller Taos.

Worldwide, the Volkswagen Group trails only Toyota as a top seller of automobiles (VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini and Bentley round out the VW group).  Here Stateside, VW sales remain steady, but not as strong as in other corners of the planet.  Worldwide, the VW group sold a whopping 8.2 million units largely in China and Western Europe while about half that total got generated from Volkswagen-branded passenger cars. 

Tiguan finds itself withing one of the hottest selling segments, the compact crossover.  It sets itself apart from the fray as one of the few offering available third-row seating.  One of the only other compacts offering a third-row opportunity is Mitsubishi’s Outlander crossover.

Volkswagen continues investing here in the U.S. with an eye towards upgrading its chunk of market share, hoovering on average at two percent for the past 15 years.  In the U.S. during 2022, 71,085 Tiguan units sold, far behind the segment leading Toyota RAV4 with 399,941.

Volkswagen’s first U.S. assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee began churning out Passat sedans in 2011.  Since then, production switched to the all-electric ID.4 five-door crossover.  A second U.S.-based assembly complex will soon break ground near Colombia, South Carolina where all-electric pickup trucks and crossover production expands under VW’s Scout sub brand.  As of this writing, vehicle production is projected to begin sometime in 2026.

During calendar year 2022, Tiguan received a mid-cycle refresh bringing aboard new LED headlamps, revised grille, new steering wheel and touch-sensitive HVAC controls. In 2023, minor changes include a few cosmetic updates, such as larger 19-inch tires with the SE R-Line Black trims.

One turbocharged powertrain returns motivating all trims: a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder cranks out 184 horsepower and mates to a conventional, smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s an ample choice within this segment although some rivals punch up the horsepower somewhat. However, Tiguan’s nimble handling and responsive steering add to pleasantries. 

Four trim levels return in 2023: S, SE, SE R-line Black and SEL R-line. An S trim with front-wheel drive starts at $26,950; higher than some competitors but includes a nice assortment of standard safety equipment.  Add $1,500 for 4Motion, VW’s in-house designation for all-wheel drive, which dings fuel economy a bit.  With 4Motion technology, front wheels power Tiguan when touring dry roads.  If or when wheel slippage gets detected, an electronically-controlled clutch engages within a fraction of a second, sending up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels. The 4Motion adds additional drive modes selectable by the driver including: on-road, snow, off-road and custom.

For those calling the four-season Chicago area home, 4Motion is worth considering if budgets allow to conquer snowy streets. Volkswagen’s 4Motion is optional in all trims, sans the top-dog SEL R-Line, where it comes standard. Keep in mind third row seating comes only within front-drive models and not available with 4Motion.

Our tester, a front-wheel drive SE R-line with three seating rows started at $32,950. The one and only factory charge for premium pearl white paint added $395, bringing the bottom line to $34,640 after adding a $1,295 destination charge.

Front row bucket seats (nicely heated in all trims) enjoy relatively high seating positions when compared to rivals; a nice touch especially if one finds him/herself an aging boomer as the added elevation assists egress and ingress. The positioning offsets 7.4 inches of ground clearance. Once ensconced inside, controls remain logically placed without an overwhelming technological overload.

Second-row seatbacks feature a 70/30 split and a mid-way fold down arm rest which also includes dual cup holders useful if the recommended two riders occupy the space (three work in a pinch). The seats manually slide forward and back via vertical floor tracks. When accessing the third row, a tab atop tilts seatbacks forward 45 degrees, then the entire unit slides forward with minimal effort. 

This 60-somehing intrepid reporter contorted his way into the two-person third row with no incident, but head and leg room certainly welcome the pre-teen set rather than lanky/goony six-footers. Seat cushioning is thinner than what’s presented in rows one and two. 

Third row 50/50 seatbacks manually fold down flat when unoccupied opening up 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row (12 cubic feet when prone). Backside straps help third-row seats back up from the open hatch region.  Row two seatbacks also fold forward on to cushions but don’t sit as flat as row three’s backrests.

The electronic push-button start/stop button resides between the front bucket seats, just left of the tall, vertically-shifting automatic transmission handle, an easier reach than on the dash where the steering column can impede progress. Flanking the shifter along the bottom; a pull tab activating the electronic parking brake and push button deactivating the engine’s start/stop technology.

Start/stop technology shuts down engine activity at prolonged stops, (think stop lights).  Once the foot lifts off the break, the powertrain snaps back to life. 

The central dash includes a pair of smallish horizontal air vents atop and in-dash multi-function screen below. Screen size varies dependent upon the selected trim.  A smallish 6.5-size comes standard in S trims with VW’s second generation MIB (Modular Infotainment Baukasten/System). All remaining trims size up with an 8-inch screen and the newest third-generation MIB, of which the company continues tweaking. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two popular Smartphone interplays, come standard as does a Wi-Fi hotspot. A couple nice returning low-tech favorites:  volume and station select turn knobs. 

The center dash column then steps down and inward revealing a touch-sensitive, horizontal HVAC region with a finger-touch-sensitive slide bar increasing/decreasing fan speed and touch-sensitive arrows monitoring dual temperature.  The design looks sharp and bright but too many times eyes must leave the road to find exactly what was needed. Base S trims feature manual HVAC dials. Below and inward a storage area with USB plug ports await. At night, thin, blue penlight accents adorn front doors delivering a nice mood enhancer.

All trims include an informative all-digital instrument panel: The three lower trims include a dual-view eight-inch size while the SEL R-Line boosts the animation size to 10.25 inches with three views.

The fuel tank holds 15.3 gallons of regular, 87-octane petrol. Fuel economy checks in as average for the segment, but varies depending upon the trim selected and if opting front-drive over 4Motion all-wheel drive. Our front-drive SE R-Line nicely hit 30 miles per gallon highway.   Models with 4Motion expect 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway while front-drive S trims rate as the fuel leader with 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

Exterior cues tend towards conservative in nature. The simple, highly recognized V over W circular logo centers the narrow, three-slat grille flanked by LED headlight housing also sleek in design. A strong side character line runs straight back to the front fender through body-colored, strap-like handles. Sizeable side windows minimize east-west blind spots; however, standard radar-enhanced side blind spot monitors continue as one of the most effective, passive safety nuances helping prevent unwanted side swipes.

Other standard radar safety equipment include rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and forward automatic braking. Most trims include ‘IQ.drive,’ additional safety perks which come packaged in an $895 option in entry S. The IQ.drive includes: radar-enhanced cruise control and lane-keep assist.

Volkswagen’s powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles (whichever arrives first); slightly better than the industry average and unlike some others, may be transferable to the next owner. Another peace-of-mind perk; 24-hour roadside assistance for such situations as towing, lock-out servicing, jump starts and gasoline drop offs.   Coverage is for two years or 20,000 miles.

At a Glance: 2023 VW Tiguan

Price as tested:  $34,640
Engine: 2.0-liter, inline turbo four
Horsepower:  184
Wheelbase: 109.9 inches
Overall Length: 186.1 inches
Overall Width: 72.4 inches
Overall height:  66.5 inches
Fuel economy:  23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Assembly: Pueblo, Mexico

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.