2023 Volkswagen Tiguan Review

2023 Volkswagen Tiguan - Spacious, modern interior paired with a fresh exterior and good handling.


The Tiguan has grown to be on the larger end of the compact segment since it first launched in 2007 and now seats up to seven passengers. This best-selling Volkswagen received a refresh for 2022 and carries over into 2023 with a couple minor cosmetic changes that include new 19" wheels. It's offered exclusively with a 184-horsepower turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder that is available with front or all-wheel drive. It is available in four trims known as the S, SE, SE R-Line Black, and SEL R-Line. Prices start at $26,950 for an S FWD model or $28,450 for an S AWD. At the other end of the price range is the SEL R-LINE AWD, which starts at $37,680 fully equipped with all the available features. Competition includes the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Rogue, GMC Terrain, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4.  After a week in an Opal White Pearl SE R-Line, here's what stood out...

Interior Space (+)
Hopping inside I was instantly impressed by the spacious cabin of the Tiguan. It features large windows, and my test vehicle also had a full-length tilt-and-slide panoramic glass roof which let in a ton of light adding to the open feeling. Materials throughout are durable and better than most in the class. It's a conservative, but clean layout with a nice mix of quality materials.

There is ample space for five passengers in the Tiguan and as a bonus, it's one of only a few that offers a third row in this class to accommodate seven. It's best utilized as a five-passenger though as the third row is tight even for kids and cuts significantly into the cargo area. There is 33 cu.ft. of space behind the second row which is cut down to 12 cu.ft. behind the third row. With both second and third rows folded flat, it offers 65.3 cubic feet. Two-row only models fare better with a total of 37.6 cu.ft. behind the second row and 73.4 cu.ft. with the seats folded down.

Either cloth, synthetic leatherette or genuine leather seats are available. They are firm but offer good support. Heated seats are standard up front while a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats are available options. The SE and SE R-Line Black front seats include an 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment and a 6-way adjustable passenger's seat. SEL R-Line models add 3-position driver-seat memory, and an 8-way power passenger's seat. There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

Digital Cluster (+)
Behind the steering wheel a full 8-inch digital cluster is standard with two views and customizable widgets to show a variety of vehicle information. SEL R-Line models upgrade to a 10.25-inch display with three views including full screen navigation and 21 viewing options that include car status, driving data, phone information, fuel consumption, audio playlists, driver assist features, and more. The screen uses modern graphics and features a high resolution that is crisp and clear to read. It is easy to navigate between widgets to find a view to match the driver's preference.

Infotainment System (+/-)
All models feature a touchscreen display that integrates with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard is a 6.5-inch screen while an 8-inch touchscreen is available. The system utilizes a capacitive-touch sensor like smart phone technology which enables controls such as swiping or pinch-zooming. It's not as intuitive as others and poses problems on a cold Chicago day when wearing gloves. There are standard dials on either side to control volume and tuning. Most models will come with six speakers, but there is an available Fender premium audio system for the best available sound quality. Climate controls are in a separate screen below and on the SEL R-Line are exclusively controlled by the capacitive touch controls. These controls seemed to be impacted by cold temperatures with a delayed response. I like the concept as it's modern and provides a clean look, but there are some execution issues that need to be considered.

Exterior Styling (+)
The second-generation Tiguan debuted for 2018 with a similar style to the larger Atlas. And for 2022, it received a refresh that ties in styling cues from the rest of the VW SUV lineup. Styling carries over to 2023.  The front bumper opens with a larger opening in the lower portion below the wide grille. The contrast of color mixed with chrome gives it a sportier and more upscale vibe. LED headlights are standard on all trims and available on the SEL R-line is an illuminated grille light that connects the headlights to the VW emblem at the center. The side profile features a strong character line and a hexagonal shape. Around back standard LED taillights flank the modern lettering with Tiguan spelled out at the center below the emblem.

Wheel Design (+)

Volkswagen has always fitted their vehicles with appropriately styled wheels that add to the overall styling, rather than distract. There were newly designed aluminum alloy wheels for 2022 that range in size from 17 up to 20-inches in size. Finishes include mixes of silver, gray, and black. And for 2023, a new 19" design is now available on SE R-Line Black models as seen on my test vehicle. The breakdown of wheel/tire combinations are as follows:

* S: 215/65 all-season tires on 17-inch alloys
* SE: 235/55 all-season tires on 18-inch alloys
* SE R-Line Black: 235/50 all-season tires on 19-inch black alloys
* SEL-R Line: 255/40 all-season tires on 20-inch alloys

Powertrain (+/-)
All models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine that nets 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic. It's available with either front or all-wheel drive. All models offer various drive mode selection which includes normal, sport, eco, and individual. Sport mode will give it the most dynamic throttle response and spirited drive while eco will optimize fuel economy. Acceleration is not the best, but it is sufficient for local suburban driving. The lack of overall power is mostly felt when merging onto the highway at higher speeds. It gets there eventually and when it does, the handling is great. A second, more-powerful powertrain would be a great add for the R-Line models which already look the part.

Handling (+)

Despite its lack of overall power compared to a vehicle like the Mazda CX-5 Turbo, the Tiguan falls right behind the CX-5 with its overall handling and ride. The suspension is soft as it smoothly sailed over road imperfections. Road noise is kept to a minimum, even with the large panoramic roof. It zips around corners with precise steering and little lean. It always felt planted to the pavement, even in inclement weather. AWD is a $1,500 premium that is worth the investment in the Midwest.

AWD kicks in when needed and helps maintain a straight line. There are multiple AWD drive modes in the 4Motion AWD models that can be adjusted via a dial in the center console that include on-road, off-road, snow, and off-road custom. A quick turn to snow mode and the Tiguan maintained its composure. In Snow mode, the response curve of the accelerator pedal is flattened to help negate unintentional and excessive wheelspin, and the transmission upshifts earlier to help optimize traction. Even when pushed in the snow, the Tiguan self-corrects, and the traction control system reduces engine power when slippage is detected.

Fuel Economy (+/-)

When it arrived with a full 15.9-gallon tank it offered over 450 miles of range. Fuel economy is estimated at 23/30 MPG city/highway for the FWD model or 21/28 MPG for an AWD model. These estimates are just below average for the class, but there are a fair amount of hybrid competitors. After a week of primarily suburban driving, I averaged 21 MPG. Regular unleaded fuel is sufficient for the Tiguan.

IQ.DRIVE Driver Assist Features (+)
Standard on all Tiguans are six airbags, electronic stability control, intelligent crash response system, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert. Volkswagen's suite of driver assist features known as IQ.DRIVE is standard on SE models and up. It is also available as an $895 option on base S models. On the highway, it features lane centering and a capacitive steering wheel to make driving easier. Around town, it alerts the driver of possible obstacles ahead, and keeps an eye around the vehicle to help make driving safer.

IQ.Drive includes travel assist (semi-automated driving assistance), front assist (forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring), active blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control,  stop & go, lane keeping assist, and emergency assist (semi-automated vehicle assistance in a medical emergency). Other available features include park assist, dynamic road sign display, light assist, and an overhead view camera. Park assist, which is standard on the SEL R-Line will automatically steer the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces... a feature more common in the compact luxury segment.

Final Statement

The Tiguan offers an inviting interior that is comfortable with a clean, modern design and an impressive amount of space. It lacks some overall power, but it handles the road very well. It has come a long way since its first generation which had a poor reputation. The Tiguan is now a worthy competitor in this popular segment.

First Impression Summary
Test Vehicle:
2023 VW Tiguan 2.0T SE R-Line Black
Exterior Color: Opal White Pearl
Interior Color: Cinnamon Leatherette
Notable Options: Opal White Pearl paint ($395)
Price as tested: $34,640 (with destination charge)

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.