Based on what Volkswagen offers in its Tiguan crossover sport-utility vehicle, the company clearly recognizes that practicality and usefulness are key qualities that people value in an SUV.
During the week I spent driving the compact, comfortable wagon, I liked how its clean lines and crisply angled body showed purposefulness. I appreciated its cabin that was cleanly functional, with instruments and controls smartly arrayed around the driver, with over-sized cargo pockets in the doors, and helpful slots and crannies in its center console for small items.
Less obvious qualities also lent a lot to my test model’s practical appeal. Its interior seemed purposefully designed to keep spiffy and clean – an important attribute for drivers with children, who are a big part of the sport-utility market. My evaluation model had low-nap carpeting that vacuumed easily. It’s disappointing how many other vehicles come with pile floors and sometimes seat upholstery that likes to retain pet hair, lint and crumbs.
The Tiguan also features wide plastic sills between its seats and doors – with particularly wide surfaces beside its second-row bench seat. They provide a handy step-up for children. I mostly liked how easily the flat sills swipe clean. That’s a sharp contrast to the deep, hard-to-clean recesses beside the seats in so many other vehicles.
That rear seat also slides forward and backward in sections, and its back sections recline slightly, for adjustable comfort. The back is divided into three sections, instead of the usual two. The 40-, 20- and 40-percent segments create more combinations for folding down the rear seat backs to expand cargo capacity, or standing them upright for riders.
But, okay, okay, I get it. I understand that easy-clean qualities and practical layouts aren’t the sorts of attributes that get people excited about cars. Besides, they’re characteristics you’re more likely to notice after you’ve grown familiar with a model.
With the VW Tiguan, a more noticeable quality attracting people to the car is its higher grade of refinement, according to Charles Daher Jr., who sells the model, among many others, as sales manager at Commonwealth Motors in Lawrence. In addition to Commonwealth Volkswagen, the dealer group consists of Commonwealth Chevrolet, Commonwealth Honda, Commonwealth Kia and Commonwealth Nissan, all in Lawrence.
“It’s attracting people who are looking for a premium vehicle at a more economical price,” Daher said about the Tiguan.
The middling-sized crossover – officially classified as a compact model – starts at a list price of $25,290 for a front-wheel-drive version. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive setup adds $1,300, for a list of $26,590. The model progresses through six trim levels, with the top-line Tiguan SEL Premium R-Line carrying a list price of $39,890.
All versions use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.
Its appeal as a higher grade automobile began when Volkswagen brought out the current version of the Tiguan as a re-engineered and restyled, next-generation vehicle for model-year 2018 about two years ago, Daher explained. He viewed the re-made and modernized Tiguan as a return to Volkswagen’s traditional approach of creating cars that stand out as distinctly German, which means with sophisticated style and exacting attention to detail.
“It’s not bland,” he said. “It has refined European styling, near-luxury styling. And the fit and finish is nicer.” Daher said the new Tiguan “has the old Volkswagen feel.”
Its larger size is another noticeable nicety that drivers find attractive, said the sales manager. The contemporary Tiguan that launched two years ago has a roomier cabin than many competing models in the compact crossover class, Daher said. “It gives you more space,” he noted.
The Tiguan also offers families the added passenger capacity of a pop-up third-row seat, transforming it from a ordinary five-passenger compact crossover to a seven-seat transport. The third row is a standard feature installed in front-drive versions, but on Tiguan’s all-wheel-drive variations the third row comes as a $595 option.
Its extra rear seat is more roomy and accommodating than the third row in the handful of other compact crossovers that offer it, said Daher. Still, people generally look to it only for occasional use. Yet its a feature that drive some families to favor the Tiguan, he stated.
In addition to highly visible fundamental qualities like more elbow room and a higher level of refinement, people also are initially drawn to the Tiguan by some accessories that stand above offerings from other manufacturers, Daher said.
A notable one is the panoramic sunroof installed on higher trim levels.
“It surprises you to see a sunroof so big in a vehicle that size,” Daher said.
The high-end Fender audio system installed in Tiguan’s top two trim levels also turns heads, he noted.
“It’s a substantial audio system and people aren’t used to something like that in a car this price. It attracts young and old alike,” he noted.
“The base model comes with plenty of stuff, and when you get to the top of the line model, the radio and everything else just surpasses everybody,” Daher summarized.
Its combination of attractive qualities wins over drivers who hadn’t considered a Volkswagen before, he reported. They include people who are moving up to a moderately sized sport-utility from, say, a compact sedan, as well as drivers who are looking for something more than the more ordinary SUV they’ve been driving.
That latter group includes a lot of people who owned models from both Asia-based and U.S.-based car manufacturers.
“We see it in their trade-ins,” Daher said.
Beyond the easy-to-see characteristics that led them to the Tiguan, those drivers also will grow to appreciate its practical and useful aspects, like an easy-clean cabin and accommodating layout.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com
2019 Volkswagen Tiguan
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5- and 7-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive compact crossover utility vehicle
Price range: $25,290 to $39,890 (plus options)
Warranty: 6 years/72,000 miles bumper to bumper warranty; 7-year/100,000 corrosion warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Power: 184 horsepower at 4,400 rpm; 221 lb.-ft. torque at 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city; 27 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 110 inches
Length: 185 inches
Width: 72 inches
Height: 66 inches
Weight: 3,777 pounds
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Turning circle: 37.7 feet