The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan is about as quintessential as it gets for this brand, with its crisp lines, a clean and businesslike interior, and European flavour.
With a starting price of nearly $36,000, it features standard all-wheel drive, plus a number of amenities. However, you’ll have to move up at least a trim level or two if you want all the creature comforts the Tiguan has to offer.
After a significant refresh last year, the 2023 Tiguan arrives with minor cosmetic changes that mean it now more closely resembles this brand’s bigger SUVs – the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. Volkswagen’s best selling vehicle benefits from a definite European flavour, and comes across as very refined and businesslike both outside and in. The interior has an upscale look and feel, with clean lines, a welcoming colour scheme, and a logical layout.
The 2023 Tiguan gets a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Standard safety features abound, but you’ll have to upgrade to higher trims for some of the more advanced systems.
The base Trendline model comes with an array of airbags, including side curtains for front and rear occupants. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking is standard equipment, as is blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert. The Trendline also gets a back-up camera – a mandatory feature on all new vehicles sold in Canada.
The Comfortline adds dynamic guidance lines to the rearview camera (static lines are included with the base trim), along with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, and emergency assist that can bring the vehicle to a full stop in the event of a medical emergency. Move up to the Comfortline R-Line Black and you get front and rear parking sensors, while the Highline R-Line adds surround-view monitoring, road sign recognition, automatic high-beam control, and adaptive headlights.
Like just about every other vehicle on the market, expect to spend more to get all the creature comforts the Tiguan offers. For example, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connections are standard, they’re wired in the base Trandline; only the more expensive trims get wireless compatibility. Likewise, while the base model gets two USB-C ports up front, only the more expensive trims get additional plug-ins in the back.
There’s also an eight-inch digital instrument cluster and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the Trendline, while the rest of the lineup benefits from a 10.25-inch configurable digital instrument cluster and an eight-inch touchscreen. (The latter two displays feature crisp graphics and are a pleasure to use.)
As far as seats go, the Trendline’s are covered in cloth, while Comfortline and Comfortline R-Line Black models use synthetic leather. Real leather is reserved for the Highline R-Line. Lumbar support isn’t offered in the base model, nor are either of the ones up front power adjustable, but they are heated and so is the steering wheel. Meanwhile, the loaded Highline R-Line adds ventilated front seats and heated rear ones, as well as a panoramic power sunroof (the latter is optional on Comfortline models).
Both front- and rear-seat occupants will find it easy to get in and out of the Tiguan, and the cargo area is easily accessible. A parts shortage means a power tailgate isn’t available on early-production units (VW offers a $300 credit to make up for it), but opening and closing the rear cargo door is effortless and shouldn’t pose a problem for most owners.
All infotainment and climate controls are within easy reach of either front seat, and you’ll likely never have to flip through the owner’s manual to figure out how something works. Volkswagen has done a great job making everything user-friendly and very intuitive, including infotainment operation and phone pairing. The interior is nicely laid out, well designed, and easy to use.
Compared with other SUVs in this class, the Tiguan has a towing capacity that’s on par with the best-selling Honda CR-V at 680 kg (1,500 lb), but well below the 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-50 can pull. Likewise, at 2,074 L with the rear seats folded, cargo room comes up short of the Tucson (2,199 L) and CR-V (2,166 L), but it’s more than the CX-50 (1,595 L).
More importantly for everyday use, the Tiguan’s 1,064 L with the second-row upright is up there with the best in the segment, while it’s among the only SUVs this size to offer a third row (the Mitsubishi Outlander is the other). And while it has less first- and second-row legroom on paper than any of those three competitors, the Tiguan feels very roomy inside.
When it comes to comfort, you really do get what you pay for, since the Tiguan’s seats get more refined and supportive as you move up the trim ladder. The base Trendline gets what Volkswagen calls “standard” seats, while the two Comfortline trims get more ergonomic “comfort” seats, and the top-of-the-line Highline R-Line gets “sport” seats with more support, larger side bolsters, and more adjustability.
The seats in this mid-grade tester were firm, a typical VW trait, and provided support in all the right places. A 10-hour stint behind the wheel finished without any aches, pains, or sore spots, which is a true testament to the design and ergonomics of the Tiguan’s seats.
For 2023, all Tiguan models come with the same 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 184 hp, as well as eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and selectable drive modes. Compared with the rest of the segment, the Tiguan is among the least powerful, but its 221 lb-ft of torque is more than most – and more than ample.
Torque peaks at a mere 1,600 rpm, which gives the Tiguan enough oomph to accelerate briskly from a dead stop. Highway passing power is decent, but depending on how aggressively you like to drive, you may find yourself hoping for a bit more power. Either way, the transmission makes good use of all its gears, and shifting is smooth and effortless. The all-wheel drive system is a real asset, especially in inclement weather.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Crisp handling, a responsive engine, and a smooth transmission combine to deliver a comfortable ride and satisfying performance. While the Tiguan won’t be taking home any awards for power, it manages to deliver a sporty feel with virtually no body roll, solid brake performance, and enough grunt to put a smile on your face.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
The Tiguan is thirstier than some of the competition. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Tiguan is rated at 10.8 L/100 km in the city, 8.2 on the highway, and 9.6 combined. This week-long test finished at a combined 10.2 L/100 km.
In comparison, the non-hybrid Honda CR-V with all-wheel drive is rated to burn 9.1 L/100 km around town, 7.6 on the highway, and 8.4 combined, while the Mitsubishi Outlander and its standard all-wheel drive and optional third-row is supposed to be good for 9.7 in the city, 7.9 on the highway, and 8.9 combined. Even a turbocharged rival like the Mazda CX-50 does better on paper, with ratings of 10.4 in the city, 8.1 on the highway, and 9.4 combined.
If European styling, crisp handling, and traditional Volkswagen DNA appeal to you, then you’ll find the Tiguan to be just right. While not as powerful, roomy, or fuel-efficient as some of the competition, the Tiguan has a distinct German personality that makes it Volkswagen’s top-seller here in Canada and worldwide.
Pricing starts at $35,945 (including a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,950) for the base Trendline, which is more that an all-wheel-drive Tucson that starts at $29,824, but a lot less than an all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V ($38,990) or Mazda CX-50 ($40,245). Others in the segment, meanwhile, are more closely aligned with the Tiguan, including the Outlander ($34,598) and Subaru Forester ($32,970).
The Tiguan Comfortline is priced at $39,945, while the Comfortline R-Line Black will set you back $42,945. Finally, the range-topping Highline R-Line is priced at $46,445.
The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan competes in a large playing field. Some offer more cargo and passenger space and have more powerful engines, while others can tow more or offer better fuel economy. Yet somehow Volkswagen has managed to engineer the Tiguan so that it’s still enjoyable, has ample room for people and cargo, and offers crisp handling and European flair. If you like clean lines, a more businesslike and elegant design, and if all-wheel drive and the availability of a third row of seats is important, then the Tiguan is a must-see.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||184 hp @ 4,400–6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||221 lb-ft @ 1,600–4,300 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.6 / 8.0 / 9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||1,064 / 2,079 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2023 Volkswagen Tiguan Comfortline R-Line Black|
|Price as Tested||$43,240|
$195 – Oryx White Pearl paint, $495; Power tailgate delete, -$300