2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Review: Steady in the Wild

Lionel Kong

Volkswagen’s cool urban SUV gets the midlife facelift it needs to keep pace with the competition in Singapore


When it first arrived on the scene more than 10 years ago, the Volkswagen Tiguan was heralded as a classy urban SUV that wasn’t from an uppity luxury brand, but with the quality and features of one. We remember it as one of the very first cars in Singapore to have the self-parking system too, where the car uses sensors and camera to steer itself into an empty parking space. As with all things in life, progression is the only way forward and the newly updated Tiguan is now on sale. It’s a comprehensive facelift of the second-generation car that was launched in late 2016, with plenty of internal software upgrades.

We published the full launch story of the Tiguan right here, when it first arrived in October, but now we have had the opportunity to do an extended drive with it, and the car’s pros and cons become more apparent. 

The general sense of what sets the Tiguan apart from its close family relation the Skoda Karoq is its slightly more refined drive and upmarket interior. Externally, the facelift is of the usual nip and tuck variety, where some styling cues on the front and rear are changed up, but in subtle ways. 

The interior of the car gets a more dramatic update, with a new steering wheel that is very similar to the one in the Mark 8 Volkswagen Golf. That includes the new streamlined VW logo, but while the Golf, and its other family relation the Audi A3,  has a near-flat centre console with the downsizing of the gear lever, the Tiguan still maintains the chunky shift knob.

The central screen has been updated to run an 8.0-inch Composition Media touchscreen infotainment system. It uses the latest VW Group MIB3 hardware, capable of Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink connectivity.

An electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry/start, three-zone air conditioning, panoramic sunroof, adjustable ambient lighting and 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit Pro active instrument panel are standard fit. 

The car’s 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder with 190hp is essentially the same engine block as the earlier model, but compared to the pre-facelift model it has 30 horsepower less, with a maximum of 190hp. That’s still plenty of punch for a car in this category, but the detuning appears to have also reduced CO2 emissions so the car now rates a neutral B on the VES scale instead of C1 of the previous generation, which would have incurred an additional S$15,000 surcharge to the car’s price.   

It’s still decently brisk, with a 0 to 100km/h sprint time of 7.4 seconds, making it quicker than a base model BMW X1.

The Tiguan has the usual engine start-stop system and energy recuperation, but is not a mild hybrid the way that the clever VW Golf is.

The claimed fuel economy of 6.9l/100km is a little optimistic for Singaporean driving conditions too, as after three days of mixed driving with the Tiguan we registered 9.5l/100km. If your daily commute consists of a lot of highway driving then 8/100km is entirely within reach as well. 

It’s a steady, composed car in all conditions, and the VW 4Motion all-wheel drive system gives the car plenty of versatility. It’s a genuine soft roader in that as long as the right tyres are equipped the car should have no problem tackling off road scenarios. This is a stark contrast to all the SUV styled by entirely on-road nature of most other cars on sale now.

The all-wheel drive system is adaptive and can send motor torque to all four wheels as needed, but the extra weight and friction from the system also adds weight to the car, impacting the fuel economy slightly compared to the competition.

It doesn’t feel very quick to accelerate when it actually is quite punchy, thanks to the superior cabin insulation. The seven-speed twin-clutch transmission is a VW standard and quite happy when left to its own devices, though the paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow for sequential shifting.

Boot space is quite expansive and configurable with the multi-level floor board that can be raised for a flat floor to the rear bumper, or fitted lower for slightly more space.

The negatives with the Tiguan are that it has no real petrol-electric hybrid capability, though a plug-in hybrid variant is available in some other countries, and its somewhat weak suite of active safety features. You get the driver fatigue alert system and post-collision braking to stop a damaged car from pinballing onto other traffic, but there is no lane keeping assist nor adaptive cruise control.

The thing is, the VW Tiguan is so good at what it does that it’s often underrated by many potential drivers. It’s not a very loudly designed car, and the driving experience is slightly muted because it is so refined. It’s only slightly pricier than the Skoda Karoq, which is also available with a smaller, more economical 1.5-litre turbo engine. In this instance the Tiguan looks well worth the extra outlay.

Yet outside of the premium car space that VW occupies, there are a bunch of recent releases that are cheaper and fighting for your attention. The Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is a prime contender, and it’s quite shocking how good the South Korean car is.

While the Tiguan isn’t the kind of car that will set sales charts alight it has its share of fans that prefer its understated styling and easy yet solid driving feel.  If you want your Tiguan to feel that bit more special, there’s the more extravagantly styled R-Line variant, which costs S$15,000 extra, runs on one inch larger, 20-inch wheels, a full bodykit, built-in navigation, a heads-up display, and sportier interior.   

Volkswagen Tiguan Elegance

Engine1984cc, in-line , turbocharged
Power190hp at 4200-6000rpm
Torque320Nm at 1500-4100rpm
Gearbox7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h7.4 seconds 
Top Speed214 km/h
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
VES Band B / neutral
AgentVolkswagen Singapore
PriceS$189,900 with COE and VES
Verdict Smartly understated, but spacious and a solidly good drive, though lack of hybrid powertrains could blunt local interest

EV Weekend is Singapore’s First and Largest Electric Vehicle event, and it’s on from 3-12 December 2021 at Resorts World Sentosa! Check out the latest EVs from Audi, BMW, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Mini – see them in person, test drive them, and understand all there is to know about EV ownership and more. Sign up at to find out more and win exciting prizes.


5 seat 5-door Elegance petrol SUV tiguan volkswagen

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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