NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. – While the Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t have the sales volume of the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, it remains the bestselling Volkswagen in North America, and whenever a vehicle sells 100,000 units or more, as the Tiguan did in the U.S. in 2020, it is a vehicle of consequence.
For a marque that was, by its own admission, late to the SUV party, Volkswagen certainly has made up for lost time. In North America alone, the German automaker now sells five SUVs after offering only two as recently as 2016.
The Tiguan was the second Volkswagen SUV to make it to our shores in 2008, following the debut of the larger mid-size Touareg in 2002. While the Touareg was axed in North America in 2017 to make way for the U.S.-built Atlas, the Tiguan has reliably chopped wood for Volkswagen for 13 years.
The current second gen model, built at Volkswagen’s Puebla, Mexico plant and based on its Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform, went on sale in 2017. Of note, North America receives the long wheelbase version only, but a short wheelbase Tiguan is sold in other markets.
For 2022, the Tiguan receives a mid-cycle freshening, which includes some styling and packaging updates, but the powertrain carries over. All Tiguans come equipped with a 2.0-litre TSI (turbocharged) four-cylinder engine that produces 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard 4MOTION all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is no longer offered.
As for the styling changes, the ’22 Tiguan receives a new front fascia, new 17, 18, and 19-inch wheels, along with available 20-inch wheels, a first for the Tiguan in Canada. Other additions include an available illuminated front grille, and two revised R-Line packages, including on the Comfortline Black Edition.
On the inside, the Tiguan has new trim materials and décor, along with a new R-Line steering wheel, new interior colours, adjustable ambient lighting, and capacitive touch climate controls.
More standard equipment is also in store and includes the following: LED headlights, Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, heated steering wheel and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. Volkswagen engineers have also recalibrated the powertrain for the 2.0-litre TSI. Other new features include Car-Net, a smartphone app-driven suite of user convenience features, ventilated front/heated rear seats, power passenger seat, travel assist and a full suite of advanced driver assistance systems (Comfortline and above).
As for models, four are available: Trendline ($32,995), Comfortline ($36,795), Comfortline R-Line Black Edition ($39,495) and Highline R-Line ($42,995). Third row seating is an $800 option for all grades and a panoramic sunroof is a $1,500 add-on for the Comfortline.
Volkswagen Canada recently invited a small group of journalists to sample the new Tiguan in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, along with the all-new 2022 Golf GTI and Golf R hot hatches. I’ll have lots to say on those in a separate story coming soon.
At any rate, the three early production units on hand in Niagara were all top-level Highline R-Line copies, finished in Atlantic Blue Metallic with a Storm Grey-Titan Black interior. As one might expect, this trim comes fully loaded. Among its many standard features are 20-inch aluminum wheels, illuminated front grille, adaptive LED headlights, leather seating, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, eight-inch infotainment display, Fender premium audio and more.
To these eyes, the Tiguan has become more attractive with age. It started out as a rounded, jellybean-ish oddity in the late aughts and has evolved into an angular and more sophisticated SUV a decade later. The updating that it’s received here, while not extensive, makes an already attractive package even more appealing. The new front fascia, LED headlights and illuminated front grille give the Tiguan a more premium feel, which I think will resonate with consumers. Upper-level trims tend to account for a larger share of sales for Volkswagen than for other marques, so the R-Line bits included with the Highline should help its curb appeal.
As for cabin changes, I like most of them as well, with one notable exception. First, the good stuff. The multifunction steering wheel looks and feels much more premium than the unit it replaces and provides deep levels of control to the driver’s thumbs, especially for the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, which now offers a greater degree of configurability. Good to see wireless Apple CarPlay here, too. It’s 2021 – tech like this really should be standard for vehicles in this price range.
In terms of style, comfort and fit and finish, the Tiguan impresses. The leather seats offer good comfort, outward visibility is excellent and the look and feel of the trim finishes are impressive. For a $42,000+ vehicle, the Highline R-Line holds its own. Volkswagen interiors generally don’t rank highly on the excitement index, but considering its intended competition, I think the Tiguan’s cabin offers plenty of appeal. The addition of ambient lighting helps in this regard.
As for the one thing I really didn’t love, it’s the capacitive touch panel that governs climate control functions. Look, I get it – mechanical buttons don’t look as good in marketing materials as a flat touch panel with cool graphics. I understand why many manufacturers are moving in this direction, but touch panels can be fussy to use and can create unnecessary distraction.
Mechanical controls operate on feel, but these screens don’t. Just try adjusting a touch panel while driving on a bumpy road – not fun. Drivers often must divert their attention to adjust fan speed or temperature, and it can be more dangerous than you think. I speak from experience. I will give Volkswagen credit, however, for keeping volume and tune knobs so all is not lost. Yet.
On the road, the Tiguan delivers a surprising amount of pep from its 2.0-litre TSI (EA888) turbo four-cylinder. Volkswagen says the powertrain has been recalibrated, and I can report that the EA888’s throttle response is indeed quite lively in all modes, especially sport. Shift response from the eight-speed autobox also feels quite sharp and engaging. Powertrain output doesn’t look especially impressive on paper, but its real-world performance is much better than those numbers (184 hp / 221 lb-ft) would suggest.
There were no emergency handling exercises during the drive, but based on what I experienced on Niagara roads, the Tiguan offers a quiet cabin, with a smooth ride and good handling reflexes. The steering feels light and responsive with good road feel and feedback.
Overall, the 2022 Tiguan is a compelling offering in the intensely competitive compact SUV segment. It won’t be fighting it out for class sales leader, but its styling and packaging changes should keep it entrenched as the number one Volkswagen for some time to come.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.