Eric's Autos: 2021 VW Tiguan
Getting three rows of seats without getting something big -- or pricey -- isn't easy.
Because there aren't many.
In fact, there's just one right now: the 2021 VW Tiguan.
The other two compact-sized crossovers previously available with three rows of seats no longer are. Dodge dropped the Journey, and Mitsubishi isn't currently selling the seven-passenger Outlander (but the five-passenger Sport is still available).
The only other small crossover that seats seven is the Kia Sorento. But its starting price is much higher -- $29,300 versus $25,245 to start for the Tiggy.
Which pretty much leaves this three-row VW in a class by itself.
For the moment ...
What It Is
The Tiguan is one of just two compact-sized, three-row crossover SUVs remaining on the market now that Dodge has dropped the Journey and the regular Mitsubishi Outlander is off the market ... momentarily.
It will be returning for 2022, though.
But in the meantime, the only other option -- without going larger -- is the much more pricey Kia Sorento.
Tiggy prices start at $25,245 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive; adding the optional 4Motion all-wheel drive brings the MSRP up to $27,740.
A top-of-the-line SEL Premium R-Line with all-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels lists for $40,290.
Major upgrades for the new model year are an 8-inch, glass-surfaced LCD touch screen and the addition of adaptive cruise control in SE and higher trims.
It seats seven in a five-seater size -- for thousands less than the next-closest in size and seats.
The standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is torquey .
There are Audi-esque available tech and amenities, including an optional 10-inch digital display dashboard.
What's Not So Good
The third row requires buying SE trim and all-wheel drive.
The standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is less powerful than it used to be.
It has a very modest (1,500 pounds) maximum tow rating.
Under the Hood
All trims come standard with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine -- paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The engine makes 184 horsepower -- slightly less than the Sorento's slightly larger 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, which makes 191 horsepower without a turbo.
But because it is turbocharged, the Tiggy's smaller engine makes a great deal more torque than the Kia's engine: 221 foot-pounds at 1,600 rpm versus 181 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm.
So it's not surprising that the VW is quicker by about one second to 60 mph, getting there in just over eight seconds versus just over nine for the Sorento.
Despite its turbo, the Tiggy's standard engine is a regular fuel engine, and its mileage per gallon -- 23 city and 29 highway for the front-wheel drive version and 21 city and 27 highway for the all-wheel drive version -- is about the same as you'd get in the considerably pricier Sorento: 24 city and 29 highway for the front-wheel drive version and 23 city and 25 highway for the all-wheel drive version.
The chief functional deficit that comes standard with both of these small crossovers is the lack of ability to pull much, even relative to cars.
The Tiggy's maximum tow rating is just 1,500 lbs. The Kia's 1,563 pound maximum rating is only marginally higher.
On the Road
The Tiggy isn't much more powerful than the Sorento -- but it feels more powerful because of its turbocharged engine, which makes its maximum power (its torque) sooner, at lower engine rpm, and so with less apparent effort. Leaving a parking lot to comfortably blend in with traffic going 45 mph doesn't require flooring the VW's gas pedal.
It does in the Kia -- unless you order it with the optional turbocharged engine.
But that will cost you about $10,000 more than it costs to get the VW's standard turbocharged engine.
At the Curb
The Tiggy is the smallest of the small, three-row bunch.
It's just 185.1 inches long -- which is only about 8 inches longer than a small sedan such as the Honda Civic, which does not seat seven. It is as easy to park as a small car like the Civic, but with the ability to carry another two people or carry five and 65.7 cubic feet of stuff in its cargo area.
But the Tiggy only seats seven if you buy the SE and up -- and all-wheel drive, which all costs extra.
The Sorento, which is a little bigger -- 189 inches end to end -- doesn't charge extra for the extra seats, which come standard in all trims.
But it does cost more, regardless.
It also does not offer the VW's almost-Audi "digital cockpit" instrument panel with driver-configurable views and the almost-Audi vibe that comes standard in the Tiggy, which is made by the same company that makes Audis.
VW has upped its standard comprehensive warranty coverage to five years/60,000 miles -- up from three years/36,000 miles previously.
Also, if you don't need the third row, the two-row version has 73.5 cubic feet of total cargo space. The second row also travels 7 inches fore and aft, and if pushed back all the way, the back-seaters enjoy more legroom than the driver and front seat passenger.
The Bottom Line
This little VW has the seats -- without the size. Or the cost.
And that might be just enough.
Eric's latest book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.