The hardest cars to write about — and buy — are crossover SUVs. Which do you pick? There are so many, and they're so alike. It's like shopping for refrigerators.
Volkswagen's Tiguan is an exception to this rule. It's smaller than the others in its class, but it has more engine.
Its early models could even be ordered with a manual transmission, which was like finding a real diamond ring at the bottom of your Cracker Jack box. It was actually fun to drive, but it lacked room. The back seat was tight, and there wasn't much cargo capacity.
Well, that's been fixed — and with a twist.
What It Is
The Tiggy is VW's compact crossover SUV. But like its main competitors, models like the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester, it is nearly midsized now in all but name.
Unlike the others, the Tiggy is as powerful as it comes because its turbocharged engine is standard. The CR-V and Forester can be ordered with one, but you pay extra. The RAV4 doesn't offer one at all.
The base price is $25,345 for a front-wheel drive S trim. With 4Motion all-wheel drive, the MSRP is $26,645. A top-of-the-line SEL trim with a digital LCD dashboard, 8-inch touchscreen, 480-watt nine-speaker Fender audio rig and 4Motion all-wheel drive has a sticker of $37,550.
The 2018 Tiggy is almost a foot longer than the old model. It offers a third-row seating option and is powered by a heavily revised version of VW's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's tuned to produce more low-end torque.
An eight-speed automatic transmission replaces last year's six-speed automatic.
The standard turbo engine — most cross-shops either don't offer it or charge extra for it.
The available third row option — most cross-shops don't offer it at all.
It has more than twice the old Tiggy's cargo capacity.
The optional four-mode 4Motion AWD is more capable than cross-shops' one-mode AWD systems.
What's Not So Good
Chevy is going to offer a 40 mpg-capable diesel Equinox. VW isn't going to offer a diesel at all.
It has reduced towing capacity compared with last year (1,500 pounds versus 2,200 pounds).
Under the Hood
As before, the Tiggy's standard engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but it has been retuned with a bit less peak horsepower (184 versus 200 last year) and more low-end torque (221 foot-pounds at 1,600 rpm versus 207 foot-pounds at 1,700 rpm).
A new eight-speed automatic replaces the six-speed automatic used last year, the extra gears providing a bit more mechanical leverage, especially in the lower ranges, and enhancing the increased (and more accessible) torque output.
Despite the turbo, and the power, the engine does not require premium fuel; it is designed to run best on regular unleaded.
On the Road
The Tiggy's turbo simulates the big-engine experience pretty convincingly. You almost never have to floor it. All that torque is right there, right now.
You can go with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, as is true of the other crossovers in this class. But the available 4Motion AWD system has four driver-selectable terrain settings, including snow and mud, which the others do not offer. The VW system also decouples the rear wheels, allowing them to freewheel during light-load conditions when there is no loss of traction up front. Most other AWD systems keep all four wheels engaged at least to some degree, even when there is no loss of traction.
All of this results in a mileage increase since last year — despite the increased size and curb weight. Front-wheel drive gets 22 mpg city and 27 highway, and models equipped with the optional 4Motion AWD system get 21 mpg city and 27 highway.
At the Curb
The new Tiggy gains almost an inch of second-row legroom (36.5 inches) and has more than double the cargo capacity. There is now 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 65.7 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
It also comes standard with almost as much ground clearance (7.9 inches) as a Subaru Forester, which will be helpful come the winter.
It's practical and still fun.
Another thing the Tiggy has going for it is close kinship to a German luxury brand (Audi), which gives it a little more cachet than the others in this class.
It has nicer interior materials. It's quieter. And you can order some very high-end features, such as a liquid-crystal display dashboard.
The Bottom Line
The new Tiggy has the things the old Tiggy lacked without losing the things that made the old Tiggy a standout in this class. The badge has changed, but the goodness remains the same.
To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com. His new book, Don't Get Taken for a Ride! will be available soon.