2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 4Motion: Hanging in There

By January 27, 2016Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Clavey’s Corner is pretty familiar with the Tiguan, as it just so happens to be our camera car. Yes, those YouTube videos and blurry driving pictures are shot in a 2011 VW Tiguan which carries everything from camera equipment to laptops and serves both as an office and a Tim Horton’s coffee cup recycling bin. We’ve come to appreciate the Tiguan’s practicality and fun to drive demeanour. And thanks to an APR ECU upgrade, our Tiguan does a surprisingly good job at keeping up with Alfa Romeos and M3s.

So, what has changed since 2011? The Tiguan has had a facelift since then, and 2016 will be its last year of production. A new Tiguan built on VW’s MQB platform is scheduled to arrive early next year. Until then, the question is: does the ageing Tiguan still have what it takes to remain competitive in the quickly evolving compact SUV segment?

Showing its Age

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

The automotive industry is evolving at such a rapid rate that it’s hard to remain fresh nowadays. A model that spans for over 5 years is now considered old for any carmaker. When the Tiguan came out in 2009, it was almost a unique breed. Today, the compact and new sub-compact SUV segments have exploded for all carmakers. Mazda, Honda, Jeep, Fiat, Chevrolet, Nissan, and even Mini now offer an aggressively priced and well-equipped cute-ute based on a successful car platform.

That being said, after spending some time in a fun and cheerful Jeep Renegade a few weeks back, one of the Tiguan’s recruit competitors, the first thing that strikes you when you sit inside the Volkswagen is how much it’s already showing its age. While the Jeep’s interior was all about “cool,” “check this out”, and “well-played”, the Tiguan’s interior is more about “meh”, “boring”, and “why so serious?”

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Dashboard

However, fit and finish as well as build quality are still the Tiguan’s tour de force, with high-quality materials and an all-around solid fit and finish feel. But with its grey on grey colour combination, vertically stacked ventilation vents, and unintuitive infotainement system, that interior feels incoherent and bland.

There’s also a problem with the way you’re sitting in the Tiguan, where that awkwardly slanted dashboard makes you feel like you’re driving a milk truck with a weird seating position that makes you feel like you’re sitting on top of the seats rather than inside them.

What I’m all about is this: when you’re sitting behind the wheel of a German vehicle and you’re thinking: “the Jeep’s interior was more comfortable and better appointed,” something is definitely not right.

Especially if you’ve sat in Volkswagen’s most recent offerings, such as the MQB Golf or new Passat. These cars are fitted with some of the most beautiful interiors in their respective categories.

Simply put, when you sit inside a Tiguan, you realize that it comes from a completely different generation of Volkswagens.

Essentially a GTI on Stilts

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Thankfully, the Tiguan makes up for that with the way it feels on the road. Still using the Golf V’s platform (called the Rabbit back then) and powered by the same 2.0-liter, 200-hp turbocharged engine as the GTI, the Tiguan essentially feels like just that: a Golf GTI with a suspension lift.

Road manners in the Tiguan are traditional Volkswagen solid, with a compliant and sporty feel and enough athleticism to make the driving experience entertaining in all possible situations. This is a solid German vehicle with a stiff chassis (sometimes a bit too stiff). Road and wind noise are also rather well subdued, but once again, I’ve heard better in some of the German automaker’s fresher offerings.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Taillights

My tester was equipped with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, which comes mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual modes. It’s a system that operates smoothly without attracting too much attention to itself. However, it’s important to mention that although Volkswagen builds one of the best 6-speed dual-clutch transmissions on the market, it somehow decided the Tiguan didn’t deserve it.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Transmission

Thanks to the turbocharged engine’s ability to deliver its 207 lb-ft of torque down low in the rev range, the Tiguan sprints off the line rather quickly and gets around with much-appreciated pep. Enter a bend too fast and you’ll feel that 4Motion system pulling the Tiguan back into place, making for a confidence-inspiring driving experience that adds depth to its already well-sorted out chassis.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

This little SUV, albeit running on a defunct platform, still feels fresh in the way it drives, making it feel more like a sports car than a truck. That’s a refreshing trait in a world filled with soulless automotive appliances.

Find Some Snow

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

The most impressive feature of the Tiguan is its ability to maneuver in snowy conditions.

Using a Haldex coupling system to transfer the power from front to rear, Volkswagen’s 4Motion system in the Tiguan can transfer up to almost 100% of the available power to the rear wheels upon demand. It’s essentially the same system found in the Golf R. Remove traction control at standstill on a snow-covered surface, hit the accelerator, and you’ll feel that torque being transferred to the rear, allowing you to engage the Tiguan in entertaining and perfectly controllable powerslides.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Furthermore, there are no annoying stability control systems to prevent you from having some good old fashion fun.

Unlike the Renegade’s system, which boasted serious off-road capabilities, the Tiguan’s system is more of a car-based system and is more focused on stability in slippery conditions. And thanks to that raised suspension, you can still count on it to plow through that snowbank during occasional winter blizzards.

Facing Some Serious Competition

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Standing on its own, the Tiguan is quite a compelling vehicle. But it unfortunately faces some very stiff competition. Back when it was released, it offered some of the traits of high-end luxury SUV’s with a more “mainstream” sales price. The problem is that today, mainstream brands have caught up to the Tiguan’s refinement and still sell them with more attractive price tags. I’m expecting the next Tiguan to fix this problem.

Plus, with Dieselgate, the Tiguan has suddenly become a lot more important for VW than they had themselves anticipated.

A 2016 4Motion Special Edition Tiguan like my tester starts at $29 998. It’s the entry level all-wheel-drive model. Go for the top trim Highline version with the fancy LED headlights, leather seats, and other shenanigans, and you’ll top out at $36 998.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan

Now, while the Tiguan did get a price drop for 2016, it’s still sold for roughly the same price as a larger, more comfortable and better equipped Honda CR-V.

Furthermore, the Tiguan’s interior dimensions resemble more those of sub-compact competitors such as the HR-V or Juke rather than those of a RAV4 or a Rogue, compact SUV’s who the Tiguan is priced to rival against. The Tiguan also suffers from a mediocre cargo area and rather cramped rear seats. Did I mention how hard those seats are? Even with the rear bench pulled all the way back (very cool feature btw), if you’re over 6-feet tall, you’ll find your knees hitting the front seats all the time.

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Cargo Space

To wrap it all up, if what you’re looking for in a compact SUV are dynamic driving characteristics, sports car like handling, and German refinement, the 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan still has what it takes to have you served. It’s as fun to drive on dry pavement as a Golf GTI and will let you drift it like a rally car on snow-covered surfaces.

However, if value is what you’re after, which is usually a strong argument in this segment, the Tiguan unfortunately doesn’t deliver. You just don’t feel like you get a lot for the price. Truth be told, the American, Japanese, and even Korean competition will sell you much more compact SUV for your dollar.

Clavey’s Verdict

Review of the 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 4Motion by William Clavey

7.5 / 10
Compact Crossovers

+ Sports-car driving characteristics.
+ Impressive all-wheel drive system.
+ Solid German construction.

– Disappointing interior, hard seats, and weird driving position.
– Limited rear leg room and cargo space.
– Still rather expensive compared to competition.

Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.

Special thanks: Park Avenue Volkswagen

Photography: Appearance

Contact the author: [email protected]

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William Clavey

About William Clavey

Automotive Journalist from Canada. Active collaborator at mainstream media outlets across Canada.


  • Al Dega says:

    …cramped rear seats? Really?
    I have to wonder if this writer has ever actually ridden in the back seat of a Tiguan. I find the rear seat leg room to be one of the car’s best attributes. And as for feeling “hard”, I would instead characterize the feel as quite comfortably supportive, and not squishy soft. It is after all, not intended to feel the same as a living room sofa.
    In general this review is so full of self inflicted contradictions that it feels the writer just found himself having to dash off a quick diddy for an editor’s deadline, and just spewed out some random notions.

  • Sal says:

    BS article. I had the same model and year. It performed great and as expected. I loved it. Traded it in for a new 2020 R-Line.

  • Christopher Montrose says:

    William, instead of a well written informative article based on facts, your article seems like a paid for hit piece for the lowest bidder. Where’s do I start? I actually own the aforementioned 2016 VW Tiguan SE 4Motion. You mentioned that there is no Stability Control to hamper you fun drifting in the snow. Actually, VW Tiguan does include Stability Control as standard equipment. It also can be turned off, if the driver wishes. Secondly, Most consumers are looking for a capable, safe vehicle that inspires confidence when driving in inclement weather, ie. Snowy roads. Most are not interested in the vehicles ability to drift in the snow, call me crazy, I don’t see how that would help a prospective buyer in his/her decision making process. You also mentioned that this vehicle, although equipped with 4Motion, is more suited for snowy roads than off roading unlike its competitor, the Jeep Renegade. This leads me to believe that, 1. You did not drive it off-road, and 2. You didn’t do any research in the design of the Tiguan ie. The approach and departure angles. The lifted suspension, the fact that this car actually has a 6 speed transmission with the capability of manually shifting the gears which is a God-send when off roading on slightly challenging trails. This in contrast to the Renegade’s CVT transmission which is an epic FAIL for anyone wanting to take the vehicle off road with any chance of an incline or steep grade. All in all, a great comparison between these two models. I really don’t think there are too many consumers comparing Jeep Renegades to VW Tiguans.
    For anyone interested at all in purchasing a VW Tiguan : It’s a quick, sporty driving CUV that makes even the most mundane commute exciting and fun. This CUV excels in the snow ands yes, even when taking it off-road, up to moderate trails, with your limiting factor only being your ground clearance. The interior, while this author considers boring, is in fact well suited to this vehicle. Its materials are much higher in quality than many of its competitors. Most of the interior is soft touch materials with a splattering of nicer leather surfaces. The standard sound system is excellent, the ability to connect to Apple Car Play, or Android is easy and fast. The 6 inch infotainment system is easily visible, and intuitive. Seating surfaces are firm and comfortable, and prevent driver’s fatigue. The vehicle is made to a higher standard than most of its competitors as evident by its laser welded construction. When you look at its competitors, look at the roof and you will most likely see two black stripes on either side of the roof. These are there to cover the spot welds. The Tiguan does not have this because it it constructed with premium laser welding which does not need to be hidden underneath these black strips. This vehicle may cost more than some of its competitors, but when driving it, you will understand why that is. My 2016 has just over 62000 miles on it as of July 4th, 2023, and the only things I’ve had to do mechanically for it is brakes, battery, and oil changes. Speaking of oil changes, with the price of them being more than most (100.00 dollars at the time of this) they are good for 12 months or 10,000 miles. So in essence, no more than others all things taken consideration. Although my experience may or may not be typical, I can absolutely recommend this vehicle to anyone looking for a CUV for themselves, their spouse, 2 children, and 2 dogs. (All fit comfortably) If German built is important to you, stay with a 2017 or older as the newest models are manufactured in VW’s Mexican plant.
    Christopher Montrose
    (Now THATS a review!)

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