2023 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL R-Line 4MOTION

The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan is one of only a few compact SUVs available with three rows of seating. It’s well-rounded for families with a roomy and handsome interior, plenty of cargo space, a smooth ride, and a long list of standard features, all at a competitive price. But sluggish acceleration, below average fuel economy, and cumbersome infotainment system controls keep it from being a top contender.

Base Price: $37,320
As Tested: $38,615
Horsepower: 184
Mileage: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined

The Tiguan is in its second generation. It was updated inside and out for the 2022 model year including more amenities and safety features. For 2023, there are some minor tweaks including some new paint colors.

The 2023 Tiguan comes in four trims: S, SE, SE R-Line Black and SEL R-Line. Starting prices range from $26,590 to $37,320. Models with front-wheel drive have three rows of seating with room for seven people, while those with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive have two rows with room for five. AWD is available for $1,500 on the S, SE, SE R-Line Black and standard on the SEL R-Line.

The only engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. There’s enough power for driving around town, but acceleration is pokey so plan ahead to merge and pass at freeway speeds. The ride is smooth and comfortable, with the suspension soaking up bumps and rough roads. Steering and brakes are responsive. The eight-speed shfits crisply and smoothly. While the Tiguan won’t get your heart racing, it is pleasant and easy to drive.

When properly equipped, the Tiguan can tow up to 1,500 pounds.

Fuel efficiency is below average for a compact SUV. EPA ratings for my AWD R-Line tester are 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with a combined rating of 24. I got 24 during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. Front-wheel drive models do a little better at 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 combined.

The spacious cabin is attractive with a clean design, nice materials and many soft-touch surfaces. Passengers in the first and second rows enjoy good leg- and headroom. As is usually the case, seating in the available third row is cramped and suited only for kids.

Standard features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, rearview camera,

cloth upholstery, heated front seats, eight-inch digital driver display, infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports, Mirror Link, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Available features include remote start, surround-view camera system, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic or real leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, heated steering wheel, 10.25-inch digital driver display, infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, nine-speaker audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, additional USB ports, wireless device charging, automatic high-beam headlights, and a sunroof.

Standard driver assistance technologies include forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Available driver assistance technologies include lane-centering, lane-departure warning,

lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, Travel Assist (a partially automated driving system that helps keep the Tiguan in its lane, keep its distance from the vehicle in front, and maintains a set speed), traffic-sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, and

driver-attention monitoring.

The infotainment system could use updating. Even the larger eight-inch screen is small compared to most rivals. Touch-sensitive buttons are cumbersome to use and can be downright distracting while driving because you often have to look at the buttons to touch the right one.

Cargo space is good for a compact SUV. Models with two rows have 37.6 cubic feet with both rows of seating in place and 73.4 cubes with the second row folded. Three-row models have 12 cubic feet with all three rows in place, 33 cubes with the second row folded, and 65.3 cubes with the second and third rows folded. A power liftgate is available.

The good:

Pleasant driving dynamics

Smooth ride

Handsome and spacious cabin

Available with a third row

Lots of standard and available features and tech

Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

The not-so-good:

Pokey acceleration

Cumbersome controls on infotainment system

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $37,320. Destination charge is $1,295 bringing the grand total to $38,615.

Bottom line:

The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan is a compact crossover with a lot of room, including an available third row. It’s a well-rounded family vehicle with its smooth ride, spacious and handsome interior, and many standard features. However, acceleration is lackluster and the touch-sensitive buttons on the infotainment system can be cumbersome and distracting to use.

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