Introduced to North America for the 2009 model year, Volkswagen’s Tiguan has never exactly sold like the proverbial hotcakes. Instead, in a segment that trades on practical attributes, the Tiguan has been a bit of a niche player, with a quintessentially European focus on driving dynamics and refinement over outright utility.
It’s an approach that lately has left the Tiguan awkwardly straddling the gap between car and CUV. On one side is Volkswagen’s roomier and more efficient Golf Sportwagon, which offers the even more dynamic driving experience of an actual car, while on the other side are more practical CUV offerings from the likes of Ford, Toyota and Honda (not to mention Hyundai, Mazda, Chevrolet, Nissan, Kia, and the list goes on).
In terms of numbers, Ford claimed Canada’s compact CUV podium in 2015 with 47,726 Escapes sold, while Toyota and Honda took second and third place with 42,246 RAV4s and 38,961 CR-Vs respectively. Volkswagen, meantime, sold only 11,459 Tiguans in the same period.
Combine this with the promise of a larger and more practical new three-row Tiguan announced for 2017 (which was recently shown in two-row Euro spec at the Frankfurt Auto Show) and with Volkswagen’s self-inflicted Dieselgate scandal (which had Canadian newspapers, television and social media flooded with apologetic corporate advertisements during the week I was test driving a brand-new 2016 Tiguan) and you have all the makings of a dismal year for the German automaker’s little CUV.
Certainly the comments from my friends and family didn’t bode well. “Oh, a Tiguan!”, they’d joke, “It’s not a diesel is it? Bwha-ha-ha!” Or “Hey, are they still allowed to sell those? Hee, hee, hee.” Never mind that the Tiguan was never available here with a diesel.
It turns out, however, that the outgoing Tiguan still has a few surprises up its sleeve, and against all expectations it closed 2015 with some of its best sales numbers ever. Tiguan sales in 2015 were up some 14 percent in Canada compared to 2014, and posted a 43 percent year-over-year increase in the U.S.
The secret lies in revamped pricing for the 2016 model that offers more standard equipment for less money, as well as some aggressive incentives offered by Volkswagen for willing consumers. One of my more astute neighbours, who’s actually in the market for a compact CUV, summed it up nicely: “I should check the Tiguan out,” he said, “because I bet you could get a really good deal on one right now.” Indeed.
Changes for the 2016 Tiguan are limited to the introduction of a Special Edition model, various paint colour and alloy wheel changes, and some rejigging of which models can or can’t have all-wheel drive (you can no longer get 4Motion in base Trendline trim, nor can you get a Comfortline trim in front-wheel drive).
The biggest news is in the infotainment department, where the 2016 Tiguan gets a selection of all-new improved systems. Gone is Volkswagen’s annoying Media Device Interface plug, and instead you now get a proper USB plug. You also get retained power, so the system stays on after you shut off the engine, powering off only when you open the driver’s door. Higher trim levels get a 6.3-inch colour touchscreen, while the base Trendline model gets a 5-inch screen – upgradable for a price, of course.