What Are The Best Years For The Volkswagen Tiguan?


The Volkswagen Tiguan sure looks sporty, but it has not had the most positive reviews since its inception into the market for the 2009 model year.

Buyers actually quite enjoyed the earlier model years (2009-2014), especially the 2012. But buyer beware, the 2015-2019 model years are best avoided. Let’s get you informed on why we issue this warning.

What Are The Best Years For The Volkswagen Tiguan?

The absolute best model year among the first generation is the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan. This third-row crossover SUV delivers a well-mannered ride quality and plenty of power from its turbocharged engine. Buyers also commend its solid build quality and premium interior design elements.

But is the Volkswagen Tiguan the right fit for you? Just what makes the 2012 Tiguan so much better than some of the newer models? Read on to learn all of this and more.

The Best Volkswagen Tiguan Model Years

The 2009-2014 Volkswagen Tiguan model years are the ones to buy. Reviewers have praised them for their reliability

Small things like problems with the rear calipers have been noted, but large repairs are few and far between. 

And when they do come, they are not that costly. Even folks who live in the “rust belt” of America say that their older Tiguans have held up against mother nature.

Making a lot of red line shifts and winding the Tiguan through mountainous roads will not slow the older Tiguan models down. 

Most owners expect to be able to drive their 2009-2014 Tiguans until they finally die. That is why you will not see a ton of these vehicles up for sale. 

You might surprisingly see some of the newer model years, but as we will explain in a moment, you might want to avoid those.

The 2012 Tiguan does have a few transmission problems you should be aware of. The transmission will try to shift into sixth gear as soon as it can in an effort to save on fuel. 

At 30 to 45 miles per hour, it can labor in fifth or sixth gear, which will cause vibrations to occur. It will make a humming noise if you give it some gas, lagging and vibrating even more.

That being said, though, the 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan strikes a good deal for buyers. 

A model in good condition lists for somewhere between $7,059 and $9,595, which means you will not get stuck with high car payments or might even be able to make the purchase outright. 

On some of the higher trim levels, you can get dual-zone automatic climate control, a built-in navigation system put into a bundle with the panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, and an eight-speaker Dynaudio premium sound system. 

This might not be the newest and fanciest interior, but it is comfortable and functional.

Tiguan Model Years to Avoid

Buying anything from the 2015 model year to the 2019 one will likely not bode too well for you. 

Despite being newer, they have a lot more complaints. 

For example, the 2015 Tiguan has experienced engine misfires as early as 31,000 miles. These do not typically happen until after the 100,000-mile mark. 

Also, these models do not have USB outlets.

Consumer Reports has given the 2016 line-up the lowest reliability score possible due to all of the complaints lodged against it. 

According to RepairPal.com, these models are prone to developing a subframe clunk that happens upon acceleration. 

Also, there is quite a bit of carbon build-up that occurs in both the FSI and TFSI engines.

Some drivers of the 2018 model have heard a terrible grinding noise when they have been backing off of an incline. 

One unlucky driver bought a 2018 Tiguan and, within the first week of ownership, heard rattling coming from both B Pillars. 

They also saw a flicker in the back-up camera and heard excessive road noise coming in through the driver’s side door. 

While they were able to get their vehicle purchased back by VW, that will not be the case for those buying them used.

Common Problems On the Tiguan

Unfortunately, the Tiguan has a number of common problems. 

Carbon build-up occurs in the FSI and TFSI engines dating from 2009 to 2016. The Tiguan utilizes uses the TSI direct injection engine, and carbon seems to build up quickly in the intake system. 

This can lead to OBD codes being triggered, the check engine light coming on, a rattle, and loss of power. While, in normal engines, the gas flowing through the injectors into the intake system will clean out the carbon build-up, the Tiguan’s direct injection system doesn’t flow through these heavy build-up areas. 

To fix this, a mechanic will have to remove the intake manifold, intake valves, and cylinder head intake ports and give them all a thorough cleaning before reassembling. 

This problem can happen as early as 20,000 miles.

Also on the 2009-2016 models, you can get a clunking noise from the subframe when putting the vehicle under acceleration. 

You might also notice sudden changes to your front end alignment while you are driving.

This problem is referred to as the “VW subframe clunk”, and it is caused by the bolts holding the subframe together stretching. 

This lets the subframe move around and even hit the bottom of the car as you go faster. 

Volkswagen has issued a correction for this problem, and you can find quite a few after-market kits to fix this problem.

The Tiguan’s Reliability

Reliability is pretty low for the Tiguan. Even the 2020 Tiguan’s predicted reliability score sits low with Consumer Reports giving it just a 1 out of 5 on their scale. 

+Too many substantial issues have been reported over the vehicle’s history, many of which relate to its performance starting in the middle of the first generation. 

Plus the 2016 Tiguan has such persistent issues with its transmission that the vehicle has become difficult to trust.

Problems like a broken plastic intake manifold have plagued the Tiguan right from the very beginning. 

Buyers have had to listen to dealers telling them that these are common issues. 

Buyers who get a new Tiguan can at least get things fixed under warranty, but if you’re a used Tiguan buyer with an expired warranty, you run the risk of getting taken to the cleaners by your car.

Closing Thoughts

There typically are not a lot of good things being said about the Volkswagen Tiguan. They sell for “cheap” and were seemingly made on the cheap. 

These third-row SUVs might be spacious and comfortable, but when they decide not to work, they are nothing short of a pain. 

Parts might not be the most expensive around, but considering how often you will be seeing your mechanic, the cost of ownership adds up quickly.

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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