If you’re in the market for a small SUV with a third-row seat, your choices are pretty scant. But thanks to Volkswagen’s redesigned 2018 Tiguan, your pool of vehicles is now more than just the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan Rogue. But how usable is the third row in an SUV of this size? It’s definitely handy for those times when you need to cart around a few extra kids. Adults are going to find it pretty cramped. But getting in is helped by an easy-to-reach lever. That third-row seat comes standard on front-wheel-drive Tiguans, and it’s optional on all-wheel-drive models. This new extra row isn’t the only part of the interior that stands out. Material quality in the SEL model we rented from Volkswagen is a notch above most competitors. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the second row has good headroom and generous knee and foot space, second-row fore-aft sliding ability, along with seatback reclining, further enhance comfort and space.Controls are straightforward and easy to use. The infotainment touch screen is uncluttered and quick responding, but the proximity sensor that makes icons appear as your hand approach to the screen is gimmicky. The Tiguan also includes standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. While Volkswagens have typically been known as some of the more youthful driving cars on the road, the Tiguan follows VW’s more recent trend of trading sportiness for an easy-going, mainstream character. The new 184-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine isn’t exactly brawny, but VW tuned it to deliver more usable power at lower engine speeds, like when you’re maneuvering in and out of traffic.The new eight-speed automatic transmission delivers generally smooth shifts, though it does suffer from the occasional hiccup in stop-and-go situations. The new engine also runs on regular gas rather than more expensive premium fuel that was required in the last Tiguan. That model is still being sold as the Tiguan Limited. Bumps and broken pavement are controlled easily by the Tiguan’s supple suspension. Good sound insulation makes the cabin quiet and largely free of wind and road noise.But the engine note gets a bit coarse when you push it hard. Advanced active safety features, such as forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, are available. But we think VW should make these two critically important safety systems standard across all trims. We’ll be buying a Tiguan of our
own, so keep an eye out for full road-test results to see how the new model stacks up. For more on small SUVs, check out consumerreports.org. .