Ever since it established the market for imported cars in the United States with the Volkswagen Beetle nearly 60 years ago, Volkswagen has struggled to understand the American market. That impression was reinforced by a longtime VW dealer who told me it seemed that Volkswagen didn't understand Americans — or want to.

But that was a decade ago, and in the time since, VW has finally accepted the American motto "Go big or go home."

It can be seen in the second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan, introduced for 2018 and a far cry from its Lilliputian predecessor, one that was too small and too European to garner much appreciation stateside. While that smaller version is still sold elsewhere, in the States we get a longer version with a diminutive third row sold in Europe as the Tiguan Allspace and in China as the Tiguan L.

But maybe America is onto something. Worldwide, 55 percent of all Tiguans are the larger model. And it's not only Europe's bestselling SUV but also the most popular model in the Volkswagen Group.

Returning for 2021 in five ascending trims — S, SE, SE R-Line Black, SEL and SEL Premium R-Line — the Tiguan is about 10 inches shorter and 6 inches narrower than the Atlas CrossSport, but 9 inches longer than the short-wheelbase Tiguan sold overseas.

The Tiguan's popularity is easy to understand. It remains one of the best-looking models in the segment, with a crisp, conservative demeanor that thankfully lacks the juvenile styling flourishes common in the segment, which means it will still look great years from now.

Unless you prefer living a life of austerity or are budget constrained, skip the Tiguan S and opt for the SE. For an additional $2,150, you get dual-zone automatic climate control, a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel, heated front leatherette seats, an 8-inch capacitive infotainment touch screen, four USB ports, keyless access w/push-button start, and wireless charging. A Panoramic sunroof is optional on the SE, standard on the SE R-Line Black, SEL, and SEL Premium R-Line.

Bigger and faster than previous models, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan is...

Bigger and faster than previous models, the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan is made to appeal to American audiences. Credit: TNS/Volkswagen

Designers looking for an easy-to-use user interface should look closely at Volkswagen's Car-Net infotainment system. Again, VW ignored the urge to festoon the system with juvenile graphics, opting instead for clarity and ease of use. It easily links up to your smartphone, whatever its creed, and the large screen and buttons make it a cinch to use.

Interior ambience is classically Volkswagen, with a simple, stark functionality that works well but doesn't belie its price in the way some its competitors do. But its unadventurous sobriety is a welcome relief from designs that make that your instrument panel look like a Nintendo refugee. It's ridiculously easy to use.

Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the SEL Premium R-Line, which gets standard 4Motion all-wheel drive, a $1,300 option on other models. The Tiguan's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system works in front-wheel drive until slip is detected, when 50 percent of the available power can be sent to the rear wheels.Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning are standard.

Like many American-market Volkswagens, the Tiguan puts a priority on comfort, not sporty handling, although the Tiguan is fairly agile. The electromechanical power steering feels light and numb, and there's noticeable body lean in corners. Brake feel is equally light and numb. Those expecting a taught, sporty driving feel may be disappointed, but most consumers won't care. Volkswagen has finally delivered what Americans want.

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan

Base price: $25,245-$39,095

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

Power: 184 hp., 221 pound-feet torque

EPA fuel economy estimates: 21 mpg city, 27 highway

Bottom line: VW bestseller for a reason

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