Home / Reviews / First Drive / Volkswagen Taigun Mid-Size SUV Review

 

We drove the Volkswagen Taigun, the first model from the company’s India 2.0 Project sporting the ‘VW’ badge. Like the Kushaq it is based on the new MQB A0 IN platform and we pretty much know what to expect from it.


Design

Even at a glance, the VW Taigun will remind you of the brand’s global sport utility vehicles (SUV) like the Tiguan or the T-Roc. The understated design with bold lines and a distinctly Volkswagen fascia is an easy giveaway. The narrow front grille gets a honeycomb mesh pattern with triple chrome slats, holding the new VW logo right at the centre. The top-end trim gets a nice ‘GT’ badge on the grille and just the right amount of chrome without looking garish. That includes a chrome line running through the width of the bumper before twirling around the fog-lamps. A flat-front, almost clam-type, bonnet along with the bash-plate on the bumper complete the robust SUV stance. The GT also gets more premium all-LED headlamps with LED DRLs compared to the standard variant’s conventional projector lamps.

The profile, in true VW style, is minimalistic and elegant with dual lines running prominently on the side. You can’t ignore the resemblance here with its Škoda sibling including the glasshouse, doors, and roof but VW designers have done a good job of giving the Volkswagen Taigun its distinct identity. The all-round plastic cladding further adds to the SUV’s character. Our GT test car ran on fancy dual-tone 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tyres and red front brake callipers to keep things sporty. The non-GT version comes with simpler-looking alloys with regular looking callipers, which doesn’t look too dull either, while the rear wheels get standard drum brakes. This Volkswagen also boasts of fully functional roof-rails, which means you can actually mount luggage or bicycle carriers.

The rear design has a lot more flair with trendy tail-lamps running across the length of the boot-lid, a spoiler, and even a shark-fin antenna. There’s a fair amount of chrome, black cladding, and a bash-plate to balance the aesthetics. What I really like is the neat “T A I G U N” lettering on the tailgate, further complemented by the ‘‘GT’’ badge. Overall, the design, though subtle, has the usual European appeal and even after years will continue to offer pride of ownership. (Also read: Skoda Kushaq Review)

Volkswagen Taigun Cabin
At 2,651 millimetres, the Taigun also boasts of a class-leading wheelbase which is evident as you get in. There’s decent room, which is further enhanced by a well-designed cabin. The general layout, again, is very similar to the Kushaq’s but that’s not really a bad thing as it’s ergonomically designed and well made. There are a few subtle changes such as the different a-c vents and a seamlessly incorporated touchscreen, unlike the free-standing unit of the Škoda, not to forget VW’s trademark three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. The driver’s seat is manually adjustable and so is the steering wheel, while the pedal and gear-knob are all perfectly aligned, helping one find the ideal driving position.

The VW cabin looks more premium with different textures and colours. For instance, the GT trim on the manual gearbox version gets body-colour accents on the dashboard, while the GT Plus automatic comes with a more subdued silver trim with carbon fibre-like highlights. The materials used are the usual VW quality to outlive most other cars, but if you’re looking for soft-touch plastic and generous use of leather, then you’ll be left wanting for more. I would have also liked the bare door-handles to come with some padding to enhance the premium feeling. You’ll probably get over most of these shortcomings the moment you shut the door and hear the reassuring thud that only a well-built car can resonate.

Volkswagen Taigun Rear Seats
The back seats also offer the right amount of firmness with no shortage of knee-room or head-room. The Taigun’s 1,760-mm width isn’t segment-leading nor is the shoulder-room, which makes these seats ideal for just two. There’s a nice centre arm-rest with a couple of coffee cup-holders, dual-tone fabric, rear a-c vents, and a couple of USB type-C ports. The 385-litre boot can comfortably accommodate four cabin bags, which seems adequate. To add to the convenience, the 60:40 split rear seats offer the flexibility of increasing the loading area to an impressive 1,405 litres.

Features
Thankfully, Volkswagen haven’t skimped on features and there’s practically everything you need, the highlight being the 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system and, on the GT Plus, the fully digital virtual cockpit which is not offered in the Kushaq. In comparison, the standard GT (manual) gets old-school analogue dials with a simple black-and-white information screen which still manages to get the message across. There are plenty of cool features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, connected car technology, and pre-installed apps like Gaana and Audiobooks. I really like the touch-sensitive a-c controls which are so intuitive that you won’t miss the physical knobs.

Safety Features
In the higher variants, there’s no shortage of safety kit or driver’s aids such as six airbags, Multi Collision Braking, Hill Hold, brake assist, ESC, EBD, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, and an electronic differential lock. You also get automatic wipers, cruise control, automatic headlamps, rear camera with parking sensors, and a couple of ISOFIX anchorage on the rear seats. There’s a sunroof, too, but not as large as that on its competition. The Taigun misses some features that are good to have but not really essential — such as a 360-degree camera, electric parking brake, head-up display, and pre-set driving modes. With the promise of this Volkswagen being a safe car, one can manage without these. (Also Read: Hyundai Creta Review)

Volkswagen Taigun Engine Options
Though Volkswagen are offering two turbo-petrol engine choices, we got our hands on just the spirited 1.5-litre TSI EVO. This four-cylinder mill makes 150 hp between 5,000 and 6,000 rpm and 250 Nm of torque between 1,600 and 3,500 rpm, making it one of the most powerful engines in its class. Yes, we drove both the six-speed manual in the GT trim and even the seven-speed dual-clutch auto in the more premium GT Plus version. Later on, we’ll also be sampling the 1.0-litre TSI which can be paired either with a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque-converter. This three-cylinder engine is good for 115 hp between 5,000 and 5,500 rpm and 178 Nm between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm.

We started with the 1.5 TSI DSG and took off seamlessly with a smooth throttle response. Right off the bat, there’s strong, uninterrupted thrust. VW’s dual-clutch transmission is one of the best systems out there, offering perfectly timed shifts. Apart from the slight hesitation during quick down-shift, this gearbox is absolutely spot on and extremely intuitive. You even get paddle shifters as standard, which just dials up the fun-to-drive character.

Volkswagen Taigun Performance
The petrol-turbo boasts of a claimed top speed of 190 km/h and we did manage to get very close to it. The company says that 0-100 km/h can be achieved in 9.1 seconds, which will make it marginally quicker than the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos. This free-revving engine does not shy away from touching the red-line and does so without sounding too coarse. There’s cylinder deactivation tech, too, which cuts off two cylinders when driven with a light foot to enhance fuel efficiency. Though VW haven’t shared the efficiency figures as yet, we reckon it to be close to 11 km/l in real world conditions.

At the mid-way point of the media drive, we switched to the 1.5 TSI, a six-speed manual car. After driving the DSG for half the day, it took a couple of minutes to get used to the clutch release and manual gear-changes. The shifts are pretty smooth and slot in place effortlessly, though the throw could have been shorter and the clutch action more linear. This, obviously, was the sportier of the two as it allowed the enthusiast to fully control the gears. Power flows in early with a barely noticeable turbo-lag, while the well-spread torque takes over immediately to surge ahead. Though its DSG-equipped sibling is more convenient and quicker to hit the ton, the six-speed manual scores higher on sheer driving pleasure. The tall ratios let one to exploit the potential of each gear, allowing one to wring the engine hard, which will most definitely make the competition struggle.

Ride and Handling
The Taigun’s excellent ride quality and handling are its biggest strength and it manages to outshine its rivals in this department. With a strong MQB foundation supported by a well-balanced suspension set-up, the VW delivers terrific driving dynamics. The steering has been tuned perfectly to remain light at low speed yet offer ample feel and feedback at all times. It’s one of the rare mid-size SUVs which remain absolutely flat and planted as you pace around sweeping corners. The German car-maker has found a great balance in terms of sporty handling and comfortable ride. Even at super-fast highway speeds, the car remains stable and you’ll barely notice changes in road elevation. Even severely damaged road surfaces do not make the Taigun shudder as it confidently bulldozes through. The general ride quality is supple and you barely notice the European firmness it’s based on. And because it’s so stable and yet comfortable, you’re encouraged to push your driving threshold further. You get an extra boost of confidence by the efficient braking system and that’s despite having rear drum brakes to fall back upon.

Conclusion
The Taigun is clearly a driver’s car. With a 4.2-metre length, it might be smaller than the Kia Seltos and Nissan Kicks, but its short overhangs do give it a unique appeal. The German car-maker is confident that the higher level of localisation will make the Taigun a lot cheaper to maintain. It’s not short on features but then misses out on a few. Our biggest concern is that the Volkswagen will carry a premium price tag, one that will bring the higher variants closer to bigger cars like the MG Hector and Tata Harrier.

Will the Indian buyers see greater value in the well-built, fun-to-drive, and safe Taigun? We’ll find out in September when VW reveal the price.

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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