Chic and contemporary: Volkswagen Taigun
A zesty engine and keen handling are the big takeaways from a Volkswagen Taigun
Over the years Volkswagen has offered a number of SUVs in India. However, the upcoming Taigun is its most important one yet. The Taigun marks VW’s much-awaited entry into the mid-size SUV segment, going up against the likes of the popular Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and MG Hector.
Being the sister model to the Skoda Kushaq, the Taigun is built on the ‘Indianised’ MQB A0 IN platform and boasts of up to 95 % local components. While buyers will have a choice between a 115hp, 1.0-litre TSI turbo-petrol and a larger 150hp, 1.5-litre TSI turbo-petrol engines (the latter in the GT guise), here we solely focus on the latter. Both engines will be available with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard and with individual automatic gearboxes — a 6-speed torque converter for the 1.0 TSI and a 7-speed DSG for the 1.5 TSI.
First things first, the Taigun is not the largest of the mid-size SUVs, being slightly shorter and narrower than a Hyundai Creta. While it does not quite have the butch road presence many buyers might associate with an SUV, it looks chic and contemporary.
Styling is unmistakably Volkswagen, with clean lines and an unfussy design language. The three-slat chrome grille seamlessly blends into the large headlamp clusters, while the raised, squared-out bonnet immediately links the Taigun to the more premium Tiguan. There is a generous use of chrome up front, in line with Indian tastes — some may find it too much.
Commendably, it is only at the sides that you could possibly mistake a Taigun for a Kushaq. The two models share doors, mirrors, roof rails and even feature the same body cladding. Within the Taigun GT line, the automatic is distinguished by its 17-inch diamond-cut wheels, while the manual makes do with smaller 16-inchers.
The Taigun’s most distinctive angle is its tail-end with its LED tail-lamps and tailgate-spanning lightbar sitting within a large smoked bezel. Adding more flash at the back are the chrome embellishments on the rear bumper designed to mimic twin exhaust housings.
Move inside and the Taigun makes a positive first impression with the doors closing with a reassuring thud. The dashboard is particularly nice, with a seamlessly integrated, high-set touchscreen and a pleasing mix of materials. There are no soft-touch plastics, but faux carbon-fibre inserts and a ceramic-like panel add some personality inside. Interestingly, the gloss panel is also available in red with certain body colours — vibrant or overkill, it is a detail that will divide opinion.
Adding more colour to the cabin is the 8.0-inch digital instrument screen (only in the GT automatic) which is attractive and easy to read. Unlike in Audis, it is not a widescreen unit with only the central screen (out of the three) configurable, while the ones on the side are dummies. The GT manual gets simpler analogue dials with a rather basic MID. Other nice bits include the very sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel and the touch-operable climate control panel, which look premium and are easy to use.
The fit-finish is decent in most places, and even the plastics feel solid and built to last. The cabin experience is, however, dampened by the low-rent roof lining, exposed sunroof railings and the strip of dummy buttons below the touchscreen that look out of place in this segment. Also, while the backlit automatic gear selector looks premium, it is not perfectly fitted and tends to rock side-to-side.
The front seats are comfortable and nicely trimmed, and there is ample adjustment on offer. The rear seat is spacious with ample light filtering in thanks to the low window line. The bench is supportive with the nicely contoured backrest offering a certain degree of lateral support. Volkswagen has also reduced the height of the central floor hump for the India-spec car and added an adjustable head restraint, as well as a three-point seatbelt for the middle passenger. However, the car’s narrow width means that it is best to seat two abreast.
Coming to the equipment, all variants of the Taigun get electronic stability control as standard, with mandatory kit like ABS with EBD, dual airbags and reverse parking sensors.
Volkswagen’s new 10-inch touchscreen is slick to operate, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are a welcome inclusion. It also packs in pre-loaded apps that work using your smartphone’s internet. The GT manual additionally also packs in a wireless charging pad, climate control, cruise control and a reverse camera. The GT automatic furthermore gets auto LED headlamps, 17-inch alloys, keyless go, a digital instrument cluster, sunroof, and six airbags. Curiously, the non-GT variants also get ventilated front seats, which are likely to make it to the GT trims further down the line.
Moving to the driving experience, the Taigun GTs will appeal to keen drivers. The 150hp, 250Nm, 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol feels energetic right from the get go. The broad spread of torque at low engine speeds means that you can merrily amble around town without requiring to constantly change gears. Drive with a heavy foot and the Taigun does build pace rapidly, albeit in a linear manner. There is however, a downside to winding this engine, as it gets quite vocal past 3,500rpm.
Relaxed cruising or gentle drives, on the other hand, will activate the engine’s cylinder-on-demand technology, wherein it shuts off two cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. The system works unobtrusively with only a glance at the MID telling you it is running on two cylinders. Prodding the accelerator pedal a bit harder gets all cylinders firing.
The GT auto’s 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is an updated version of the DQ200 unit from the old Polo GT TSI and the previous-gen Octavia 1.8 TSI. Its smooth character remains unchanged with seamless gearshifts and the unit, in D mode, feels eager to shift to the highest ratio possible in the interest of fuel efficiency. In Sport mode, it holds the gears a bit longer for crisper, more immediate responses. The Taigun features paddleshifters too and while the gearbox works rather nicely for the most part, you will find yourself reaching for the left paddle only when you suddenly put your foot down and the gearbox takes a second or so to react.
The 6-speed manual will appeal to driving enthusiasts. The short-throw gearbox is smooth and makes rowing through the gears a breeze. And while the engine feels quick with the DSG automatic, it feels even more energetic here, often egging the driver to spin this engine all the way to 6,500rpm. The clutch pedal, however, is springy in its action and the weight is a bit more than what you would have expected in a car of this size.
Despite the disparity in wheel size between the manual and automatic, there is no perceptible difference in ride comfort. Ride quality is impressive and the Taigun takes potholes in its stride rather competently. Highway stability is rock-solid too with the Taigun maintaining its composure at all times, with limited body movement.
This MQB A0 IN platform is said to be 30 % stiffer than the outgoing Polo’s platform, and the result is pretty evident when driving this SUV with verve. It tackles corners with great poise, in a very balanced manner, and feels very nimble from behind the wheel. The Taigun actually surprises you with the amount of grip it has around corners, and it does not roll as much as you would expect it to. The steering is light, so it is nice and easy in the city, and it weighs up adequately at highway speeds.
Drive a Taigun on a winding road and the zesty engine and keen handling are sure to be the big takeaways for you.
So, should you be interested in the Taigun? If it is a big and beefy SUV you want, or are someone who will be travelling with all five seats occupied often, the Taigun will not be the right pick for you. That being said, the Taigun is a comfy 4-seater and does look chic, both outside and inside. Yes, it is not as well equipped as its Korean rivals and there are some signs of cost-cutting too, but on the plus side, it feels as tough as you would expect a German SUV to be.
Where the Taigun really appeals is in the driving department. The 1.5-litre engine is strong, and coupled with the comfy ride and crisp handling, this a fun SUV to drive. The smaller-hearted Taigun 1.0 TSIs is also promising. We expect pricing in the range of ₹ 10.5 -14 lakh (ex-showroom) for the 1.0 versions, while the 1.5 MT will likely start at ₹ 15.5 lakh, with the range-topping DSG versions coming in at ₹ 18 lakh.
Only a full-blown comparison with rivals will tell us ultimately where the Taigun fits in, but if it is a solid, sophisticated and sporty midsize SUV you want, the Taigun could be the one for you.
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