The new Volkswagen Taigun drives into India’s fastest growing car segment – the compact SUV. This is a make or break model for VW in India, and it along with its Skoda alter-ego – the Kushaq – needs to fire for the Wolfsburg based German auto giant. The Taigun launches with two engine types – the 1.5 four cylinder petrol and 1.0 TSI three cylinder petrol. And my colleague Shams and I are in stunning Udaipur, Rajasthan to test it. First things first. Let me tell you, that the car we are testing today is the VW Taigun GT – that means the cars with us are the two 1.5 TSI variants. (The 1.0 TSI will also be available from launch, but we will get to test that at a later date.) The two cars with us have the same engine but have different gearboxes and even though both say GT, they’re actually still quite different in other ways too. The Wild Cherry Red Taigun is the 6-Speed Manual and the Curcuma Yellow is the 7-Speed DSG.
We first saw the production ready VW Taigun at the 2020 Auto Expo. And styling wise – barring some show car liberties at the time, not much has changed. This is a true compact SUV but the proportions are very traditional. So is the design itself – being very typically and recognisably Volkswagen. The raised and sculpted hood, the two-slat front grille, double shoulder line in the metal, angle of the C-Pillar, and even the conjoined LED taillamps will remind you of the T-Cross – the European avatar of the compact SUV based on the MQB A0 platform. But it is not the same car.
Typically the GT badge on a VW car means it is the powerful and sporty variant. So while this is true in spec terms – on the Taigun’s styling the GT does not shed any of its blingy chrome – in fact only adds to it. The thick chrome element in the front and rear bumper will be seen on high variants across both engine types. The DSG gets a chrome applique on both grille slats, while on the manual it is on the lower one only. There is a chrome dressing along the window line on the DSG, and not there on the manual. Chrome also hugs the GT badge on the fender – so yeah it’s a shiny affair, though you could argue still tastefully finished. I would have loved to see a GT variant with black and red/blue elements to be honest! The two cars also have different alloy wheel patterns and sizes. 16-inch on the manual, and 17-inch dual-tone for the DSG.
Functional roof rails on both, but still more differences abound. A blackened glass look roof (plus sunroof), sleeker slim DRLs that sit at the top of an all-LED cluster – are on the DSG only. The manual gets a three LED look DRL at the bottom of the cluster, and certainly looks a variant lower than the GT DSG. Okay, so weird right? And there’s more! The B-pillar on the DSG has a glossy black finish, on the manual it is matte. The DSG gets chrome applique on the door handles, while – you guessed it – the manual has body coloured handles. So I don’t have a problem with the fact they are so different! I have a problem with why they are called the same thing. They could have called one GT – and the other Highline or something! Internally I am told the DSG is being referred to as the GT+ – that is not in the public domain though. It should have been!
The two feel inherently similar of course, and yet there is that transmission. The engine on the car is well proven globally. It is punchy, refined, and yes those numbers are identical to the Skoda Kushaq’s. So the 1.5 TSI makes 148 bhp and produces 250 Nm of peak torque that runs all the way from 1500 to 3500 rpm. The Taigun gets a 1.0 TSI too with 113 bhp on tap. But we will get you that model later, as I said.
For starters I’m jumping into the red Taigun with VW’s MQ281 6-Speed manual gearbox. You do feel a sense of lag that can be masked if you react quicker to changing gears. But on the whole the performance is smooth and responsive. The engine is peppy, and delivers a good sense of power, with quick response and plenty of grunt. The turbocharger kicks in well enough, but is a bit wheezy at higher rpms. I am switching now to the DQ200 direct shift gearbox or DSG – the dual clutch auto transmission – and let Shams get behind the wheel of the manual for a while! On the whole the thing that strikes you is the sense of balance and control on the Taigun.
On the DSG though, you get really quick shifts – so it is very sporty, really well mated to the engine, and offers a great sense of refinement. Having driven both extensively, I can say this right away – if you are going to spring for the bigger (read more expensive) engine variant – you’re doing it for the performance. In that case, wouldn’t you want a gearbox that really delivers that extra punch? I know I would! Sure the prices may keep you away, but really this is a gem of a drivetrain. And the paddle shifters help. In fact on these hill roads at times I needed to take control of the downshifting, for more exhilarating performance. Or I simply needed to shift the transmission to S or Sports mode. And then the response was very sharp.
Ride and Handling
We’ve spent the most part of our day driving the Taigun in the hilly terrains with some steep inclines and one feature that has really come in handy here is the hill hold control. There are some more features that will help make your drive more efficient. The 1.5 gets the cylinder deactivation system which cuts off two cylinders when you are coasting and the engine load is not too much. This is similar to the 1.5 TSi we have seen on the T-Roc. And then there is the start-stop system like many cars have, where the engine cuts off at standstill. We assume both help the mileage figure – but guess what? We do not have one from VW as yet! I reckon the car will give you close to 10 kmpl when pushed hard over long periods, and that figure should inch closer to 14 when driven sensibly (anything higher – is always welcome).
So the Taigun certainly drives well, and has a solid build feel – though not as solid as most other VWs. That’s down to the Indianisation or slight downgrading of the MQB A0 platform to keep costs in check. The Taigun does still feel planted, but will sometimes get skittish on high speed turns since it does appear to be lighter than VW’s other cars. But it is supple and the steering is precise. And despite being identical to the Kushaq in spec terms, the suspension tuning seems a tad nicer here. The Taigun also does well on rough and broken roads, and some pebbly tracks. So spending time with the 1.5 on the road all day, I can tell you it comes down to three key takeaways: Ride quality, ride quality, ride quality! Yes, people will love that as it is just right – neither too stiff, and certainly not too soft.
The GT models are expected with the 6-airbags as standard. Electronic Stability Control or ESC is standard, so is traction control, rear parking sensors, I love that 3-point seatbelts are standard for all 5 passengers. Yay! So are ISOFIX and dual airbags. Then at the higher trim level you also get tyre pressure monitoring, and multi-collision brakes. The high strength steel structure should mean good crash capability, though we have no test results to corroborate that.
Tech and Interior
The Taigun’s wheelbase is the same as the Kushaq’s at 2651 mm, and that’s where it scores on legroom and sense of space. I spent some time sitting in the back while Shams drove, and it is comfortable – hey I could even cross my legs with a six footer in the seat in front of me. Three adults in the back is a tight squeeze, though the floor tunnel in the middle is flattened. But drop down the arm rest, and for two people – the rear seat is very well designed for back angle, under-thigh support, and headroom. On the whole, you can tell that VW has spent a lot of time on the car to make it appealing and affordable to Indian buyers. But given the likes of the Creta and Seltos are running away with attracting that very buyer, VW had to bring a lot to the cabin.
Comparisons to the Kushaq are inevitable, and yes on equipment things are indeed similar. But the layout and some materials feel different. And there are some features that are exclusive to the Taigun. It gets a virtual instrument cluster, a three-spoke steering wheel, and red ambient lighting. The climate control unit is the same as on the Kushaq, with its capacitive controls. The 10-inch touchscreen is of high quality, is good to use and responsive. It also has wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – or connect through the USB type-C slots. You get pre-loaded apps like Gaana and Sygic. There’s also a wireless phone charger, and this is a connected car too with some telematics on offer. WE will test these separately.
Just like the exterior even the cabins of manual and DSG versions are a different in some ways. The virtual cluster is only on the DSG, and so is the start/stop button. Yeah, go figure! That virtual cluster is nice and it is kind of sad the manual doesn’t get it. It gives you different layout options, and loads of driving and other information. And by the way the top end 1.0 will also have it – so why doesn’t the manual GT have it? No idea!
On the manual (and other 1.0 trims) it’s the standard VW layout of twin dials and info screen in the centre. There is a red coloured dash panelling option available on the silver, red, and grey paintwork cars. On the rest it is a whitish grey finish. I like it, though some people may think it looks plasticky. On the whole, despite using similar materials – the Taigun’s interior feels more premium than the plastics seen on the Kushaq. The top spec also gets ventilated front seats. I expect most features to carry over to the highest trim on the 1.0 TSI version too. But a lot of this may not show up in lower trims.
Now to the all-important question of prices. I honestly believe VW needs to get out of its European mindset and think India only. The Taigun’s 1 litre variant should start at ₹ 9.99 lakh in my opinion, and the car should top off at a maximum ₹ 17 lakh. But expect pricing to mirror the Kushaq’s. That means ₹ 10.5 – 16 lakh for the 1.0, and between ₹ 16 and 18 lakh for the two cars we have showed you today. The Taigun launches mid-September, and that’s when the actual prices will be out. The good news is – we will get our hands on the 1.0 and bring you details on its performance and attributes before then. So we welcome the Taigun to India with open arms and hope the consumer does too – not because we are biased to this car – but because increased competition will only mean higher levels of design, safety and performance in the compact SUV class!