New entrant to the mid-size segment
A few years ago, Indian consumers barely purchased or considered buying a utility vehicle especially the midsize SUV as compared to the popularity of other car models. However, over the past few years, the SUV market in India has witnessed rapid growth. The companies that shied away from entering into this segment are now forced to get into the segment to increase their market share. The recent entrant in this segment is the Volkswagen Taigun, which is the first product under its India 2.0 project. Volkswagen has launched the Taigun in the midsize SUV market to take on the likes of Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. We took a spin of this newly launched India made German car to understand whether it will give a tough fight to the Korean rivals.
The Volkswagen Taigun is an immediate cousin of the Skoda Kushaq. The two vehicles sharing the same platform that has been developed in India. The MBQ-A0-IN platform promises economical pricing and flexibility in design, without compromising on the marquee’s reputation of building tank-like cars.
Taigun comes with two engine options, the 1-litre three-cylinder and the 1498cc four-cylinder petrol engine. Understandably, we were given the sportier and larger capacity SUV to try out in the gorgeous landscape of Udaipur. To make its genes obvious to the onlooker, the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine gets the GT badge. This midsize SUV is built for fun as we found out.
The 150 PS/ 250 Nm Taigun that we got our hands-on, is available as a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Surprisingly, the difference doesn’t end in the gearbox. The manual is vanilla in comparison to the automatic. There are many nifty features that you get on the 7-speed Taigun, which are missing in the manual. The company’s reasoning is that people who buy automatics are more prone to splurge, while manual buyers are more cost-conscious. We don’t completely agree with that train of thought! Aesthetics and features aside, the automatic gets 17-inch dual-tone wheels vs. the 16-inch single chrome on the manual. Which does make a difference in the driving experience.
Though Taigun is badged as a midsize SUV, it has an SUV like presence. The Taigun does not have an SUV like road presence like its competitors offer. What it loses out in muscle, it makes up in aesthetics. The lines flow smoothly throughout the exterior. There is nothing protruding or jutting out, which disturbs the visual appeal. And it does look rather striking in its Curcuma Yellow and Wild Cherry Red.
The Taigun is contemporary in appearance without being path breaking. It is not going to have a rabid group of lovers and haters. Except for one standout feature. The use of chrome. Volkswagen has been rather liberal with its usage of chrome in front and rear. But whether that is good or bad, we need to wait and watch to hear the customer feedback.
The inside of the two variants is also different. While the automatic gets a sunroof, push-button start-stop and 8-inch digital cluster, the manual gets an analogue cluster, a regular key and well, roof rails.
The interior of the Taigun feels solid and built to last. Yet, it doesn’t have the plush and premium feeling you expect in a vehicle in this segment. The interiors are functional, but nothing you’d write home about. All the plastic interiors are hard and feel robust at first touch. There are many small design elements like the backlit gear selector, which are pleasing to the eye. And you will spend some time admiring it all as you sink into the ergonomically superior seats. The flat-bottomed steering wheel goes well with the driver seat to give you a comfortable driving posture.
It is not just the driver, but the passengers who will be happy as well. The seats are all wide and comfortable and give an expansive view of the world outside. Even from the rear seats. At 5’11” I had sufficient legroom and have no complaints. Four adults fit comfortably, and while there is a 3-point seatbelt for the passenger at the centre, you really wouldn’t want somebody there. It will become a tight squeeze, not perfect for a long drive.
For storage, starting from the rear, you get a 330-litre boot. Which looks bigger than the number depicts. And to make luggage life easier, the rear seat splits 60:40 to make even more room. In the cabin, you have sufficient storage space for your phone, coffee cup, water bottle and more.
What’s in the Box!
The big news is that the Taigun gets Electronic Stability Control (ECS) as standard across all variants. You also get the mandatory ABS, dual airbags and parking sensors as standard. Then you have tyre pressure deflation warning, hill hold control, auto-dimming IRVM and a bunch more stuff that will help keep you safe. Volkswagen has always given safety the highest priority and the Taigun is no different in this regard.
The 10-inch touchscreen has inbuilt Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is great for people who own a phone. Which is everybody! Both these variants get a wireless charging pad to help you get rid of messy wires, climate control, cruise control and a reverse camera. The automatic also has auto LED headlamps and side and curtain airbags.
Under The Hood!
Coming to the second most interesting part of the Taigun. The engine. A 1498 cc unit, which belts out 150 PS of power @ 5000 – 6000 RPM and 250 Nm of torque @ 1600 – 3500 RPM. Peak torque starts really low and you can feel it while pottering around town at city speeds.
The 1.5-litre TSI EVO engine uses a potent mix of Stratified Direct Fuel Injection, optimisation and turbocharging. Not quite a conventional setup, but it does provide oodles of power without being excessively thirsty. As one would expect from Volkswagen, fuel efficiency is not the priority and it is acceptable, without being exemplary.
This brings us to the most important thing of any machine. How does it work in real-world conditions?
This is where the Taigun leaves its mark. It is a driver’s car. If you enjoy the mechanical aspects of the machine, you will love the Taigun. What it might lack in features in comparison to the competition, it more than makes up in road play.
The Aravalli hills around Udaipur was a perfect setting for experiencing the Taigun in all its glory. Short twisty sections interspersed with a few straights. Put all thought to one side and just let the SUV loose and you will forget that it is an SUV! It handles superbly, driving on rails through the corners. Braking is fantastic, hammer the brakes and you can feel the machine linearly pushing into the asphalt. The acceleration is sublime for a machine this size, leaving you with a happy grin. Miles get munched with nary a thought.
Yet, it is not at all a crazy machine. If you are in a sedate mood, you can happily breeze along the highways. You will not even notice that only 2 out of the 4 cylinders are firing! To save fuel, the Taigun uses tech which switches to a 2-cylinder mode. And the switch is seamless.
Both the automatic and manual, are bliss to drive. For those who love their driving, the manual is just so much more fun. This is why it doesn’t make sense that Volkswagen has chosen to give much fewer features to the manual variant vis-à-vis the automatic. The only downside we experienced while driving the manual, was a heavy and sticky clutch. This could be because the vehicle we got had already seen a week of use by our exuberant journo friends!
The Automatic can also be enjoyed to its zenith. You switch to the sport mode for controlled joy, where the gear shifts are at a slightly higher RPM. Or use the paddle shifters for being in much more control of the machine. Even with all the glamour and oomph, the automatic just doesn’t make you as happy as the manual!
Should you buy one?
Yes, if you like to drive. Yes, if a mechanically sound machine is what you prioritise.
No, if you are looking for SUV road presence. No, if you compare features to its segment rivals.
Would we get one? You bet!
Volkswagen has priced the Taigun at an introductory price range of Rs 10.49-17.49 lakh. Though the cost is very competitive, we need to wait and watch how the Taigun survives in this heavily competitive market.