VW Taigun GT First Drive Review of Creta, Seltos and Kushaq rival
After all the build up the Volkswagen Taigun is finally here and it has the Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and of course the Skoda Kushaq in its sights. While 1.0-litre TSI engine will bring in volumes, Volkswagen is betting big on the 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine. The 1.5 TSI will be offered in two trims, Taigun GT with the manual gearbox and Taigun GT Plus with the DSG twin-clutch automatic, and that will make this engine more affordable to driving enthusiasts.
GT sits at the top of Volkswagen’s range
Volkswagen are serious about the 1.5 TSI. They’re also serious about maintaining their hard-won ‘premium’ brand positioning. And they are banking on the reputation of the GT badge to enable both.
The GT has always sat at the top of the Volkswagen range, has always been desirable, has always been expensive, and that should temper the enthusiasm of keyboard warriors to scream at what will be premium pricing for the Taigun GT. The 1.5 TSI motor is, after all, assembled not manufactured in India. And we all know that DSG gearboxes are expensive. But, unlike the Polo where the GT was only offered with the automatic, the Taigun will have two GT trims. GT Plus is the all-bells-and-whistles variant with the DSG but the surprise package is the GT whose affordability will not only be aided by the manual but also enhanced by the deletion of kit. It’s for enthu-cutlets who’d rather pay for performance than frippery like a sun roof.
Volkswagen Taigun GT first impressions
The VW Taigun GT is the variant I jump into right at the start, with a hawk-eye out for areas where costs have been cut. First thing you notice are the smaller 16-inch wheels that give the GT a slightly under-tyred stance; it has after all been designed for 17s and in all likelihood can also take 18s. Up front there’s no deletion of chrome, which we will come to in a bit, but the LED lights are swapped out for halogens. And that’s it. On the inside the only thing you really notice is that you have to slot the key into the ignition and twist it to start up the 1.5 TSI — hardly a chore if you ask me! There’s no sun roof and it’s only when you peek into the GT Plus that you realise you’re missing out on a digital cluster. Pore through the spec sheets and you notice the GT gets 2 airbags and the row of blanks reminds you that there are no seat coolers. The seats are (a very nice) fabric, not leather. And there’s the manual gearbox.
1.5 TSI Evo engine and manual gearbox on VW Taigun GT
Weaving through Udaipur city to get to the highway what really strikes you is just how smooth and refined the 1.5 TSI Evo engine on the VW Taigun GT is. With 148bhp of power and 250Nm of torque, peaking at 1600 and staying flat till 3500rpm, there’s plenty of bottom and mid-range grunt. The gearshift quality is typically Volkswagen in that it asks you to be deliberate with your actions unlike, say, a Japanese gearbox that you shift with a little finger. It’s not heavy, don’t get me wrong, in fact it feels nice and meaty. Solid. And a touch notchy. The shift quality is nice, the throws are well judged, and it conspires to plug you into the driving experience. The clutch is also light and easy to operate and you have enough space in the wheel well to be comfortable.
The highway also lets the 1.5 TSI Evo stretch its legs. 120kmph in sixth gear equates to 2000rpm, the motor is spinning in the meat of the torque curve, and a flex of the right foot is enough to effect quick and safe overtakes. Downshift a couple of gears and you realise this engine enjoys being revved. And it rewards you when you cane it. 0-100kmph is claimed in 9.1 seconds but that is for the DSG gearbox with its shorter ratios. The manual should hit 100kmph in just over 10 seconds which is quick enough for this class, and the way it gets there is wonderfully involving. The four-cylinder engine is smooth, refined, noiseless while cruising, and sounds slightly sporty when whipped. It also gets active cylinder deactivation, the switch over being so smooth and imperceptible you only realise it when you see the ‘2-cylinder mode’ sign flashing on the multi information display.
Ride quality of VW Taigun GT
Speaking of comfort the ride quality, particularly on the 16-inch wheels of the VW Taigun GT, is excellent. There is a slight firmness, typically Volkswagen again, and you do feel the suspension working, but it cushions you from impacts absolutely wonderfully. Small speed breakers, broken patches, bumpy surfaces, all are flattened out and the faster you go the better it rides. Out on the highway, there is no bobbing and weaving on long wave undulations. The stability is rock solid, and it inspires tonnes of confidence.
Interiors of VW Taigun GT
The VW Taigun GT sticks with analogue dials like on the Skoda Kushaq. Like we said for the Kushaq, the MID between the two analogue dials looks borrowed from VW Group cars of two generations ago. There’s nothing lacking in functionality and it even shows tracks playing from your phone connected wirelessly but the graphics and black-and-white theme feels old. As for the analogue dials, I have no problem with it.
You will notice the colour-coded dash inserts on the VW Taigun GT. This is complimented by deep red mood lighting that oozes out of the seams in the dash making for a very nice ambience when the sun goes down. Don’t get too excited because, for now, the red inserts are only available with the red exterior colour. The other colours get the inserts in silver-grey (the red mood lighting is across the GT range) and that’s a big reason to buy your Taigun in red.
Both GT variants get the 10-inch infotainment screen which is smaller than the Creta / Seltos but doesn’t feel compromised. You aren’t fiddling around with menus or icons, the resolution is good and the sound system, despite not being branded, has good bass and punch. It gets a bunch of apps loaded in like Gana and navigation, there are connectivity features operated via the App, and you can connect your phone using wireless CarPlay or Andriod Auto and leave it on the wireless charging pad (which asks if you want to charge the phone thus saving on battery life). The only real compromise is with the low resolution of the rear parking camera, so much so that engineers have been careful not to project it across the entire width of the screen lest it looks even more pixellated. The bigger compromise is on the roof liner, something that we have already highlighted on the Kushaq, and something which Skoda-VW engineers are cognisant of and are already working on an update which will come early next year (since it holds a curtain airbag there’s a whole validation process to go through before it goes into production).
The GT does not get seat coolers or leather seats. But these are very comfortable seats. Generously bolstered, they hold you nicely in place and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake thus enabling a very good driving position. Even the rear seats are bolstered, holding you in place when an enthu-cutlet is behind the ’wheel. There’s good knee and head room at the back but, like the Kushaq, this is narrower than its rivals and three abreast is a squeeze. The boot though is generous and the roof rails are functional rated up to 50 kilos.
VW Taigun GT Plus first impressions
At our pitstop I swap into the VW Taigun GT Plus and the first thing you notice is the digital cluster. You can configure this to have either a big digital speedo in the centre, or a speedometer dial, or a rev counter while the displays that flank it can toggle between efficiency read outs, trip computer, gear position indicator, temperature gauges and more. What I must point out is this digital cluster is only 8 inches and the red-and-black graphics that flank it are dummy panels (which has been integrated very well). And the cluster display isn’t crisp, sort of like an anti-reflective film was over it.
The VW Taigun GT Plus gets a sun roof which is of a regular size, not panoramic. There’s push-button-start. Auto headlamps. And there are six airbags. Unlike Skoda who offer only two airbags with the DSG-equipped Kushaq, VW will offer you six airbags with the DSG. Unlike Skoda, VW won’t give you cooled leather seats. I know what I’d prefer. As for ESC, that’s standard across the range, as are drum brakes on the rear. The braking performance is very good, with very good pedal feel and, at least on this drive, no fade but, yes, this is evidence of the Taigun being built to a price target.
DSG gearbox on VW Taigun GT Plus
The DSG twin-clutch automatic gearbox is the highlight of the VW Taigun GT Plus. In keeping with expectations this 7-speed twin-clutch is quick — both up and down the gears — and it is also very smooth. You get quicker shifts by tapping the gear lever back to engage Sport mode (no effect on the engine though), you can use it in manual by sliding it to the right and tapping up and down, or you can use the (tiny) paddle shifters on the steering wheel. However you use it this DQ-200 ’box is the fastest shifting, and best, automatic in this segment; definitely worth the premium VW will ask for it.
More equipment on the VW Taigun GT Plus
The premium you pay for the VW Taigun GT Plus also goes towards more kit. You get full LED headlamps with the full-width LED DRLs that look more expensive and flashy than the halogens (with their tiny DRLs). The lavish servings of chrome on the nose is common to both the GTs and, to my eye at least, it’s too much. A bit too Indian-ised, but then again styling is a personal matter so I leave you to decide. What is indisputable is that the Taigun looks like a baby Tiguan, which is a very good thing in my books. It’s typically mature, like all VWs, but also younger in keeping with the brand’s new positioning. In profile, save for the wheel design, it looks identical to the Kushaq which is no bad thing and at the rear the full-width LEDs give it a completely different character to the Skoda.
Handling of VW Taigun GT Plus
The VW Taigun GT Plus also gets much cooler looking 17-inch wheels which also transmits a little more of the road into the cabin. Smaller undulations are more noticeable but on the upside you also get slightly more front-end response and enthusiasm. What you notice in both GTs is that the steering is too light at speed. The assist is speed-variable and adding a bit more weight at speed would compliment the brilliant chassis. And it really is brilliant. This is exactly how we expect a Volkswagen to drive like. There’s a sense of heft, road manners are sure-footed, it delivers confidence in spades, it comfortably holds high triple-digit cruising speeds, and it is an absolute joy to drive.
Estimated pricing of VW Taigun GT variants
The Taigun won’t be cheap, especially the GT Plus, but you’ll be spending that extra money on what matters. The Thrill of Driving. We estimate the VW Taigun GT with its reduced equipment levels to be priced at Rs 15.5 lakh ex-showroom while the VW Taigun GT Plus with the DSG gearbox, 6 airbags and all the extra equipment including the digital cockpit to be priced at Rs 17.5 lakh ex-showroom. Production of the VW Taigun kicks off on August 18 at the Skoda-VW Group plant in Chakan and the price announcement and start of sale is at the start of September.