Volkswagen Virtus & Taigun: Spoilt for choice
What you see here is a dilemma – a very odd one at that. In the past, owning a sedan was an aspiration for most of us common folk. A three-box in your driveway meant you had made it in life and settled down, unlike the hatchback-driving young gun whom nobody wants to rent their flat out to. But somewhere along the way, with manufacturers cashing in on SUVs and whetting up our appetite for them, the numbers of those aspiring to own a sedan seems to have dwindled a fair bit. Now, in a revival second only to the pop group ABBA’s, sedans are making a comeback, and one of the forerunners spearheading the trend is the Volkswagen Virtus.
It’s not like this is Volkswagen’s first foray into the sedan segment, far from it. The German manufacturer’s India innings actually began with cars such as the Jetta and the Passat, which offered enthusiasts a brilliant driving experience. And in the years that followed, this trait shone through in their other offerings too, including their SUVs! The Taigun is a prominent example of that, but does that mean it’s the end of the road for sedans such as the Virtus? No better way to find out than pointing these two towards the Lap of Mutha and indulging in a spirited morning drive.
There’s a certain mystique to getting up at an ungodly hour and heading out for a drive. The roads are deserted, there are no idiots to clog up the lanes or drive up your blood pressure ― perfect time for me to come to grips with the Virtus. This is the first all-new sedan from Volkswagen in a long time, and to be honest, it does not exactly come across that way at first glance. There’s a clear resemblance to the Jetta, but those timeless lines, with a hint of modern pizzazz are going to stand the test of time. There’s also a sportier looking GT variant which is sure to charm an enthusiast but then again, looks are subjective.
What will surely win you over is the way the Virtus drives. Our test car is powered by the three-pot 1-litre TSI engine and while that displacement may not sound too hot on paper, I can assure you this is a very enthusiastic unit. When you flex your right foot, there’s the tiniest hint of lag before the turbo spools up but once the revs climb past 2200rpm, this engine comes on song. The route to our shoot location packs in a mix of open stretches and sweeping corners and with little to no traffic at that hour, it’s a joy to hustle the Virtus.
Couple that with the torque converter automatic which keeps things on the boil perfectly and the driving experience is a pleasant one. In our neck of the woods though, even the best driving roads can be in shambles in parts, thanks to our never-ending roadworks, but that doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm behind the ’wheel of the Virtus. There’s 179mm of ground clearance on offer, and for the lack of a better term, it is almost like a mid-size SUV in that respect.
There’s no worry of the Virtus scraping its belly over speed breakers, and as you can hammer through bumps with gay abandon, the Virtus does wonders for your confidence behind the ’wheel, especially on our roads. In fact, the reason why many people traded in their sedans for SUVs is the ground clearance the latter offer; with the Virtus though, their faith in sedans is bound to be rekindled. And as is the case with Volkswagens, the Virtus feels extremely rewarding to drive particularly when you point it at a series of bends.
Chuck the Virtus into a corner and there’s a smidge of body roll noticeable at first, but it is all well controlled and there is no semblance of drama. And this isn’t at the expense of ride quality. Thanks to the torsional rigidity of the MQB-A0-IN platform which the Virtus is underpinned by, it allowed Volkswagen to use softer dampers which soak up the road imperfections better. And the 16-inch alloy wheels only go to aid that pursuit further. Everything about the Virtus, puts you in a calmer frame of mind, without compromising on the performance front. Small touches, be it the blue theme of the instrument cluster or the cooled seats, go a long way in making your drive a chilled out one. Why do you even need SUVs, you end up asking yourself...
And that question is promptly answered when I’m done with my fill of corner carving and headed back to base through Pune’s notorious traffic jams. Luckily, I have snagged the keys to our long-term Taigun and am muscling my way through traffic which parts way to give me a wider berth. Forget practicality or off-road ability ― this is why we buy SUVs, for the road presence. And the Taigun, which does look like a baby Tiguan for all intents and purposes, promptly signals traffic to get the heck out of your lane. One flash of the LED headlights and bikers don’t mess with you. And if you’re following a Taigun in the dark, the Infinity LED taillamps at the rear do give it the aura of something much more expensive, which does mean that cars tend to keep their distance rather than clinging onto your tail in a lesser car.
It is very easy to find a good driving position in the Taigun, or even the Virtus for that matter, thanks to the steering column which adjusts for rake as well as reach and the height adjustable seats but the Taigun, with its SUV characteristics does provide better visibility. The dimensions are spot on as well, large enough to bully traffic out of your way, but compact enough to slot quickly into gaps and make quick work of the traffic snarls.
Get past the slow-moving cars and you can properly get a move on in the Taigun. What we have here is the GT Plus with the 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine mated to a DSG box, and this is an SUV that can really put a smile on your face. Ever since the first time that I drove a Taigun hard in the hills, I have grown fond of its handling and unlike a big lumbering SUV where the dynamics seem to go for a toss, the Taigun actually inspires you to push it further. With 148bhp in the Taigun, you tend to go quicker than you normally would and you can even cock the inside rear wheel when hustling it.
That hasn’t come at the expense of your passenger’s comfort thankfully. There is good space for four in this cabin, which is fully kitted out in the GT Plus trim with niceties such as ambient lighting, a sunroof, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And if you pore over the spec sheet, you’ll notice that in terms of kit, the Virtus and the Taigun are nearly neck and neck, save for the seat coolers that the Taigun misses out on. But other than that, these two are bang-on identical.
Which brings me back to the unique dilemma that buyers are faced with today. Buying a car earlier was a relatively easy task, where one would realistically evaluate what they wanted out of their ride and then make a decision. But today, it begins by zeroing in on what kind of body style one wants. Sedans, compact SUVs and crossovers, all of them are clamouring for a piece of the action that the Indian market has presented. And that’s where the Taigun and Virtus slot in. These two Volkswagen siblings are actually matched more closely than what their appearances might suggest. The Virtus, which is here to revive the sedan segment, can actually take on bad roads with aplomb, something that was earlier associated only with SUVs and had deterred buyers from buying three- boxes.
The Taigun on the other hand, continues to stride on with the strengths and charms of SUVs which we’ve all come to love. Yet it continues to feel like a ‘car’ in all the right facets, with great handling, stellar performance and comfort. And with closely matched products such as these, a prospective new car buyer is bound to be spoilt for choice when choosing between an SUV and a sedan. If you had to ask me, I would have to take a long and hard look at both of them before I could even choose. But at this point, I don’t think I have to. Buying a car is no longer about putting your needs ahead of your wants, or the other way round for that matter. Because the Volkswagen Virtus and the Taigun, seem to have ticked both boxes at the same time.