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Volkswagen Taigun was one of the most anticipated launches of the year, closely followed by its cousin, the Skoda Kushaq, and together, the German siblings are aiming for the throne currently occupied by the Korean siblings of Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. So it’s sibling rivalry at all levels. For the first drive of Taigun, we were invited to Udaipur – a city known for its royalty. Coincidentally, Kushaq means emperor and Taigun, whose English meaning we are yet to decode. So now, let’s get straight to the nuts and bolts of it. The mid-size SUV segment Taigun is entering is the hottest, so it can be a volcanic eruption for the Skoda Volkswagen group if they get it right. But have they got it right? Let’s dig deeper. VW has a premium brand persona, in fact, a no-nonsense brand known for its sturdy quality. They have never really chased numbers, but with the Survottam 2.0 India strategy, they are ready to go down the pitch with a heavy bat. Taigun has been built keeping India in mind; I hope they keep it that way when the Europeans declare prices because their pricing send shivers down the spine, and they add “premiumness” to pricing, which is where it gets real windy.
No doubt the design is very European, and they have added generous amounts of chrome everywhere, reading the Indian taste buds and our obsession for bling and chrome. The front is sleek and modern, with sharp straight lines that are a VW staple. The LED headlamps with DRLs sure grab your attention, and the AT variant gets red callipers along with roof rails giving it a very sporty look. The rear design has been carved out to precision with a long LED bar stretching the car’s width, showing that modern and concept-like look with the VW badging right in the centre. I particularly like the rear design more than the calm, composed front design.
Dimensionally, the Taigun might not have the outright SUV stance like the Hyundai Creta or the Kia Seltos, as it sits lower, but the segment-best wheelbase means you definitely can’t write it off as a compact SUV. Sure, it is more European in its styling, and customers might want a more raised look, but oodles of premium kit and build is what VW has, does and will stick by.
The fully digital instrument cluster, the 10-inch touchscreen, and climate control switches are all typically VW, and we mean built to last. You also get wireless Apple, and Android connectivity along with the My Volkswagen Connect app support. In the manual transmission, you don’t get auto start /stop, sunroof and digital cockpit and dimming mirror, but in the AT variant, it’s all there, along with a 17-inch tyre profile. The seats are also excellent and broad, along with ventilated function, and there is a good amount of room here. Keeping the DNA of sportiness, Taigun gets flat-bottom steering with new switchgear, and overall the dash has an elegant layout with laser red ambient lighting.
The MT variant comes with a 16-inch tyre profile, and with a long wheelbase, it’s much more gripping than the AT, which comes with a 17-inch tyre profile. Overall, there is little body roll over both the transmissions and even when the needle is doing three digits, the drive is quite stable and assuring. Even in tight corners, the tyres, steering, and roads are in perfect harmony. At lower RPMs and revs, the two-cylinder cuts off, and you can see the sign on the instrument cluster, and when that happens, it drinks less petrol which is cruising over the Rs 100 mark these days, and yes, it claims to do 0-100 in 9.1 seconds. It comes strapped with 40 safety features like ABS with EBD, hill-hold control, ISOFIX mounts ESP, six airbags, along with electronic differential lock and multi-collision brakes, makes the proposition even better. It was raining, and the surface was slippery in our first-drive and the hydraulic brake boosting played well.
At the back, the Taigun has space for three and thanks to that wheelbase; taller adults will be satisfied with the room on offer. The transmission tunnel is negligible, and the middle passenger will have adequate room here. However, the backrest is a tad upright, and the dark upholstery robs away some sense of space. That said, the bigger worry is packing the Taigun with passengers and luggage. Yes, the boot is big enough to swallow three giant suitcases, but the low ride height will be a worry on our appalling roads. Powering the Taigun will be two engine options. A 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine with 113 bhp and 175 Nm will be mated to a manual and an automatic gearbox, and then you will have a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine churning out 148 bhp and 250 Nm with the option of a manual and DSG gearbox.
Overall, it is evident why VW is a bit late to the party. There has been a fair amount of work going into the Taigun and its development. Be it the 1.5 million km testing or the 99% utilisation of local steel, which will help in making it more affordable. A difference of almost 3-13% in the overall costs along with a 30% drop in engine oil costs for petrol engines will surely add up to a substantial number. Overall, we can expect a 20-25% lower cost of ownership and that for VW is big. Other additions include better after-sales in terms of warranty and assistance. Go big or go home is what the VW India strategy is, and with Taigun, they aren’t going home anytime soon.