Environmental protesters attacked SUVs in the United Kingdom last week, letting down the tyres of hundreds of cars. Drivers woke up to find at least one of their tyres had been let down and a leaflet stating "your gas guzzler kills" placed on their windscreen. One of the cars targeted was an all-electric crossover.
Whatever about confusion over what’s powering these cars, eco warriors must be bewildered by the blurring of the lines between hatchbacks, estates and supposed SUVs these days. The new VW Taigo isn’t going to help matters.
It’s billed as an “SUV coupe”, but shares most of its underpinnings with a Polo, has the interior space of a Golf, and boasts a bigger boot than both of those. It is front-wheel drive and powered by a 1-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine. It’s less than 6cm taller than a Polo and basically the same height as a Golf. It even weighs less than a Golf.
To define it as an SUV seems absurd. To suggest it’s a coupe is plain daft. Nevertheless, these are the times we live in. You may weigh 18 stone and barely move from the couch, but if you own a pair of sneakers I guess you can call yourself an athlete.
What the Taigo does is permit Volkswagen to wedge another model into its range, squeezed between the T-Cross and the T-Roc. No, we didn’t think a gap existed there either, but nonetheless here this is.
To show how close these cars are to each other, the current T-Roc starts at €27,240, the new Taigo at €27,745 and the T-Cross at €28,565. Mind you, a facelifted T-Roc, arriving in May, will start at €31,695. It seems like the arrival of the Taigo also coincided with a €4,455 price rise on the facelifted T-Roc. Timing really is everything.
Admittedly, it wasn't a massive chore for VW to deliver this new model to market, as it already existed in South America as the Nivus SUV. VW is adamant, however, the Taigo has been "technologically adapted for Europe". That means you get features like LED adaptive matrix headlights and adaptive cruise control, not offered to our Latin American cousins. We also get a new R-Line trim level, as featured in our test car.
The carmaker’s 1-litre, TSI three-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit is as sprightly as in VW’s other small cars, putting out 110bhp in our test car and is combined with the company’s well-regarded DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s certainly no GTi with a 0-100km/h time of more than 10 seconds, but its power delivery is smoother than you might expect based on those stats. The DSG does its best to zip up through the gears and keep the revs in order, but kick down on the throttle and the three-cylinder begins to make itself heard in the cabin.
In reality, the Taigo drives very similarly to the T-Cross, and while the ride leans to the firm side of the dynamic equation, it’s certainly not uncomfortable. The Taigo soaks up the potholes without too much of a jolt. Overall, it’s all very competent, if not very exciting.
As with the rest of the VW range, the interior is smart and evokes that air of superiority over rivals. It has its issues, such as that annoying volume control bar below the 8-inch touchscreen, but it’s not really a deal-breaker for anyone.
The real issue for Taigo is that consumers are simply swamped with these faux SUVs and some buyers will have their heads spinning with all the model options on offer. Whichever you opt for – T-Roc, Taigo or T-Cross – you should also take a test drive in Ford's impressive Puma, which starts at €27,967 and is arguably that bit sharper to drive. There's also the lower priced Korean offerings of either Hyundai Kona or Kia Niro (both of which are available as EVs) to consider.
For what it’s worth, the T-Roc is better looking than the Taigo, while delivering marginally more headroom and bootspace. It’s not worthy of a €4,500 price increase though.
In this age of inflation, it’s worth stopping for a moment to consider what you get for your crossover euro these days. Our test car – admittedly in top-level R-Line and with €3,735 worth of options like panoramic roof and heated front seats – would leave the showroom at €40,515. For a car that’s neither a hybrid nor electric, and one based on a Polo supermini, that’s very steep. For some perspective, an R-Line version of the new Polo with the 1-litre petrol engine and DSG automatic costs €27,440 on the road.
The Taigo is a fine car for what it is, but it doesn’t do anything exciting or memorable, certainly not well enough to warrant its inflated price tag over a new Polo.
At this rate, environmental protesters have no need to deflate the tyres of SUVs if the price gap between regular cars and “crossover SUVs” keeps inflating.
Volkswagen Taigo 1.0 DSG auto R-Line: the lowdown
- Power: 999cc three-cylinder petrol engine putting out 110 bhp and 200Nm of torque, matched to a seven-speed auto DSG transmission.
- 0-100km/h: 10.9 secs.
- L/100km: 6.2.
- CO2 emissions: 140g/km.
- Our verdict: Smart, but too expensive for what is a relatively forgettable car.