There is no avoiding the truth about Volkswagen, suggests Iain Robertson, as he contemplates the ownership potential of a niche model to suit his new disabled driving needs and having returned his manual gearbox Suzuki Vitara to the lease company, securing a frugal but spacious car with an auto-box has taken a priority.
Having been well served by my much-loved and right-sized Vitara, I must look carefully at what else is available in the new car scene for this summer, by which time my rehabilitation and return to my home will have occurred. While ‘sticks’ and wheelchair provide my present levels of mobility, having ‘lost’ my left leg to diabetes means that the delights of self-shifting gears and dipping a clutch pedal are now off-limits, unless I resort to hand controls, which I do not want. That is not to suggest that they are useless, in fact, I know how efficient and effective they can be, it is simply that I do not want them.
My 30 month old Vitara was powered by Suzuki’s excellent 1.0-litre petrol turbo-triple, a deliciously punchy, 109bhp unit capable of returning 55mpg regularly, allied to plenty of mid-range grunt and a low taxation penalty for such a small capacity engine…now dropped by the company unceremoniously due to ‘poor’ long-term emissions. Well, that was the excuse anyway. While Ford and Vauxhall offer similar power units, I am quite familiar with VW’s equally grunty baby engine that develops a modest 107bhp but is mated to a 7-speed DSG twin-clutch automated gearbox. To be fair, I am also considering the latest Vitara hybrid model, which is very smooth but lacks a little on the verve front, as it now employs a 1.5-litre four-cylinder, normally-aspirated engine mated to a six-speed automated transmission, the hybrid engine replacing the turbocharger’s delivery, which is the primary intention.
Depending on which financial reports you read, either Volkswagen, or Toyota holds sway as the world’s biggest carmaker. In fact, the latter company’s Yaris Cross also has some appeal to me arising from its hybrid engine development and I quite like the dynamic appearance of the model. Yet, while Toyota is very restrained with its range offering, VW has gone SUV loopy of late, as competing for my monthly payments is not just the T-Cross but also the T-Roc and even Tiguan models, with the latest Taigo having joined the ranks late last year. Taigo is my present target but I cannot help but wonder if it is one SUV too far for VW, which purports to satisfy its customers’ every whims but does factor in model confusion, as most of the lower end SUVs are all of very similar dimensions and, when you include the other Group labels too, that is one monster SUV offering.
While the Taigo list prices commence at a modest £21,960 in entry-level Life trim, with the 92bhp version of the 1.0-litre lump and five-speed manual ‘box, remaining with the modestly trimmed Life, the version best suited to my needs (107bhp, 7-speed DSG) is a whopping £2,400 costlier. Move up to the mid-range but generously equipped Style level and another £2,540 needs to be factored in, while the compellingly sporty appeal of the R-Line costs a hefty £27,740. Of course, it could be even more, were I to opt for the positively zesty 147bhp, 1.5-litre petrol turbo four-pot. Yet, as the 107bhp unit is also the most economical to live with (47.9mpg; 134g/km CO2), it confirms its suitability. It is worth highlighting that these cars are eminently conventional, featuring neither hybrid, nor BEV technology, which is interesting at this stage in the game.
There is little point in looking at VW-owned Seat, or Skoda alternatives, as the price advantage that used to belong to those brands has been eroded to near non-existence in recent times. However, there exists a classless superiority to running a VW product; it is very much the ‘senior’ brand that carries a sizable wad of responsibility, which is not to state that the ‘sister’ brands do not but, from the tactile quality and tangible durability angles, there is no denying that VW has it sussed. Naturally, the buyer pays a premium for that but it is one that can be amortised readily.
VW has jumped on the ‘coupe-SUV’ design stance for a smattering of its offerings and Taigo looks unashamedly as though its rear seats will not be as accommodating as those of a T-Roc for instance. However, without a bulky battery pack to slot below the floor, the available space belongs entirely to occupants. The driving position is typical VW grade (ace!) and the range of adjustment of the front chairs is substantial. Inevitably it is less so in the rear but it is not bad and there remains copious head and shoulder space, even though slotting in a folding wheelchair is more compromised and it is best relegated to the boot.
Of course, it would not be a VW unless its progression up the trim ranks was matched to ever greater levels of technology and while LED headlamps are standard, the more ‘intelligent’ IQ LEDs are fitted to Style and R-Line variants. As a model aimed at 20-somethings possessing a moderate car budget, although it is likely to be 50-somethings that make up the bulk of the customer profile, the Taigo features connectivity and driver assistance packages like there is no tomorrow. Understandably, the car is a melange of existing and proven hard and software, recognisable in everything from the driver information panel to the large touchscreen atop the centre stack on the R-line models. It drives as well as the latest Polo, which should come as no surprise, benefiting as it does from that models ‘electrickery’.
Conclusion: While worth considering, the VW Taigo is not really as practical as the Vitara, which I know fits my life and lifestyle somewhat better than any other model in the SUV class. It does offer a decent package and is not quite as scarily high-priced as some VW models, even though it pays to keep your cool, when ticking the options boxes.