Compact SUV Wars: Newbie VW Taigun vs Market Leader Hyundai Creta


The compact SUV remains the hottest, most crowded, and fastest growing segment in India’s passenger car market. And the Volkswagen Taigun has just driven into it. While the segment has many players, the leader by a long shot is the Hyundai Creta. Combined with its Korean cousin alter ego – the Kia Seltos – it monopolises the segment handsomely. So we’ll have a proper segment shootout once we have the VW Taigun’s pricing. And remember, the Kia Seltos is our reigning champ in this segment. But seeing that the Hyundai Creta is the segment bestseller, it makes sense to pit the Taigun against it to tell you how they’re alike and how they’re also very different. So the market leader versus the newbie for now. Both SUVs are starkly different but to the buyer they will fall in the same consideration set. The recently introduced Mahindra XUV 700 – though from one segment higher – has created waves with it prices. That will only queer the pitch some more!

The Taigun looks obviously compact, while the Creta gives the impression of being bigger than it is 

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Now the Creta has been around for months. So we’ve got very used to seeing tonnes of them on our roads. But let’s be honest when it first drove in, at least for me, the styling though very modern and very different, was also very weird. It’s kind of strange looking, especially at the rear. But like I said, a lot of people seem to love it! And to be fair its design language is also very distinct from the rivals. The VW model is very classical in its proportions, straight lines and at one glance and you know it’s German. And more importantly, you know it’s a Volkswagen. But the Taigun looks obviously compact, while the Creta gives the impression of being bigger than it is.

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The Taigun offers a longer wheelbase but is shorter, lower and narrower than the Creta

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I spent a lot of time right with the Taigun in Udaipur, and at the time felt it will be dwarfed by the Creta. The good news for VW is that when you put them together it doesn’t look as tiny as I had feared. Of course, there is a difference in dimensions though, because the Taigun is about 80 odd millimetres shorter in overall length. It’s also shorter in height terms, it’s not as wide as the Creta. But those differences aren’t too much. The big difference though, where the Tiguan does score is on wheelbase. While the Taigun offers a 41 mm longer wheelbase (which implies a trump card on cabin space), overall it is 79 mm shorter, 30 mm narrower and sits 23 mm lower than the Creta. And that extra bulk definitely gives the Korean more SUV cred!

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Length Wheelbase Width Height
Hyundai Creta 4300 mm 2610 mm 1790 mm 1635 mm
Volkswagen Taigun 4221 mm 2651 mm 1760 mm 1612 mm

Engine

Now the Hyundai Creta gets three powertrain options including diesel, a naturally aspirated petrol, and the top-of-the-line GDI turbo petrol. The Volkswagen Taigun sticks to the VW Group’s petrol-only strategy for India, and offers two turbo petrol engines. The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder TSI, and the bigger 1.5-litre, four-cylinder TSI. And yes, both engines are shared with the Skoda Kushaq. As are their gearboxes. Today I am pitting the larger engine against the Creta’s 1.4 Turbo offering for a fair match up of top spec, high performing variants. The Taigun’s 1.5 TSI belts out 148 bhp and 250 Nm of peak torque. It comes mated to either a 6-Speed manual transmission or a 7-Speed DSG or dual-clutch gearbox. I have the latter with me. The TSI has a little bit of an edge over the turbo GDI, though I don’t want to take away from the latter’s fun quotient. Both engines are very refined, but the 1.5 TSI comes across as more punchy, more powerful, and for what it is worth has 10 bhp more power too. But it’s not just about the numbers – you do get that sense of urgency from this engine, which is great.

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The 1.5-litre TSI engine in the Taigun is more powerful than the Creta 

Now the Creta’s 1.4-Turbo too feels sporty but with a different character altogether. The 1.4 GDI motor churns out 138 bhp and 242 Nm of peak torque. It has a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard. Ethe GDI motor is also high-revving engine, and like I said, that difference in power is perceptible. It’s also the heavier of the two. To be fair you only notice it more evidently when you drive the cars back-to-back. The speed build-up is comparatively linear, and the shift isn’t as seamless – though use the paddles and the gearbox does respond with alacrity. The Creta also gets three different drive modes – comfort, sport and eco. On the Taigun the DSG does give you a drive or sport mode. On the Creta there are changes in the throttle response as well as gear change ratios.

Ride and Handling

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The 17-inch tyres on the Taigun get noisy at higher speeds 

The huge asset on the Taigun is handling. Yes! The Taigun quite evidently has better dynamics and thank God for it. That also means the Volkswagen-ness is intact on the car. The suspension setup is right on point for our road conditions. It doesn’t dive much and there’s a hint of softness going over bumps, potholes, or rough roads while it’s adequately agile around bends and corners. It is a well-judged ride and handling balance. The steering too feels more engaging and tactile. It’s quick to your inputs and the car goes exactly where you point it. Tight overhangs and longer wheelbase are also a perfect combination to eliminate understeer and the tail remains in check. The only downside? These comparatively lower profile 17-inch tyres that get noisy at higher speeds. On the 1.0 Taigun that’s not a problem.

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The Creta simply shines through with its plush ride quality 

On the Creta you get a little bit of body roll – the one thing that pegged it down on performance against the Seltos too. But it’s just the sheer comfort factor that really comes through on the Creta that win it back many points. The driver seat is electrically adjustable at the top-end, and overall you can get more of an SUV, tall-riding feel on this car. But on sheer ride comfort, the Creta is the one to beat – even when sitting in the rear. The Creta simply shines through with its plush ride quality. So while the Taigun offers ample legroom at the back, it is also not as wide or comfortable for three adults. And when you are chauffeur driven, the rear seat comfort will matter heaps. Lateral movements on undulations or rough road are largely contained with a sense of firmness on the Creta. Having said that, it’s not as nimble around corners. The car’s 17-inchers protest a bit too much while pushing hard around bends. And this is exactly where the Taigun hits it right out of the park.

Tech and Interior

But we cannot say the same for the cabin! Well honestly! Both score very differently on the inside. Both have roomy cabins, but the Creta feels taller and more SUV-like. The design of the dash, door panels, and seats are distinctly different. On the Taigun the overall layout of the cabin and design of the dash are nicely done. The 10-inch touchscreen is precisely integrated in the dash and has a very user-friendly interface. It is also very high quality and has great depth of colour and resolution. The digital instrument cluster in the GT Line DSG variants is a big bonus. You can get more details on the Taigun’s tech, here.

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The cabin gets a virtual instrument cluster, a three-spoke steering wheel, and red ambient lighting 

The Taigun does miss on few creature comforts like a proper panoramic sunroof or a power adjustable driver seat, which the Creta has. The Creta also has a colour themed cluster depending on your drive mode. Both get smartphone connectivity, wireless charging, and a connected car suite. But while the latter is more comprehensive on the Hyundai, the VW gets wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless App connect and a steering that is adjustable for both reach and rake. You don’t get those in the Creta. That said, the quality of plastics and materials could have been better.

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The dashboard layout on the Creta is neat, with the new 10.25-inch touchscreen and AC controls neatly stacked in the middle 

The Creta’s turbo variant gets an all-black interior, which does diminish the sense of space a tad. But it is definitely wider and roomier feeling in terms of head and shoulder room, still. The black interior gets red highlights on the turbo only. While both cars get ventilated seats up front, on the Creta it is in the top spec turbo too, while on the Taigun it is not on the 1.5’s top-end. Go figure the logic on that! Creta has an in-built air purifier which is nice to have. The 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system on the Creta is marginally bigger and offers more functionality. It is seamlessly integrated in the dash and the overall layout of the cabin is very streamlined and yet sporty. It feels plusher of the two with better surfacing and yes! That premium Bose surround sound system is a big plus to have, thought he non branded system on the Taigun is also not bad.

Safety

On safety parameters both SUVs are well-loaded. Features like six-airbags, antilock braking or ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution or EBD, Electronic Stability Control or ESC, Traction Control, Hill Hold Control, Tyre Pressure Warning and ISOFIX child seat mounts are in both cars at the top end. No crash test ratings with us for either though.

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Volkswagen is yet to announce the prices of the Taigun in India 

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So which one is better? Well we need the Taigun’s prices and a broader comparison that includes cars like the Kushaq and Seltos to decide. The Taigun GT will however be the driver’s car in this segment – that much is sure. But for now given what we know, the Creta holds an edge in the Indian context. It is more car per car – quite simply put. A proper verdict though only when we get the cousins and others into the fray.

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