NOW HERE’S A PLEASANT surprise. We all know the 1-litre TSI is going to be the mainstay of the Skoda-VW range — it is heavily localised, cheaper to make, more efficient, mated to the more affordable torque converter transmission, and will push out at least 80 per cent, if not more, of the overall volume. But Volkswagen are serious about the 1.5 TSI. They’re also serious about maintaining their hard-won ‘premium’ brand positioning. And they are banking on the reputation of the GT badge to enable both.
There’s smart product planning at work here. The GT has always sat at the top of the range, has always been desirable, has always been expensive and that should temper the enthusiasm of keyboard warriors to scream at what will be premium pricing for the Taigun GT. The 1.5 TSI motor is after all assembled not manufactured in India. And we all know that DSG gearboxes are expensive. But, unlike the Polo where the GT was only offered with the automatic, the Taigun will have two GT trims. GT Plus is the all-bells-and-whistles variant with the DSG but the surprise package is the GT whose affordability will not only be aided by the manual but also enhanced by the deletion of kit. It’s for enthu cutlets who’d rather pay for performance than frippery such as a sunroof.
It’s the variant I jump into right at the start with a hawk-eye out for areas where costs have been cut. First thing you notice are the smaller 16-inch wheels that give the GT a slightly under tyred stance; it has after all been designed for 17s and in all likelihood can also take 18s. Upfront there’s no deletion of chrome, which we will come to in a bit but the LED lights are swapped out for halogens. And that’s it. On the inside, the only thing you really notice is that you have to slot the key into the ignition and twist it to start up the 1.5 TSI — hardly a chore if you ask me! There’s no sunroof and it’s only when you peek into the GT Plus that you realise you’re missing out on a digital cluster. Pore through the spec sheets and you notice the GT gets two airbags and the row of blanks reminds you that there are no seat coolers. The seats are (a very nice) fabric, not leather. And there’s a manual gearbox.
Weaving through Udaipur city to get to the highway what really strikes you is just how smooth and refined the engine is. With 148bhp of power and 250Nm of torque, peaking at 1600 and staying flat until 3500rpm, there’s plenty of bottom and mid-range grunt. The gearshift quality is typically Volkswagen in that it asks you to be deliberate with your actions unlike, say, a Japanese gearbox that you shift with a little finger. It’s not heavy, don’t get me wrong, in fact it feels nice and meaty. Solid. And a touch notchy. The shift quality is nice, the throws are well judged and it conspires to plug you into the driving experience. The clutch is also light and easy to operate and you have enough space in the wheel well to be comfortable.
Speaking of comfort the ride quality, particularly on the 16-inch wheels of the GT, is excellent. There is a slight firmness, typically Volkswagen again and you do feel the suspension working but it cushions you from impacts absolutely wonderfully. Small speed breakers, broken patches, bumpy surfaces, all are flattened out and the faster you go the better it rides. Out on the highway, there is no bobbing and weaving on longwave undulations. The stability is rock solid and it inspires tonnes of confidence.
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