New Volkswagen Taigo vs Ford Puma
In a world of boxy small SUVs, the voluptuous new Volkswagen Taigo certainly stands out. But it will take a lot more than good looks to beat the class-leading Ford Puma...
NEW Volkswagen Taigo 1.0 TSI 95 Life
List price £23,155
Target Price £22,700
Sleek sister to the T-Cross and T-Roc certainly looks the part, but does it have the substance to back up its style?
Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 125 ST-Line
List price £24,605
Target Price £23,561
Our current favourite small SUV serves up a great blend of practicality and driving fun
Small SUVs are hot property right now, and with their chunky presence and assured practicality, it’s easy to see why they’re such a huge hit with buyers. Generally speaking, though, there’s not a lot of difference between them in terms of shape; the majority of them follow a rather boxy and functional blueprint.
The coupé-styled Volkswagen Taigo, however, seeks to set your heart aflutter with its eye-catching tapered roofline. It’s on a mission to stand out from the crowd, like that kid who turns up to school flaunting a backwards baseball cap in a class full of flat-top haircuts.
Perhaps reassuringly, though, things aren’t so radical underneath. In fact, the Taigo is based on the same underpinnings as the similar-sized Volkswagen T-Cross and sits below the bigger and more expensive Volkswagen T-Roc in the German brand’s line-up. We’re testing it here in entry-level Life trim with the most affordable engine.
And it’s a tough test indeed, because it faces the Ford Puma – our reigning Small SUV of the Year and a car that isn’t short on visual appeal of its own. The Puma does a fantastic job of juggling practicality, low running costs and superb driving manners in a relatively compact package, and it’s appearing here in our favoured ST-Line trim and with the least powerful engine available.
Both cars cost less than £25,000 and have enough kit to keep a family happy. So let’s find out which one serves up the best blend of must-have physical appeal and everyday common sense.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
On paper, the Taigo looks easily outgunned. Its 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine has just 94bhp and there are only five gears to choose from. The Puma has a six-speed gearbox and its engine (also a 1.0-litre petrol) pumps out a much healthier 123bhp.
And sure enough, if you’re trying to get to 60mph as quickly as possible, the Puma is the one to go for. In our tests, it managed that benchmark sprint in 9.7sec, compared with the 11.1sec taken by the Taigo. The Puma’s engine also pulls harder from low revs, with its mild hybrid electrical assistance giving a helping hand.
However, the Taigo can still keep up with traffic without too much trouble. Sure, its engine needs working harder, but it never feels flustered, even on an incline.
If your priority is driving smoothly and efficiently, you’ll have no complaints at all. And while the Taigo’s gearchange isn’t as snickety or engaging as the Puma’s, it is light and easy to use, with a positive clutch pedal that makes it easy to judge the biting point when pulling away.
With its softer suspension, the Taigo is better at soaking up bumps. In fact, it’s one of the most comfortable cars in the class, taking the sting out of all manner of road imperfections superbly. However, when you’re driving at speed along a typical country road, the Taigo isn’t so wallowy that it feels floaty over undulations.
The Puma’s stiffer set-up (ST-Line models have sports suspension as standard) means you’re more aware of bumps as they pass beneath the car; you’ll be jostled around in your seat at all speeds. But these things are relative, and it’s not as if the Puma shakes you violently or thumps over potholes. It just feels sportier than the Taigo.
And that’s because it is. That firm suspension leads to tighter body control and good stability, giving you plenty of confidence when approaching bends, and the Puma feels noticeably keener to turn in to corners. Both cars have plenty of grip, but the Puma’s sharper, more direct steering helps you to feel more connected with the road, and that makes driving it a more involving experience.
However, while the Taigo is less agile and rewarding, its steering still gives you a solid sense of connection to the front wheels, and its slower rate of response helps it to feel a bit more relaxing and planted when you settle down to a cruise on the motorway. Here, the absence of a sixth gear means the Taigo’s engine is revving a little higher than the Puma’s at 70mph, but it remains relatively hushed.
In fact, there’s barely anything in it for overall refinement. Both cars recorded similar decibel readings in our tests, with wind and tyre noise being well contained by class standards. You can feel some engine vibration through the pedals and seats in both cars, and particularly in the Taigo when accelerating hard from low revs, but things smooth out considerably when you’re up to cruising speed.
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