We'd wager that everyone is feeling the pinch right about now. Petrol prices are at an all-time high; the ZAR is virtually worthless compared to the US dollar, and to top it off, steak-and-veg dinners have been replaced with noodles-in-a-bowl. Heck, writing this paragraph probably cost the price of a noodle cup in Eskom donations.
So, we can complain or be proactive. We complained at length, but you don't have to read about it. You're welcome. Instead, we set out on a mission to see exactly how much crossover you could buy for about half a bar. First though, to quantify crossoverness, it's essential to understand where on the spectrum a crossover lives, just to save the "I'll-rather-buy-a-big-SUV" keyboard heroes from having to fire up a generator for their laptops to point out the differences. Again, you're welcome.
By definition, a crossover is that mid-way point between a sedan/hatch and a full-blown SUV. Built on a car platform, a crossover inherently represents a trade-off that also happens to be its main appealing aspect: less space than a full-blown SUV, but more so than a garden-variety hatchback. The same goes for its pavement-crawling abilities. On the daily, though, a crossover makes up for its limitations with hatchback-like economy figures and relatively low maintenance costs.
So, which to choose between two of SA's newest crossovers that, while vying for roughly the same target market, represent two very different sides of the same coin…? The practicality-minded Honda HR-V, championed by Deon van der Walt, versus the funky, millennial-magnet Volkswagen Taigo driven by the youngest member of the TopGear SA team, Jordan Schmidt. These are their findings…
In the German corner, we have the newest crossover from VW, the Taigo. Strange name aside, the newest member of VW's T-SUV range falls on the smaller side of the measuring stick, but in terms of pricing, slots between the T-Cross and T-Roc. It's certainly stylish, a prerequisite for any memorable crossover. It has a coupé-like roofline and an LED lighting strip that stretches the width of the grille. While it undeniably exudes a Golf GTI-esque styling character when squinting, especially at the front, the side profile is odd and the rear bulbous.
It's become the norm with VW's newest cars: the interior is somewhat plain, but is packed to the hilt with tech. The 8" Composition Infotainment system was easy to navigate and features such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay worked exceptionally well. It must be said, though, that the system's processing during inputs was slow and the reverse camera's resolution wasn't as sharp as I hoped. The 10.25" digital Cockpit Pro instrument cluster is aesthetically pleasing and adds a newer, more exciting touch to the analogue dials of old. The multi-function leather steering wheel feels solid and the familiar positioning of the buttons makes it easy to use. The VW Taigo leads the connectivity and infotainment charge in its segment with features that'll resonate well with its target market.
It's a give and take, though. While the Taigo is feature-rich, it lacks the space of the HR-V. This is especially evident at the back since the rear bench proves a bit cramped for seating average-sized adults.
The Taigo is well-suited to being a smaller family-orientated SUV, something that can get the kids to and from school with bags and sports gear in tow, all in an economical fashion. Sure, it's not the biggest SUV around, but I was rather concerned that Volkswagen opted to use the 1.0-litre 85 kW turbocharged petrol engine as the sole driving force for the Taigo range. I initially thought that there just wouldn't be enough power, but I stand corrected since it proved adequately punchy.
In fact, I had less of an issue with the amount of power the Taigo offered, but rather the amount of turbo lag moving from a standstill. Taking a gap in traffic requires a fair amount of planning, and while this is to be expected from a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine used to propel 1,184 kilograms worth of crossover, it detracts from the overall experience. At least when you get going, the going is good with a comfortable ride and excellent fuel economy hovering in the sixes during mindful driving.
The VW Taigo R-Line costs R486,000 and for that money you get plenty of crossoverness, decent fuel economy and a stylish Coupe-Crossover. The powertrain situation is considerably better than that of the HR-V, but it's not flawless since there is still considerable turbo-lag. It's to be expected, though.
Both crossovers represent two very different sub-sections of the same market. The Taigo offers loads of style and substance for those with a trendy disposition and is a great new addition to an already wide selection of VW T-SUVs. Whether it's a necessary one, well, that's a question for another day. The HR-V holds true to the sensibility of Hondas that have come before. However, Honda's decision to unwaveringly stick to this engine-gearbox combination is a brave one since it's severely letting down a crossover that, on other fronts, brings a lot to the table.
Images: Donovan Marais