I Drove a Right Hand Drive Manual Transmission VW Taigun Around LA for Two Days and This Is What it Was Like

Vw Taigun Featured Image

“Hey lady, you’re driving on the wrong side of your car!”

“Yeah, I know!” I laughed, and the guy did, too, as he walked down Colorado Boulevard, pushing his baby in a stroller with his partner.

Surprisingly he was one of the few people who remarked about my unusual car, the VW Taigun (yes, Taigun, an anagram of Tiguan, actually). The Taigun was imported from India, where it’s built and sold, so that World Car Awards jurors could test drive it recently in Pasadena, California. 

The Taigun is a slightly smaller version of the VW Taos and very similar to the globally known VW T-Cross. Like the Taos, it has all the key ingredients to make it a fun and capable car for getting around town. It has seating for 5; a wide multimedia screen for apps, navigation, climate and more; USB-C charge ports; a digital driver information screen that displays your speed, it even has deep cup holders between the front seats. 

And while it has folding rear seats, it has something its American counterparts do not and that left me a bit envious: the nicely sized cargo area has a deep well, like something you may see in a minivan. We were able to put a lot of gear in the cargo area and had plenty of room for more.

The Cargo Area In The Taigun Is Deep, Allowing More Cargo

The cargo area in the Taigun is deep, allowing more cargo

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone 

When I heard that we had two right-hand drive cars among our test vehicles for the World Car Awards test drives, I was a bit excited; this is novel in the US and a fun experience. But then I learned that one of them was a stick shift, well, {{gulp}}. I’d have to give it a shot, no matter how much it might incite anxiety. 

I love to drive. And I especially love to drive a car with a manual transmission. But a right hand drive manual? It was a bit scary, honestly, especially in traffic-filled LA. But, it was just too tempting to ignore, so it was one of the first cars I hopped into for a spin up Angeles Crest Highway. 

It was not my first time driving a right hand manual; I had that chance to drive a Ford Mondeo (which evolved to become the Ford Fusion) around the UK on a work trip once. It was unnerving learning all those things at once: Heavy traffic, right hand drive, left lane driving, manual shifting with my left hand. 

The Front Seat Of The Vw Taigun; No, The Image Is Not Flipped. This Is A Right-Hand Drive Car

The front seat of the VW Taigun; no, the image is not flipped. This is a right-hand drive car

Right Hand Drive is not Exactly a Mirror Image—Which Lets Muscle Memory Work

Driving out of the hotel valet and onto the street, I had to keep reminding myself to stay to the right in my lane. Which was weird, since I was on the right side of the car. It was a bit unnerving; as a driver I was the one next to the curb, not in the center of the road. I was really forced to pay attention (and try not to scare my passengers!). 

Thankfully, there is some muscle memory that jumped into action as I drove the Taigun. That’s because many of the functions are in the same place as they are on a left-hand drive car: the steering wheel with volume and speed controls, the turn signal and windshield wipers. And the pedals are in the same place: Accelerator on the right, brake in the center, clutch on the left. The shift pattern is the same, too: first up and to the left, second down to the left, and so on.

Where muscle memory needs an adjustment is shifting gears, looking over your shoulder and using your mirrors to turn or merge. It took a moment of practice to master the gears; first gear, which is normally right next to you, is a far stretch. But once I got it down, it was easy. Looking over my left shoulder took some getting used to; normally, you look left and mostly see the door and pillar; in a right hand drive when you look over your left shoulder you see the passenger compartment and then windows and road. It’s an adjustment and I was really glad for my side mirrors and rear view mirror, which is on my left not my right. 

A Girls Guide To Cars | I Drove A Right Hand Drive Manual Transmission Vw Taigun Around La For Two Days And This Is What It Was Like - The Front Seat Of The Vw Taigun Notice The Pedals Are In The Same Place Despite Being A Right Hand Drive CarA Familiar Look That’s Comforting, Until You Realize One Thing: The Right Hand Drive

On first glance anyone would be forgiven for assuming that the Taigun is sold in the US. Its front face, rear tail gate and sculpted shape look familiar, probably because its siblings, including the Tiguan and Taos, are such common sights on US roads. But look a little more closely and you’ll see that the drivers seat is on the right side, not the left, as we are used to in North America, though it is sold with a left-hand drive in places where this is required.

Look even closer and you’ll see a familiar yet different multimedia screen, a small arm rest that lifts out of the way of the cup holders and in our version, a hand brake. 

These differences are because this car was outfitted for the Indian market, and to ensure it’s a fit for families and drivers, it carries a very, very affordable price of about $14,000 for the base model. Our model had leatherette seats and a 3-cylinder 113 horsepower engine (there is also a 1.5L 4 cylinder 150 HP engine and automatic is an option). Cars in North America have become so powerful that a 3-cylinder engine is a rarity, as is a smallish HP output. 

Starting from a green light, merging onto the highway and even climbing the hills of Angeles Crest Highway, I found the power in the Taigun to be just fine when driving by myself. But once I had a passenger I could really feel the added work the engine had to do. Some of this is probably because this is a manual transmission, forcing me to pay attention to how much work the engine is doing and shift gears to accommodate. In traffic on flat streets the Taigun was plenty powerful enough, even with two of us plus some gear in the cargo area. But on the climb up Angeles Crest the engine had to work harder; I mostly drove in 3rd gear to keep my speed up.  

The Rear Seat Of The Vw Taigun Is Roomy Despite The Small Size Of This Compact Suv

The rear seat of the VW Taigun is roomy despite the small size of this compact SUV

This Feature Will Save you Money, Too

One quirky thing in the VW Taigun that took some getting used to was the speed minder, a feature that, when you exceed the speed limit by 10 MPH, sets off an incessant beeping. An icon lights up on the driver information screen, too, all to tell you and everyone in earshot that you’re going too fast. The product of evil geniuses in the Indian automotive regulatory office, no doubt, but it’s one that probably saves a lot of lives. My guess is we’d have this on cars in North America if speeding tickets weren’t such an important part of law enforcement revenue. 

The speed minder aside, I really liked the size and scale of the Taigun. It was easy to park and flowed right along in traffic and on narrow streets. And, as compact SUVs do these days, it felt larger than it really is; the cabin is open and airy and comfortable. 

The Vw Taigun

The VW Taigun

SUVs For Everyone! 

It’s not just us in the US who are SUV crazy these days; carmakers can’t build enough of them for markets around the world. In fact, a few years ago I attended the Paris Motor Show and immediately noticed the complete absence of sedans and coupes. As in, practically none. But there were SUVs in every size and color dominating every exhibit at the show. 

And personally, I think this is a great thing. Not only does it reflect who is driving—in the US, women have driven the trend toward SUVs, and with the growing number of women getting licensed to drive around the globe, expect this to continue—but also, that comfort and utility are important to all passengers. Cars are not just for drivers, they are for passengers, too. Which is one of the things that made the Taigun fun to scoot around LA in. 

And it’s great when random strangers comment about your unusual ride! 

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss