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February 10, 2024

Review: 2024 Volkswagen Tharu 300 TSI SEL

Did Volkswagen Philippines just lie to us? Didn’t they promise that they were done with their so-called “Chinese experiment”? You know, when they brought in second-rate, Made for China vehicles to stay relevant in the local market? If that’s the case, what the hell is a Tharu? Shouldn’t we get a showroom filled with Golfs, Tiguans, and such? Alright. I get your anger, frustration, and all that against “Das Auto” but you know what? They’re not lying. Also, more importantly, regardless of its origin, the Tharu’s a solid drive for the most part, and that’s all that matters.

First up, a bit of a history lesson. Yes, the Tharu does have its origins in Volkswagen’s Chinese operations. But, it’s also the first Chinese-developed model to be sold outside of the Great Firewall where it’s either known as the Tharu (named after, ironically, an ethnic group of people indigenous to Nepal) or Taos (named after town in New Mexico). So, no. Volkswagen Philippines wasn’t lying. Reiterating that fact, it rides on the global MQB A1 platform and uses the EA211 evo engine shared with members of the Golf family.

Now that we’ve settled the Tharu’s lineage and confirmed it as an authentic member of Volkswagen’s global family, let’s answer the most important question: how is it?

By far, the best way to describe what the Tharu is, is that it’s small on the outside, but big on the inside. A reflection perhaps of how long limbed the Chinese can be, but how narrow their roads are, the tale of the tape reveals the Tharu to be smaller than your typical compact SUV like the CR-V, RAV4, Forester, or CX-5. Rather, it’s closer to the likes of the HR-V, Corolla Cross, Crosstrek, and CX-30. Yet, when you step inside, you revel in space that’s akin to something half a size larger with a generous cargo hold to match. Despite having a middle bump on the floor, the rear accommodations are good enough for three adults with the two outboard occupants enjoying excellent thigh support from the seats. Call us spoiled, but we only wished for adjustable reclines for the backrests. Over to the luggage compartment, its 455-liter space (1,543 liters with the rear seats down) is truly usable if you’re willing to navigate a deep lip to slide things in and out.

Coupled with the Tharu’s practical interior packaging, the overall build quality inside is quite solid. The switchgear is unmistakably Teutonic with a nice, crisp feel to them. Commonly used touchpoints are finished in soft-touch plastics. The Ergonomics is standard Volkswagen fare too in that they generally promote ease of use. Visibility also gets top marks, and plus points to Volkswagen Philippines for sticking it out with this tri-colored treatment that mixes gray, glue, and white.

Sadly, it’s not all positives in here. That soft, pliant interior is only limited to the front occupants. The moment your hands start to feel the transmission console, or the rear door cards, hard (but well-wearing) plastics become more commonplace. Also, we’d wish Volkswagen would ditch the touch-sensitive steering wheel switches. They’re great in principle, but they’re prone to accidental button presses/swipes. And because they’re always illuminated, they can get hot to the touch at times.

Volkswagen’s decision to go minimalist with the Tharu’s interior means most cabin features are controlled by the large 12-inch center screen. During boot up, there’s no denying the Tharu’s Chinese connection here as the “Welcome to Volkswagen” is quickly followed by “欢迎来到大众汽车.” The menu structure itself is easy to master, and there’s an ability to add widgets and shortcuts to some commonly used commands on the home screen. But there are still some quirks like their decision to bury the instrument dimmer four layers deep. Whatever happened to a simple toggle switch or dial? Thankfully, the display itself is crystal clear and responsive to touch commands. The driver gets full digital instrumentation too, and can be customized in a variety of ways. One even hammers down the point of just how traffic Manila is by focusing on the amount of time a drive’s started versus the actual number of kilometers traveled.

Speaking of traffic, the Tharu does well in that respect. Despite employing a small displacement turbocharged engine and a dual clutch transmission, it does well enough to crawl through stop-and-go traffic. It will never match the smoothness of a torque converter or CVT, but at least it doesn’t jerk or shudder with every shift. That said, drive it on EDSA long enough, and the gearbox noticeably starts hesitating on every up- and downshift—lurching with every move, like it’s gone into some kind of preservation mode. At this point, it’s not throwing any kind of warning light, but we can’t imagine it surviving local road conditions without throwing a fit at some point.

As soon as the roads open up, the Tharu manages to extract the most out of its 160 horsepower, 250 Nm figures. Under these circumstances, the DCT should make for a better ally, but bizarrely, here the full throttles are met with shift pauses. Straight on pedal-to-the-meal acceleration is fast enough with the century mark dispatched in less than eight seconds. However, because of the engine’s high-strung nature and the DCT’s sometimes unpredictable hesitation, overtakes still require planning.

The chassis itself is tuned more towards comfort than performance. It responds well when being subjected to bigger bumps and can even sop up smaller pavement imperfections as expected of something German engineered. Yet, throw it into a corner, and it shows remarkable body control thanks in part to being equipped with independent suspension at all four corners. The steering itself has an enormous on-center dead spot, but add a bit more angle and it rewards with some good accuracy. Also, the turning circle is remarkably tight.

Looking at the Tharu’s windshield, you’ll notice a monocular camera peeking out near the top. So, you’d think it’s equipped with some form of driver assist, right? Sorry. It seems they’ve been locked out for our market. If you’re looking for autonomous emergency braking or lane keep assist, they’re all MIA here, even if the dash shows it. What we have instead is limited to blind spot indicators with rear cross traffic alert. At least, it’s got a full complement of airbags, 360-degree camera, parking sensors, and the ability to park itself, so that’s something, right? Sadly, for Volkswagen, except for the ability to park itself, just about every other crossover in its price range has those too; and most of them come with ADAS functionality too.

As far as compact crossovers go, there’s plenty to like with the Tharu—the interior packaging, the build quality, heck, we’d even throw in its classic German good looks too. Who cares if it’s made in China or if it’s initially engineered to satisfy the Chinese market? As far as the foundations go, it’s well-rounded and is certainly family-friendly. However, the biggest issue with have with it is that it also feels slapdashedly done. The fact that we’ve got features locked out by some software says to us that the Tharu’s features aren’t even 100 percent certified for our market. Whether Volkswagen Philippines means to or not, it tells us that buyers of this P 1.945-million crossover might end up yet again as part of their experiment. An experiment that has a rather inconclusive result.

2024 Volkswagen Tharu 300 TSI SEL

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Bottom Line
Pros Solid foundations, small footprint yet big interior space, well-sorted ride.
Cons Missing ADAS features, clunky transmission, numb steering.
TL;DR Yes, it's a global SUV, but at P 1.945-million, it's a hard pill to swallow for what you get.
Year Introduced 2023
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Compact SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
Maximum Output (PS @ rpm) 160 @ 5,500
Maximum Torque (Nm @ rpm) 250 @ 1,750-4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~95
Transmission 7 DCT
Cruise Control Yes, w/ Limiter
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 7.63 km/L @ 13 km/h
Fuel Tank Size (L) 50
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,458
Width (mm) 1,841
Height (mm) 1,632
Wheelbase (mm) 2,680
Curb Weight (kg) 1,480
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Hankook Ventus S1 evo3 SUV 225/50 R 18 (f & r)
Recommended Tire Pressure (PSI) 35 all (partial load),
35 front, 38 rear (full load)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front, Side, & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Advanced Driver Assist System None
Other Safety Features Blind Spot Monitoring System
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
PLA 3.0 Intelligent Parking Assist System
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Adaptive, w/ Auto High Beam
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (Headlamp Integrated), Rear (LED)
Light Operation Automatic
Wiper Operation Rain-Sensing
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Manual
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, w/ Heater
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way, w/ Heater
Seating Surface Leather
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold w/ Center Armrest
3rd Row None
Sunroof Yes
Multi-Information Display / Size Yes, 10.25-inch
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto-dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type A
USB Type C
Wireless Charger Yes, Front
Infotainment Display / Size 12-inch
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. The best way to described it is....overpriced. Better to buy a coolray or territory, both has better dct, huge discounts and lots of dealership

  2. As a fan of VW, I think it is hopeless na to expect success for the brand here in our market (similar to Chevrolet: very expensive, lack of features...).

  3. Uly, in your opinion, is the GWM Haval H6 HEV a better buy than the Tharu?

    1. If I had the money for either one? My money goes to the H6 HEV at this point. The Tharu might feel like the more solid car, but it doesn't really strike me as good value for money.

  4. Bagsakan na naman ang pinas ng mga di nabebenta sa china

    1. Volkswagen Tharu in the Philippines is a 2023 MY version with different specs meant for Philippine market
      Hindi yan tulad ng Toyota at Nissan na tinapon dito ang old and hard to sell in America units ng FJ Cruiser at 370Z

  5. Seems like their will be a lot of subcompact crossovers that will hit our country this year that has been launched already. There's the XForce, refreshed Corolla Cross, and hopefully the refreshed Creta and Crosstrek GT. No news yet on the CX-30. If I were to buy in this segment as a daily driver, which car are you most likely to be interested in? The new Seltos seemed like a downgrade for me from the last generation.

    1. The CX-30 has been out in the market for quite some time...unless you're referring to the updated CX-30?

    2. The updated CX-30. Given their price point within Mazda’s lineup, I see the appeal in just getting the CX-5 instead, which, interestingly enough, is also supposed to get an update this year.

  6. Another VW car.. i feel i could cry.. they're very honest with their cars, but then again....

  7. Low quality china made car with EURO PRICED

  8. I dont get why ppl are claiming china made VW have lower quality. They have more than 40yrs manufacturing experience in China, with chinese choosing VW over their home grown brands for decades now, and using global models with tcross and tharu. Germany HQ has overall control over quality. I would even say VW have better quality than toyota DNGAs and other ASEAN build cars. But i would be wary of chinese brands though, with a lot of shortcuts and cheap quality control

  9. VW Phil... naghihingalo na..

  10. Made in China is made in China. Enough said.

    1. Your iphones, gadgets, laptops, shoes, are all made in china. Nuff said.

    2. You cannot compare electronic gadgets to vehicles...that is a very wrong and overused notion. China made cars are required for a certain percentage to use domestic parts and materials.

    3. Even if VW or any Japanese brands making cars in China procure their parts domestically, the question is do these parts pass the quality checks established by these companies? if yes then it should not be an issue. Same with Apple with their products.

    4. If a Chinese manufacturer made their cars in Thailand or Indonesia, i will not buy it, because the quality control will be bad and there will be a lot of shortcuts to control cost.

    5. You cannot compare an iphone which is an electronic gadget to a car which majority of the parts are of the apples to apples example is a China made vs a US made Cummins engine or say a generator set as a whole...good luck to China made equipment...this is very evident in Trane chillers too...for cars I'll stick with the Japanese and Korean made for now.

  11. Building a VW in China already means it is a lower quality product that's why many China made products like Toyota bZ3 or IZOA, are only made and sold in China.

    1. Quality of made in China Volkswagen and Audi vehicles are way more higher than those made in Thailand and Indonesia Daihatsu and Toyota vehicles

    2. THAT is false. Thai and Indonesian assembled vehicles have the SAME quality as that of other countries. If you're going to use Daihatsu as a weapon in your argument- please make sure the reason is valid and true.

  12. If only VW (or other manufacturers) would provide us with RWD vehicles.. then that would be great.

  13. Serious question- is Ayala Motors running this company deliberately at a loss for tax and accounting purposes? Seems like they do.

    1. i think they have too many brands under them, and seem to favor BYD at the moment. It is time to give up on some of their brands and pass it to others

  14. Its made in China, therefore the price should be low but they think badging it with VW will command a higher price. you can no longer trick buyers.

  15. We can all agree that ayala is not managing VW properly the after sales, but made in china doesnt mean bad quality. Iphones are made in china and they are of excellent quality. Airbus and Boeing are using chinese parts for their planes as well. Most important thing is how good is the quality control. Chinese brands tend to skip those and focus on flashy things. Euro and Japanese brands focus on safety and quality.

  16. As for china specific models, of course they will have those, chinese market is huge to sustain a model. toyota has market specific models like yaris cross which has 2 models for different markets

  17. Correction lang po- not because it's made in China is VW's products are bad. VW's other partner in China assembles Audis, and BMW and MB also has assembly plants there.

    That is not the reason VW Phil is garbage. The reason is they're selling overpriced Chinese domestic market vehicles (pang-taxi) in lieu of the Golfs, Passats, Touaregs and Polos, their marquee models... and then they market these lesser vehicles as "same lang iyan"... with a Blaupunkt head unit. LOL

  18. At least their latest releases are global models with t-cross and tharu/taos but still overpriced considering top spec t-cross in china have tsi engine at a slightly cheaper price tag. And please put a decent HU with android auto.

    1. Volkswagen Philippines ain't selling the T Cross TSI at Territory Titanium X prices in the Philippine market

  19. The nissan terra VE AT 4x2 costs the same as this tharu. Any tom dick and harry will choose the bigger SUV without even thinking..

    1. Tera caters to different market. It’s like saying Subaru Forester is smaller than Tera therefore dont buy this car.

    2. Saburu offers AWD vehicles thus the cost be justified...Tharu is not and is overpriced

  20. The fact that not one Ayala owned company uses VW in their fleet, even if they have so much inventory....

  21. with this pricing, it's undercutting the Peugeot 3008.

    but then at that price, if electrification is a priority, I'd go for Toyota Corolla Cross.

    but the best value at 1.95M+ is Mazda CX-5 AWD.

    1. ^what do you think of this, Uly?


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