VW Vento test drive and review

We drive one of the most eagerly awaited Vento Saloon.

 In Italian, the Vento means wind and a fair wind is exactly what VW is hoping its new Polo based saloon will receive. The Vento has a lot to live up to. Being a saloon, it has to be comfy at the rear, have more space than its Polo hatchback sibling and a big boot. And don’t forget, it has the might of the Honda City to live up to.

Initial impressions are of a typical German engineered mid-size saloon – well-proportioned, smart and understated design backed up by drivetrains that are robust if a bit vanilla. Indian cars get a rough-road package which means better ground clearance. The flipside is the 15-inch wheels on this top-end don’t quite fill out the wheel arches and the Vento begs for slightly bigger wheels. Crucially, the Vento comes with a wider rear track than its Polo sibling, making for a very spacious rear seat. 

Step inside, and you’ll find the same understated design inside. The dashboard is pretty straightforward and the controls are easy to use on the move. What we love is the interior quality, which is a distinct step above what you get in the Vento’s Indian competition. We also love the attention to detail – for example, the way the front passenger seat can be moved forward by a lever from the rear seat (it’s such a clever feature, we wonder why no one else thought of it yet). Speaking of which, the Vento’s rear seats are really comfortable. There’s good thigh support and the bench is wide making three-up travelling quite comfortable. The front seats, like all VW’s seats are supportive and have good bolstering. 

India gets two engines – a 1.6-litre 105bhp petrol and a 1.6-litre 105bhp diesel. Both engines come with a 5-speed manual or you can opt for a six-speed auto in the spark ignition engine. They do the job, but don’t feel sporty or particularly quick. 

The Petrol motor for example makes its peak torque of 15.8kgm at 3800rpm, which means you need to work that gearlever quite a bit, especially when you want to overtake. It’s a motor that’s happy pootling around town and cruising at triple digit speeds, but when you want urge, there’s not much to call upon. And, when you rev it past 4000rpm, it gets quite vocal – there are smoother petrol motors around. 

Opt for the automatic transmission and you’ll find it saps quite a bit of power. Because they wanted to keep costs down, the Vento gets a regular torque converter transmission rather than VW’s sophisticated twin-clutch DSG box. The auto, like the manual is rather nice when you’re not in a hurry. Gearshifts are smooth, the ratios seem well chosen and there’s no fuss. But, it’s when you’re in the mood for some fun that the box disappoints. It’s pretty slow with its shifts, even in tiptronic mode, and makes the engine seem a touch more strained than the manual. Also, there’s no dead pedal which we feel is quite an omission in an auto transmission. 

The common-rail diesel is the one to go for. With its 25kgm of torque at a low-ish 1500rpm, it’s the one that feels the quickest and the most fun to drive. Yes, there is a tiny bit of lag, but it’s easy to stay away from the bog-zone. Once the turbo is fully up and spinning the car feels quite relaxed and can easily maintain cruising speeds on the highway. It’s pretty refined too – sure you can tell it’s a diesel by its gravelly engine note, but it’s a world away from VW’s Pumpe Duse engines of old. 

The Vento is a predictable, safe handler and the steering is tuned to be easy to twirl in traffic. It’s also pretty middle of the road when it comes to the twisty’s. The steering is reasonably accurate and there’s good grip from the tyres. There’s a bit of body roll, but it’s not too bad. Where the Vento scores is its ride, which takes all but the worst bumps in its stride. We did notice a few thumps over the worst sections of road when we were travelling four up and with the massive boot full of luggage.  

All variants of the Vento come with rear air-con vents and a rear centre armrest. But it’s the Highline spec that is pretty well equipped. It comes with a CD player, climate control, electric mirrors, remote locking, alloy wheels, a trip computer, ABS and two airbags but no aux-in port. The base Trendline though priced well, is quite poor on equipment and VW is currently not offering a middle-of-the-road Comfortline variant. 

On the face of it, the Vento seems like a good buy. You’ll love its solid build quality, its understated class and the diesel engine. Prices start from Rs 6.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the Trendline petrol and go on to Rs 9.23 lakh for the Highline diesel. 

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VW Vento test drive and review

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Issue: 180 | August 2014

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