This is the sort of car I’d been waiting for, for quite some time. Not the Volkswagen Vento in particular, but a regular mid-size sedan with a diesel engine and a good automatic gearbox. Hyundai does offer the Verna diesel with an auto, but its four-speed torque-converter unit has always come across as a bit last-gen. This Vento’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, however, is as modern as they come, and its new 1.5-litre diesel engine is quite nice too. To me, this is a car that makes a great deal of sense. Luckily for us, we’ve just got one in our long-term garage and, luckily for me, I’m its custodian.
First off, I love the way the updated Vento’s twin-barrel headlights make it look even more like a mini-Jetta than before — simple and elegant. Coincidentally, it was the beautifully rounded Jetta that really got me sold on the marriage of a twin-clutch gearbox to a punchy diesel engine. I also like our Vento’s unique toffee-brown paint and how nicely it contrasts with the brown-and-cream colour theme in the cabin. How clean the lighter bits will stay is something only time will tell. In all probability, it’ll be the seats that’ll show the first signs of aging. As of now, the perforated leatherite seats look rich and add to the cabin, which now seems a lot plusher than I remember the old Vento’s to be. It’s quite amazing what a difference new trim colours and a dash of silver plastic on the centre console can make.
The new flat-bottomed steering is another welcome change. It’s added flair to what was formerly a rather drab cabin. A drab cabin in a fairly exciting car, that is. You see, the older Vento’s 103bhp, 1.6-litre diesel may have had a non-linear power delivery, but the way power came in a rush at 2,000rpm made it quite a fun car to drive hard. It’s the reason our old 1.6 diesel’s front tyres wore out so quickly.
For better or worse, I don’t think that’s something we’ll need to worry about on this new 1.5-litre version that makes the same 103bhp of power. Power delivery, in general, is a lot smoother, making this Vento friendlier and easier to live with. But that’s not to say the new Vento diesel is down on fun. Far from it.
I experienced the best side of the car on a 1,500km trip to the Wild Ass Sanctuary at the Little Rann of Kutch over the Republic Day weekend. Expectantly, good as it was on the fast-flowing sections of NH8, the combination of punchy engine and quick-shifting gearbox added a good deal of excitement on the lesser trafficked state highways of Gujarat. Of course, the gearbox’s Sport mode was summoned on these stretches, which holds on to gears longer and generally keeps the engine in its juicy mid-range. The fun drive actually made me ditch plans for relaxed bird watching and go about exploring the region. Needless to say, the Vento continued to wow on the journey to the fabulous Rani ki Vav stepwell at Patan and the intricately detailed Sun Temple at Modhena.
But it wasn’t the responsive engine, quick gearbox, pleasant ride and nice controls alone that got my vote. Fuel economy was another highlight. I managed 18.5kpl driving in normal mode and a still decent 13.5kpl in Sport mode. Mind you, the latter was in brisk driving on empty Gujarati state highways. Not bad in the least.
Of the other things, I also quite like the audio system. It easily hooks up to all phones and sound quality is nice too. Good, because it helps drown out some of the engine’s pronounced low rpm clatter. Quieter engine aside, I also wish VW would give this version a dedicated dead pedal. It should be an easy fit, given the ample room in the footwell. Something that perhaps needs more urgent attention is the bottle holders on the door pockets. They are wide, but not deep enough, making it possible for bottles to pop out of place on hard braking. The last thing you want is a bottle stuck under the pedals, the fear of which has stopped me using the driver’s side door pocket altogether. Thankfully, the cabin isn’t short on other places to store smaller items.
On the whole, though, the Vento TDI DSG has made a very strong first impression. It’s comfortable, fairly exciting and reasonably frugal. And thanks to the exterior and interior changes, it seems to give you more for your money too. The way I see it, the Vento TDI DSG is 75 percent Jetta for 70 percent of the money. In my books, that’s quite a good deal.
Price : 13.32 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 16kpl (highway)
Maintenance costs: None