Time for a confession. VW’s turbo-petrol-powered Vento has been part of the Autocar India fleet for some time now — in fact, it has over 8,000km on its odometer — and we’re only now bringing you the first report of its time with us. There’s a good reason for this though. The car has just been so popular with the Autocar crew that everyone has had a go in it, but no single person has spent enough time with it. Until now, as I finally decided to be a bit greedy and hold on to the keys for a week-long spell.
This car came in to replace our long-term VW Polo GT TSI, a car that we absolutely loved throughout its time with us. And since the two share the same basic mechanicals and powertrain, I imagined things would be pretty much the same in the Vento TSI. And for the most part, they are.
There’s that same sense of solidity to the way everything works that other cars in this class just don’t have — although it should be said that it’s still a far cry from bigger VWs like the Jetta. It’s in the way the doors shut so reassuringly, the way the stalks click firmly into place, the stereo buttons that are so nicely damped and the tight fit and finish. And there are a few little touches that don’t mean much in isolation and aren’t necessarily unique to this car, but are just nice to have when you need them. Stuff like having one-touch operation for all four windows, for when a badly planned toll booth collects your money on the passenger side. Or even the boot release switch on the key fob for when you’ve accidentally shopped too much at the mall.
But then there are niggles from the Polo GT TSI that have also managed to manifest themselves in its sedan sibling, most notably the electronics, which have started acting up. Our Polo’s Bluetooth music playback used to be a problem, but the telephony worked fine; here, it’s the opposite. The music hasn’t skipped a beat yet, but try to answer a phone call and the microphone often just goes off without warning. Then there’s electronic AC controls — there’s a long delay between turning the fan speed knob and the fan’s speed increasing. And even though we’re having exceptionally hot days in Mumbai right now, the AC clearly doesn’t cool the cabin as well as it did when we’d just got the car. The windscreen is also prone to fogging up, irrespective of which setting you have the aircon in.
However, there’s little to complain about with the mechanicals. Yes, like in the Polo GT, there are a few quirks to the engine and gearbox, but it’s all stuff you get used to in no time. The gearbox stutters a bit when setting off from a standstill and auto downshifts under braking elicit a mechanical judder that can be a little disconcerting. The brakes themselves feel a touch wooden and lack bite, but unless you’re going flat out, this isn’t a problem at all.
Speaking of going flat out, I really managed to wring out the 1.2 TSI engine this past week, thanks to a photo shoot with two other turbo-petrol cars. Of course, they weren’t your run-of-the-mill family cars — one being AMG’s monstrous new ML 63, and the other the Vento’s distant, distant relative, four times removed, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. It’s while trying to keep up with these two overpowered behemoths that I learnt that the best way to get the most out of the Vento’s engine and gearbox is not to punch your foot down, but instead to feed it in gently till the gearbox gets through the short first few gears, and then floor it. Get it right and this can be a rather quick mid-size sedan.
So, over two months and 8000km, our long-term Vento TSI has picked up a few idiosyncrasies, though to be fair, a lot of people have asked a lot of it in that time, and it has always delivered. I’m going to hold on to it for a little while, and hopefully get to experience its more practical side, rather than just hop from one photo shoot to the next. Though what a fun week that was!
Price Rs 11.77 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy 13.1kpl
Maintenance costs None
Faults Windscreen fogs up frequently