It has its strengths. The Volkswagen Ameo is the first car in its segment to get features such as cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, anti-pinch power windows, front centre armrest and static cornering lights. Add to the list front airbags and ABS, which are standard in all Volkswagen cars.
It has its weaknesses. The Ameo currently doesn’t have a diesel engine (it will be launched in the festive season), the petrol motor is lethargic and its fuel-efficiency is not the best in the segment.
It has its challenges. The compact sedan market is not as lucrative for car-makers as it used to be a few years ago. Today, premium hatchbacks such as Hyundai Elite i20 and Maruti Baleno, and sub-compact SUVs such as Maruti Vitara Brezza, are becoming the flavour of the season. So, can the Ameo find favour with Indian consumers?
At under 4 metres in length, the Ameo joins the increasing breed of India-unique sedans—Maruti Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent, Tata Zest and Ford Figo Aspire. These compact sedans, because they enjoy a lower excise duty of 12% as against 24% on traditional sedans, come more or less at the price of a hatchback, while offering the snob value of a sedan. The Ameo goes a step further—it’s priced lesser than the Polo, on which the Ameo itself is based!
The Polo has a timeless design—it’s aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t belong to a certain period. In the Ameo, the pattern gets ruffled, at least from some angles. While it looks exactly like the Polo from the front, at the rear the small boot doesn’t really belong to a German design. The Ameo, clearly, is a made-in-India, made-for-India product.
Fit and finish is superlative. The paint job and the look and feel of the exterior is best-in-class. Volkswagen has redesigned the front bumper, reducing the front overhang by 35mm and adding the millimetres to the rear, making the Ameo look somewhat proportionate. The C-pillar has a sweeping angle to it, giving the design a bit more ‘flow’ compared to some other cars in its segment. The squared tail-lamps, while these look very good on the Polo, don’t appear to add much to Ameo’s beauty.
The cabin is pure German—well-appointed dashboard, fine quality plastics, understated and tasteful dual-tone finish. It gets a touchscreen infotainment system that doubles up as a reverse camera display. The central front armrest has inbuilt storage space. One-touch up and down windows with anti-pinch function on all four doors differentiate the Ameo from the rest. The flat-bottom steering wheel has a cruise control function—another first-in-segment. The front seats are very supportive.
The rear seating area gets AC vents, but the space is not best-in-class, even though the front seats have been scooped out for increasing legroom at the rear. The central tunnel eats up foot space. The rear seat can be folded flat fully. Boot space is a decent 330 litres, has a wide loading bay and a flat floor with no intrusions. There are ample storage spaces. Front doors can accommodate big water bottles. At the rear, there is one bottle-holder, smartly located under the rear AC vent—water gets chilled as you switch on the AC.
As of now, the Ameo comes only in one engine option—the 1.2-litre three-cylinder MPI petrol with a five-speed manual transmission. It has a claimed fuel-efficiency of 17.83kpl. The engine is a decent performer in city-driving conditions, but on the highways it runs out of steam. If the car is fully-loaded—five adults plus their luggage—you will need to downshift if you encounter an incline or if you are overtaking a long vehicle. However, ride and handling is good. During the festive season this year—around October—the Ameo will get the 1.5-litre TDI diesel engine with a five-speed manual gearbox and the 1.5-litre TDI diesel with the famed seven-speed DSG.
There are enough safety measures. Dual front airbags and ABS are standard. The galvanised steel body enclosed by a laser-welded roof fortifies the cabin. The DSG variant, when launched, will get electronic stabilisation programme and a hill-hold function to detect and reduce loss of traction.
There are three variants. The Trendline is priced Rs 5.24 lakh, the Comfortline Rs 6 lakh and the Highline Rs 7.06 lakh. Trim to trim, the Ameo costs lesser than the Polo, and lesser or equivalent to its competitors. It offers the snob value of a sedan, safety and drivability of a German car, and the price of a hatchback. These are the reasons it can attract buyers. In case you want to buy one, we suggest the top trim, which gets features usually found in cars two segments above.