Volkswagen Ameo TDI (diesel) review, better in most ways but falls short of perfection

Most powerful car in its segment and possibly the best interior quality and features too. Yet, the Volkswagen Ameo TDI (diesel) falls short of being the best in the business. Here's why.

By: | Updated: May 2, 2017 4:41 PM
ameo-tdi Volkswagen Ameo TDI

With the Ameo, Volkswagen India made a car specifically for India, hoping to set the sales books flipping. However, only a petrol version was available initially, keeping a large chunk of compact sedan customers away. Now though, there's a diesel Ameo, which is powered by a 1.5 litre TDI engine and we drove it and found out if it can deliver on customer expectations or not.

tdi-rear Volkswagen Ameo rear

Volkswagen Ameo Design

The Volkswagen Ameo diesel looks exactly the same as the Ameo petrol and the only visual difference is the TDI badge. Overall, the design is that of a Polo with a boot but the boot doesn't integrate too well with the rest of the body. The Ameo, however, is not alone here as almost all the cars in the compact sedan segment suffer from the same problem of an odd rear. So while you might like the sight of an Ameo coming through, seeing it go may not be a pleasant sight.

1-5-l-engine-large Volkswagen Ameo TDI engine

Volkswagen Ameo Engine & Gearbox

This is why you would be looking at the Ameo diesel and there's a lot to keep you entertained as well. The Ameo is powered by a 1.5 litre TDI engine, that develops 108 hp and 250 Nm of torque, which makes it the most powerful diesel compact sedan in the country. Adding to the fun is the option of choosing the fantastic 7-speed DSG automatic transmission.

The TDI engine starts with the well-known clatter and the unit is pretty audible when outside the car. With the windows rolled up though, the cabin is fairly silent and vibrations are very well-controlled. The engine itself has very little lag and the power comes in past about 1,700 rpm at a rapid pace. The DSG transmission complements the engine very well and masks the little amount of lag too. Gear changes take place quickly and the gearbox doesn't hesitate at all to drop a couple of gears under hard acceleration.

In normal driving conditions, gear changes take place just above 2,000 rpm, while in the S mode, revs are held for longer and one can shift manually too. Overall performance is impressive and I strongly believe that the Ameo is the quickest car in its class. Even when driving sedately or in traffic, the Ameo feels comfortable and on highway too the car feels at home doing 100 km/h on the highway and the cruise control makes things a lot more comfortable.

interior-2 Volkswagen Ameo TDI infotaiment system

Volkswagen Ameo Interior and Features

The Ameo TDI features an excellent cabin with top-notch material quality and ergonomics. Equipment list on the Highline variant we drove ran pretty long with a touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, rear view camera, Bluetooth, USB, Aux-In, FM connectivity and a decent number of cubbyholes with enough space to store the essentials. Everything in the dashboard and around it feels solidly built and the Ameo's cabin the top trim is possibly the best cabin in the compact sedan segment.

Front seats are comfortable and offer good cushioning along with side support, the last coming in handy when going hard through corners. The rear, however, is a just about fine for people of average height such as me (5ft 8 inches). Taller occupants might not feel comfortable in the rear due to limited availability of leg room. The boot space too falls short of the competition at 330 litres and I think the luggage compartment too hasn't been designed too well, due to which not all of that 330 litres can be used well.

steering-wheel-ameo Volkswagen Ameo TDI steering controls

Ride & Handling

Now the Polo has always been a good car to drive, if not an all-out enthusiast's car. The only chink in the Polo's armour was the soft suspension, which surprisingly wasn't sorted even on the GT models. The Ameo diesel though seems to have a stiffer suspension, which may have been done in order to compensate for the additional weight of the motor. As a result, the ride-quality at slow speeds is a bit former than earlier but not to the point of being choppy. The gains of the stiffer setup though are directly proportional to the increase in velocity and hence, as speed builds up, the Ameo's ride quality becomes better. Undulations are now handled better and the car feels significantly more stable at highway speeds.

Understeer was another issue with the Polo, when pushed hard and it has reduced only marginally on the Ameo TDI. Chuck it hard into a corner at high speed and you're served with a huge dollop of understeer before things start getting under control. That said, the Ameo is a good car to drive but not one that you would buy if corner carving is your poison. The steering too is quick and offers decent feedback, making it easy for the driver to push the car a bit more.

ameo-side Volkswagen Ameo TDI side profile

Conclusion

The Ameo with a diesel motor is significantly better in every manner than its petrol sibling. The punchy motor, especially with the DSG is a treat to drive and of course, it's the most powerful car in its class. The cabin too is well-appointed and features are at par with competition. With dual-front airbags and ABS as standard, safety too is good. So does that make it the best diesel compact sedan out there today? Unfortunately not, although the Ameo TDI comes quite close. It misses out on rear seat space and boot space too and falls to excite around corners although it handles them better than some other competitors.

So, if you're someone with a nuclear family or are single and need a feature-rich car that's quick and efficient, there's no better car in the market than the Ameo TDI at its price. However, if you have a larger family and cannot compromise on space, the Ameo despite its multiple improvements might fall just short of expectations. At Rs 6.34 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the Ameo TDI is competitively priced and so are the other upper variants with the exception of the DSG variant. At Rs 9.3 lakh, the Ameo TDI DSG offers good equipment for the money but gets a little close to cars from a segment above, although with lesser features.

  1. B
    Bibin
    Jun 11, 2017 at 9:20 pm
    So which car is better than ameo in Petrol ,in-terms of safety ( Solid- built, not just air bags), Kerb weight and back seat boot space
    Reply
    1. S
      ST, Mumbai
      Jun 16, 2017 at 12:04 am
      In the compact sedan space it would be the Ford Aspire. It offers two petrol engines – a 1.2-litre and a 1.5-litre developing 88hp and 112hp, respectively. The latter is the only one in the range to offer a DCT (dual-clutch transmission). The Ford Aspire seems to be the most value-for-money car. Though Ford says that maintenance costs are comparable to other b s, many are still apprehensive. There are several complaints about low mileage. As far as interior spaciousness finish features is concerned, Hyundai Xcent is the winner. Honda Amaze is a close second. However, perceptions vary from person to person, so test ride the Aspire a few times along with someone who is reasonably knowledgeable and compare notes. Then test ride the Maruti DZire (AGS/AMT available) and Honda Amaze (CVT available) also, and compare features driving comfort vis-à-vis the Aspire.
      Reply