It seems achhe din have arrived for Volkswagen India. This week the German company reported sales growth for seventh consecutive month. Agreed, this comes on a low base—the company has been a slow performer in its under-a-decade long journey in the country—but the growth is also attributed to refreshed models of all its cars, beginning with the Polo last year to the Jetta early this year and the Vento now. The next offering is rumoured to be a Vento-based compact sedan, but before that let’s check out how fine a machine is the 2015 Vento.
The good thing is that, from a distance, the new Vento looks identical to the more expensive Jetta. The most notable feature is the grille, which gets three horizontal chrome slats and is wider than before. There is a chrome strip that runs through the breadth of the air-dam below the grille. The car gets electrically-adjustable ORVMs with integrated LED turn indicators, front fog lamps are more powerful and incorporate cornering lights, alloy wheels are new, as are features such as chrome linings on the boot lid, exhaust tip and door handles. At the rear, LEDs have been introduced in the tail-lamps. Volkswagen, understandably, hasn’t made any radical changes to the car’s exterior and the design remains what it was—understated but regal.
The cabin gets minimal changes. There is a minor difference in the upholstery colour combination and the Vento finally gets cruise control. We expected Volkswagen will introduce rear-parking camera but the company has chosen not to—all cars in this segment, and even some in the segment below, get a rear-parking camera. Cruise control is a useful feature, especially if you are driving on the highways. While it works amazingly well, especially in the DSG variant, one should keep in mind that cruise control disconnects your feet from the pedals and, in rare cases, can make driving monotonous, leading to drowsiness. A welcome change is the cooled glovebox, very useful in hot summers to store cold water or to keep that chocolate bar from melting. The two new colour schemes are ‘Walnut Desert Beige’ (Highline trim) and ‘Cloud-Titanschwarz’ (Trendline and Comfortline trims). The rest of the cabin remains the same and, as expected from a German manufacturer, is made of fine quality material.
The Vento gets three engine options—one diesel and two petrol.
* The 1.5-litre TDI turbo-diesel produces a peak power of 105 PS and a torque of 250 Nm. It has an ARAI-certified fuel economy of 21.5 kmpl.
* The 1.2 TSI petrol produces a peak power of 105 PS and a torque of 175 Nm. It delivers a fuel economy of 18.19 kmpl.
* The bigger 1.6 MPI petrol also produces a peak power of 105 PS but a lower torque output, at 153 Nm. Its mileage is 16.09 kmpl.
While the entry-level 1.6 MPI is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, it is the smaller 1.2 TSI which deserves a special mention. Volkswagen’s forced-induction TSI engines are compact, powerful and use less fuel when compared to bigger, normally-aspirated engines. TSI engines also deliver high torque output at relatively low engine speeds. The TSI in the new Vento is just 1.2-litres, but it packs quite a punch. Mated to the 7-speed DSG gearbox, it takes the car from 0-100 kmph in a little over 10 seconds. The 1.5 TDI is mated both to a manual as well as DSG gearbox. While the new Vento behaves very well on the highways—it is stable at even high three-figure speeds—the stiff suspension unsettles the car on bad roads and there is a ‘thud’ sound whenever you hit a pothole. However, seating comfort isn’t compromised. Braking is very sharp.
The Vento doesn’t get most flashy items that many of its competitors have—including touchscreen and GPS—and it also misses out on some useful features such as rear-parking camera. From R7.85 lakh (entry-level petrol) to R11.87 lakh (top-end diesel), the car isn’t priced the most competitive either. However, what you do get is solid build quality, very good ride and handling, powerful engines, and the best gearbox in business. It’s a very good car, all Volkswagen now has to focus on is improving after-sales service—an area where the company lags behind rivals.