As far as compact sedans go, the Ameo Diesel is an excellent driver's car undoubtedly. The clunky 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor, in contrast, was bland, lifeless and left some room for refinement. In March 2018, Volkswagen silently dropped the 1.2-litre mill in favour of a lighter, more refined and more powerful 1.0 litre three cylinder. So when the opportunity came calling for a test drive, we jumped at it to see whether the 1.0 litre could really revive the Ameo Petrol's step-son reputation.
Volkswagen Ameo 1.0 Petrol: Engine
On paper, it seems about right as the Ameo petrol motor now makes 75 hp at 6200 rpm with a maximum twist of 95 Nm breaking in between 3000-4300 rpm. This makes it one horsepower more powerful than the engine it replaces. In its segment though, it's still significantly less than the 82 hp Maruti Suzuki DZire and the 82 hp Hyundai Xcent. The new undersquare motor is also significantly more compact than the 1.2-litre engine. This would have been a welcome change if it translated for more cabin space, but since the Ameo uses the same platform and shell as it's predecessor this only means that there’s more space under the hood. Volkswagen also tells us that it is significantly lighter than the motor that it replaces.
Like the rest of the three-cylinder mills that have emerged in recent times, the new three-pot engine has better levels of refinement than ever before, courtesy new cylinder balancing technology. This does not mean that the vibrations are gone or that the motor is now impressively silent, but it's more than a step in the right direction. On a cold start, the engine noise is notable and there's a pronounced three-cylinder whirr. This slowly fades away, and thanks to Volkswagen’s cabin which is particularly good at an insulating sound, the engine is barely audible once on the go. In city traffic, the engine is relatively peppy (wrt to the previous 1.2 litres) but really requires you to work the gearbox to make the most out of it. The red line has been set at 6500 rpm and the result is a perfectly linear powerband all the way. On paper, this sounds great, but I’d rather have a clump of butter at the centre of my toast than have it uniformly spread to a point where I can’t even taste it! If you know what I mean!
Either way, the Ameo 1.0 litre is not a car that likes to be pushed. Stomp on the throttle to make an overtake and the engine breaks into a bit of uncomfortable whine. Thanks to the evenly spread power band, shifting gears to make the most of overtakes become mandatory and even then you get the sense that the motor does not like the push.
In bumper to bumper traffic through or on a laid-back road trip, a combination of a nice light clutch, a short smooth shift on the stick and a light but sure steering wheel makes the Ameo’s value really stand out. While this new motor is still slightly lower on torque than the mill it replaces, the VW subcompact sedan makes the most of the weight drop and has a nice clean pull-away from rest and has an admirable amount of low-end performance.
In terms of fuel efficiency, the Ameo’s performance is amicable. In our test which covered about 150 kms of driving, in city traffic, on highways and the odd spirited jaunt, the Ameo returned about 14 kmpl on average with the air conditioning on throughout.
Volkswagen Ameo 1.0 Petrol: Verdict
To sum up, the Volkswagen Ameo 1.0 litre continues with most of the features of the predecessors, which means that in the Highline Plus trim one gets dual-airbags, ABS, a touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Mirrorlink and Apple CarPlay. The Ameo also features an auto dimming rear-view mirror and 16-inch alloy wheels. Build quality throughout is arguably the best in the segment. Ride-quality is moderately firm and sporty as it always has been in Ameo and the braking is firm and confident. The down-side on the Ameo is still the cabin space, which in the back-bench seats is less for taller occupants.
The Ameo petrol is not available with an automatic gearbox like the Dzire and the Amaze, which is amiss given the market dynamics today. While the new engine is more refined than the engine it replaces and considerably more efficient, the new engine feels like a mild improvement. In the end, the Ameo is an efficient petrol city vehicle with a German-grade build quality and impressive NVH levels. The Ameo Petrol will then, in our opinion, continue to appeal to potential Volkswagen customers, who will now get a better package for their money.