Published on June 1st, 2016 | by Subhash Nair0
Volkswagen Vento 1.2 TSI First Impressions: Performance + Practicality on a Budget
Take a look at what’s on offer for under RM100,000 in Malaysia – hardly anything seems compromise-free. Sure, there are some very fun options from Mazda and Ford, but what if you’re looking for something that has a little more room in the rear for your family?
Don’t worry, Volkswagen have you covered with their new Vento. Look familiar? It should. The Vento shares some glaring similarities with the Polo Sedan – the base model even comes with the same 1.6-litre MPI engine with a six-speed automatic. But there’s a version of the Vento that’s very special. It comes with a 1.2-litre TSI engine and a 7-speed DSG. And yes, it’s the whole package.
We set off to Penang with a group of these practical pocket rockets to see just what the only turbocharged sedan in its class had to offer to someone shopping for something in this category.
First of all, we have to talk about the build quality of the Vento. The moment you step inside, you’ll find nothing but high-quality plastics and fabrics used throughout. Apart from a couple of poor material choices around the centre stack, it’s clear Volkswagen went the extra mile to make sure it had an edge in the quality department. Interior fitting is top notch – the entire car feels like it’s built to last a couple of decades at worst.
Our biggest complaint about the interior is perhaps that it’s too conservative. Mazda and Honda offer much more exciting cabins for about the same amount of money. That being said, there is some charm in its functional, simple design. It’s the Ikea approach to interior design – simple, inexpensive but elegant. The thoughtful design extends to the little things, such as the sound of the turn indicators and the quality of the leather on the flat-bottom steering wheel.
A couple of things that did stand out were the chilled glove box, the rear air con blowers and the do-it-all ‘320G’ radio with USB, iPod interface, SD card slot, AUX-in and Bluetooth connectivity.
The exterior sees some minor, but important changes over the older Polo Sedan. The new tail lamps give it a premium look, as do the 16” ‘Syenit’ alloys. At the front, there’s no longer a cutout for the VW logo, instead it sits within the front grille. This definitely changes the look – in fact the new grille makes it look a bit more like the B7 Passat.
The Vento’s a decent looking car, but that’s not really the selling point. The Highline model, which goes for RM93,888 has something else up its sleeves – a turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission.
The 1.2-litre TSI powerplant doesn’t look like much on paper – 8 valves, SOHC and no variable valve timing. However, with 175 Nm of torque, there’s really nothing quite like it. Acceleration to 100km/h is done in just over 10 seconds, but it just keeps going and going right after.
An engine this small just doesn’t feel like it should be propelling a car as fast as it does. Many B-segment cars can hit 140km/h during overtaking manoeuvres, but only the Vento seems to be at home at that speed. Maximum torque is available at just 1550RPM and when you consider how fast and willing to downshift the 7-speed DSG is, the Vento is a clear winner in the performance department. The inherently well-sorted chassis gives it an edge in the corners too. We first noticed this in the Polo hatchback, but it’s even better with the inclusion of ESC here, in case things go sour.
The implementation of ESC here is also pretty well done. There’s a lot more control in situations that would have other competing cars spinning. Hats off the Volkswagen for putting the extra effort into making a car that puts driving first. 4 airbags are also a welcome addition – not quite as comprehensive as the City, but still a lot better than just the minimum.
All-in-all, we found the Vento to be an excellent performer. It matches and sometimes beats the competition in the amenities department, has more room than most in this segment (for all passengers as well as luggage space), retains a lot of the charm from other Volkswagen designs and is the best to drive in its class. Anyone looking for a sporty ride but has a family to haul around should seriously consider it.