If you are out looking for a practical compact sedan, there’s a new entry heading your way from the land of the hyper speed autobahns and beer gardens or ‘Biergarten’, as the locals would say.
The Volkswagen Ameo, which will be delivered to customers starting next month, is the long overdue result of VW attempting to crack the escalating compact sedan segment. Essentially a boot-ed version of the Polo, the Ameo is the first ever VW model to be designed purely for the Indian market and the brand has made no bones about the fact that it’s betting big on this car.
On paper the Ameo checks most of the right boxes and it certainly looks and feels the part. But going beyond what’s apparent, how well does it behave out on the road and more importantly, is it a worthy alternative to the current crop of compact sedans? A brief drive across the scenic route towards Wai suggests it just might be.
If you are already a fan of the crisp and clear lines of the Polo, chances are you will appreciate what Volkswagen has done to the Ameo. In fact, it took VW around 2 years to develop this car which may seem a lot, given that the Ameo looks pretty much the same as the Polo right from the front till the rear doors. Its only when you move past the rear doors that you recognise the three-box form.
The biggest challenge for Volkswagen was to accommodate a boot-lid onto the Polo which is already a fairly large hatchback, one that just about manages to fall under the crucial 4-metre mark. Naturally, VW had to come up with some pretty radical measures including shaving 35mm off the front bumper to add more sheet metal above the rear overhang. What’s more, the rear portion of the roofline has also been altered for better design flow into the rear glass. For all we know, the Ameo could have turned out to be a slightly different vehicle, as revealed by senior VW designer Tilo Klumpp whose initial drawings were that of a fastback. Volkswagen India execs, however, were only keen to commission the more popular three-box configuration.
The Ameo, then, exudes typical VW styling cues with its neatly designed front-end, taut shoulder lines and flared wheel arches. If you’re wondering about the colour, it’s called Blue Silk. It’s even got those multiple sharp creases right at the bottom for a more streamlined appearance. That said, it falls short of being impressive where it counts i.e. at the rear. Sure the Polo-like taillights are well detailed and look nice and so does the subtly designed spoiler but the lack of muscle on the rear bumper is too glaring to miss. Like most compact sedans that have had their rear ends cut-short to leverage on sub-4 metre excise benefits, the Ameo’s boot is a bit too stubby and the end result just doesn’t cut it.
Compact sedans rarely impress when it comes to interior quality and feel good factor. The Ameo, however, is different. For starters it gets the same interior as the Polo and the Vento which means everything works in a rather precise manner. It’s all very Germanic.
For the price the Ameo can be deemed top-notch, with well-integrated displays and high-quality materials throughout the cabin. Next to the Hyundai Xcent or the Ford Aspire, the Ameo’s cabin does look a bit dull, but when it comes to quality and fit and finish of plastics, the VW is hard to match. The black and beige dual-tone upholstery, beautifully made steering wheel and the rotary switches on the dash, which are solid in feel and operation, all help give the Ameo a genuinely premium feel. Those supremely clear dials are a nice touch too as is the large front armrest.
Sitting high up in the wide and comfortable front seats, visibility outside is good thanks to the thin A-pillar. The front seat themselves are perfectly contoured and offer adequate back and thigh support. As for the rear, things aren’t as impressive since the rear bench is taken straight off the Polo – one of the least spacious hatchbacks around. Couple that with a wheelbase that is unchanged and what follows is a car with the least amount of knee room in its segment. The 330-litre boot is reasonably spacious for day-to-day use but it cannot beat the Honda Amaze (400-litre) or the Hyundai Xcent (407-litre) for capacity.
The Ameo though strikes back big time on equipment. Available in three trim levels, the base Ameo Trendline covers pretty much all the basics, featuring power windows, central locking, tilt and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel, air-conditioning and turn indicators on wing mirrors. The top-spec Ameo Highline, on the other hand, is loaded to the brim and comes with quite a few segment first features such as cornering lights, rain sensing wipers and cruise control as standard. Besides these, it also gets alloy wheels, rear parking camera with sensors, climate control, rear AC vents, electrically foldable wing mirrors and a touchscreen audio system with steering mounted controls. In terms of safety, Volkswagen is offering ABS and dual airbags as standard across all three trims of the Ameo.
Behind the Ameo’s sleek triple slat grille sits a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine – the only engine option for Ameo buyers for now. Fret not; you will also be able to buy this car with an entirely new 1.5-litre, 110bhp diesel engine by the festive season.
Coming back to the engine that you can have right now, the three-pot motor develops 74bhp of power and 110Nm of torque which translates to a 0-100kmph sprint time of around 15 seconds. With such figures to its credit, the Ameo is barely a speed machine. If anything, its lack of grunt is immediately noticeable when it comes to overtaking on the highway or mid-gear acceleration from 70kmph to about triple digit speeds. What adds to the woes is the way this engine builds up revs. That typical three-cylinder thrum is always present and the overall engine refinement levels aren’t too nice either. Under heavy acceleration, the Ameo’s engine is clearly more vocal than the Xcent’s and round about the same as the Amaze.
Don’t let the sporty looking flat-bottom steering wheel fool you. The Ameo is a compact sedan, after all, and it handles exactly like it’s supposed to. Like all other cars in its class, the Ameo’s suspension set up has been oriented towards comfort. That said, it has got the second best balance between ride and handling, after the Honda Amaze. The steering on the Ameo feels vague around the straight-ahead position and is slow to turn in. It’s initially light but becomes gradually heavier as more lock is applied. All in all, it lacks the consistency in feel that’s to be found in rivals like the Ford Figo Aspire.
The production-spec Ameo rides on 15-inch wheels as opposed to the bigger 16-inchers seen on the show car at the Auto Expo. Nevertheless, the Ameo’s ride quality is quite good – we sampled it across both pothole-ridden city streets and wide open tarmac on the highway. It deals with undulated surfaces rather well despite transmitting some sharp bumps from on the road into the cabin. So what’s not to like in terms of dynamics? Well, the Ameo, like all other compact sedans, has that inherent floatiness to its high speed ride. One has to make constant steering corrections to keep the thing true to its line.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||74bhp @ 5400RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||110Nm @ 3750RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15|
|Touchscreen audio system||Yes|
|ABS and airbags standard on all variants||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||74bhp @ 5400RPM||83bhp @6000RPM||87bhp@6000RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||110Nm @ 3750RPM||115Nm @ 4000RPM||109Nm @ 4500RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45||42||35|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15||185/65R15||175/65 R14|
Our brief time behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Ameo has showed us that this new German offering has plenty of bang-for-buck. Pitched firmly at the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and the Honda Amaze, the Ameo is surprisingly good value (the petrol powered model is, anyway). In the overall scheme of things though, it will be interesting to see how well VW India plays the pricing card for the upcoming DSG-equipped diesel powered model.
The Ameo may not be as well-rounded and spacious in the back as the Amaze or as sharp to drive as the Figo Aspire, but it does bring to the table plenty of value and a really well put together cabin. Take a spin before you inevitably head towards that Maruti Suzuki dealer, at least.
Photo Courtesy By : Kapil Angane