Volkswagen initially reeled the India-specific petrol Ameo into our market, and while that iteration did not have the engine to match the rest of the package, the recently launched diesel avatar is all set to change that. We need to understand that the Indian market is attracted to compact saloons due to the status symbol attached to it. Consequently, this segment also hits an attractive price point that usually accommodates hatchbacks which is primarily due to the excise benefit tagged to sub-four metre cars.
Eyeing the Indian market’s affinity for diesel power, VW hasnow pushed the envelope further through their diesel variant that will be offeredin both a manual and DSG transmission. We drove this iteration and here’s what we felt.
From the front end, VW’s Ameo looks quite impressive thanksto the similarity with the Polo’s nose. However, move on to the rear section ofthe car and it manages to look unbalanced especially when viewed in profile. Let’sface it, VW engineers had to trade off with a substantial amount of the boot toget the car under four metres, and it shows.
Designers had to use the Polo’s front bumper after shavingoff 35mm, lengthen the roof line which tapers towards the rear, and retain the Polo’s quarter glass to get the overall look that one sees today. At the rear, thedesign lines incorporated into the sheet metal between the tail lamps alongwith the integrated boot spoiler make it look contemporary.
Being similar to the earlier launched petrol version means that the interiors of the Ameo diesel gets the same dual toned dashboard thatspells an elegant design. The feel good factor is easily the best in the segment, andthings that contribute to this is the buttons and stalks, chromeinserts, and the leather flat bottomed steering.
That said, the air-con controls, dashboard anddoor plastic could have been better finished to mirror the quality levels ofthe rest of the cabin.One will find the light beige fabric front seats to offergood cushioning and support, along with ample thigh support. Even tall occupants will find the knee room and head room in the front portion of the cabin to be adequate. With this in mind and as a result of the adjustable driver seat, and steering column (rake and reach), a comfortable driving position is easy to achieve.
The rear section of the Ameo is a totally different story as it feels cramped especially for tall occupants and the front seats are just too close which makes it feel a bit claustrophobic too. Nevertheless, the well cushioned rear seat does offer a good amount of thigh support and the backrest is angledslightly upright. With a boot that can swallow only 330litres, it can be decently accommodating thanks to the design of the bay and boot opening.
Just like the manual gearbox will be available in the Trendline, Comfortline and Highline variants, the DSG is offered inthe Comfortline andHighline trims. Expect the top-end variant to get central locking, tilt andtelescopic steering, cruise control, height adjustable driver’s seat, tripcomputer, power windows with auto up and down for all windows, music system, MirrorLinkand Voice command capability, auto dimming inner mirror, and climate control.There’s also electric mirrors with folding function, alloy wheels, rain sensingwipers, reverse camera with sensors, fog lamps, two airbags (standard) and ABS (standard).Unique to the DSG variant is the ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program) and Hill Hold Control.
Powering the Ameo diesel is the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder TDI motor that’s seen in the Polo and Vento, albeit in adifferent state of tune. So, while this iteration makes a healthy 110bhp at 4000rpmand 250Nm between 1500rpm and 3000rpm, it is as noisy asit was in the other applications but you can’t hear much of it in this cabin as the insulation has improved. Useable power slides in from as low as 1600rpm on the manual variant and once the turbo spools up, there’s a nice mid-range punch that lets one take advantage of especially when overtaking or making anyspirited manoeuvres.
The surge in performance can be felt between 2300rpm and 4400rpm after which it begins to slow down below 5000rpm and lose steam at the 5500rpm limiter. We did notice that the rpm while cruising in top cog at 110kmph was well around 3000rpm. Flat-out, this iteration did the 0-100kmph dash in 10.85sec and the runs for 20-80kmph in third gear and 40-100kmph in fourth gear were clocked at 9.72sec and 11.08sec. Thanks to the spirited mid-range, it is entertaining to work the five-speed manual gearbox with its precise and narrow gates to keep it in that range. However, the overall gear shifting experience is slightly let down by the long clutchpedal travel.
This brings us to the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission that’s got two modes called ‘D’ and ‘S’. Once on the move in D mode, the extra two gears become apparent as the shifts are carried out in a timely manner to keep the momentum going. In part throttle, the D mode allows the current gear to pull the revs up and it's only after depressing the pedal further that the downshift happens. Though shifts are smooth and quick, it doesn't feel as hurried as the manual version and revs to its limit of 4600rpm unless you slot into manual mode which then lets you see the rpm raise to 5000rpm. Nevertheless, you tend to miss the manual gearbox’s ability to bounce off the 5500rpm limiter. Make no mistake, there's no discounting the speeds that this DSG iteration rakes up. Downshifts are marginally quicker than the upshifts and the S mode will bring even more enthusiastic times and thrills to your drive by holding gears all the way to the limiter and also cling on to them when you get off the throttle. While the 0-100kmph sprint took 11sec, the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs took 6.08sec and 8.20sec respectively. VWclaims that the fuel efficiency for the manual and DSG version is 21.66kmpl and21.73kmpl.
With the VW Ameo, buyers will get a slightly firm low speedride and also hear the suspension bits working away while encountering arough patch. Pick up the pace and the suspension soaks up road unevenness withaplomb, but it is over the sharper bumps that there’s a fair bit of vertical movement and the front end even tends to bottom out especially on large bumps. Straight line stabilityis good and the Ameo holds its poise despite a shade of body roll when pushed hard. We noted that while the steering responds accurately to inputs, it also tends to weigh up nicely as speeds rise, however, drive it spiritedly and you'd be left wanting more feedback especially around bends. That said the brakes bite sufficientlyand offer just about the right feedback in return to give one enough confidence evenunder panic braking situations.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||110 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||250 @ 1500-3000|
|Gears||5 speed manual/ 7 speed DSG|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15|
|Tilt and telescopic steering||Yes|
|Height adjustable driver’s seat||Yes|
|Power windows with auto up and down for all windows||Yes|
|MirrorLink and Voice command capability||Yes|
|ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program)||Yes|
|Hill Hold Control||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||110 @ 4000||75 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||250 @ 1500-3000||190 @ 2000|
|Gears||5 speed manual/ 7 speed DSG||5 speed manual/ 5 AMT|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||45||42|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15||185/65 R15|
The best part about the Ameo is that you get affordable German engineering in a great diesel compact saloon package. However, one will have to set their priorities straight, as, though the rear seats offer inadequate space and comfort, this salooncomes with a decent ride, lots of comfort features, feel good interiors, premium quality and a diesel engine that satisfies those hungry forperformance and the dieselinduced frugality.
So there you have it, the VW Ameo should suit those lookingfor a premium diesel compact saloon who can discount it for not being as practicalas the competition, and if there's anything about the Ameothat will strongly attract, it will be this DSG gearbox variant.
Pictures: Ameya Dandekar