(Photography: Pawan Dagia)
Let's cut to the chase with this one. We've already driven the Volkswagen Ameo's petrol variant and yes, in terms of features and price, Volkswagen India has hit the nail on the head; considering that this was its first outing in the sub-compact sedan segment. But still, we thought that the 1.2-litre petrol wasn't as spirited as we expected it to be and it was at the drive that we were told that the diesel version will be a something to look forward to. Well, it's here - the company has already launched it last week; and we've now got a chance to get behind its wheel, to see what it's all about.
Well, for starters, there is no change in the way it looks and the exterior design remains unchanged. The only addition to the exterior is the badge, which reads - 'TDI'; apart from that - nothing! In fact, there are no changes in the features on offer too. It is the impressive list that sets it apart from its rivals and there are a whole bunch of segment first offerings. There's cruise control, automatic rain sensing wipers, power windows with one-touch operation and even anti-pinch power windows.
It also gets a rear AC vent and even a front centre armrest, but that's only available on the top-end Highline variant. The Highline variant that we drove also sees a Touchscreen infotainment system, with a CD player, USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth and an SD Card slot. On the safety front, VW has left no stone unturned and the good news is that ABS and dual front airbags are part of standard equipment. ESP and Hill Hold Control are also available, from the Comfortline variant, equipped with the DSG. Though we see all these features in the Ameo, what goes missing are things as basic as a seatbelt warning beep or sign in the car, which for us is a big miss, considering the range of features on offer.
Yet VW's champion sits under the hood. It's the tried and tested 1.5-litre, 4 cylinder diesel engine, which has been used in the Polo and the Vento, and it now makes its way into the Ameo. But what VW has managed to extract is more power out of this unit, which means that the Ameo is more powerful than the Polo, Polo GT TDI and even the Vento. The Ameo's diesel mule has been tuned to produce 108bhp and this means that it has outpaced the rest of the sub-compact sedans in the segment. The leader till date had been the Ford Figo Aspire with 99bhp and the Ameo takes it head on, by adding 9bhp more.
What Volkswagen has also managed to give the Ameo is a 5-speed manual and a 7-speed DSG. The 5-speed manual is a familiar unit and the gearshifts are smooth and the throws short, which makes it a good companion, in both city traffic conditions and out on the highway. The 250Nm torque kicks in at around 1550rpm and that's similar to what the Vento has to offer, and this makes the Ameo fun to drive. The addition of the 7-speed DSG makes it even better. The gear shifts are pretty smooth and there's adequate power on offer, even if you have a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal. It's below 1500rpm that the gears try and figure out what you're planning to do and there's a bit of lag in there, but otherwise, the DSG is calm and collected and there can be no complaints.
However, the suspension does make you complain, given that it's on the stiffer side. The 15-inch tyres are the same size as the one on the Polo, but the suspension setup is very differently. It's, as I said, on the stiffer side and this means that there isn't much travel, which is why, when you hit the potholes on the roads, the Ameo doesn't handle it very well. The 'thud' is a vociferous one and you get a little wobble from the body too. There's a fair amount of grip from the tyre, but not as much confidence going into a corner as the Polo or even the Vento.
Volkswagen has been able to achieve a respectable fuel efficiency figure with the Ameo diesel and for the manual transmission, the company says that the Ameo returns 21.66Km/l, while the one with the DSG returns 21.73Km/l. No, that isn't a typo and VW has already achieved this on the Vento, so, yes, the automatic is more fuel efficient than the manual.
However, for us Indians, it's all about the price and the Ameo costs ₹ 6.33 lakh for the diesel, with manual transmission, and goes all the way up to ₹ 9.31 lakh for the DSG. Mind you, the only cars available with a diesel automatic option, in this segment, are the Tata Zest and Maruti Suzuki Dzire, both of which come with Automated Manual Transmission. The Zest AMT costs ₹ 7.74 - 8.58 lakh and the Dzire AMT ₹ 8.57 lakh; so considering these two price points the Ameo with the DSG is priced at ₹ 8.41 to Rs 9.31 Lakh (all prices ex-showroom Delhi). This price point actually makes the Ameo 'the' diesel automatic to buy in this segment.
Volkswagen, then, has managed to pack in a lot in this car and the efforts show. The Ameo, now with the diesel, makes more sense too, in this segment, because it's feature rich and powerful and well, that DSG is just the cherry on top of the cake!
|Max Power||108bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max Torque||250Nm @ 1500-3000rpm|
|Transmission||5-Speed Manual/7-Speed DSG Automatic|
|Fuel Efficiency||21.66 (Manual) / 21.73 (Automatic) kmpl|